Treaty

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1988 marked the bi-centennary of British settlement in Australia, and it was in this year that Prime Minister Bob Hawke attended the Barunga Festival in a small Indigenous community south of Katherine. There, the Chairmen of both the Northern and Central Land Councils, Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Wenten Rubuntja, presented the Prime Minister with the Barunga Statement.

The Barunga Statement called on the Australian Government to recognise the rights of Indigenous land owners and to formalise a Treaty with them. It was bordered with Yol\u and central Australian designs, and was modelled on the Yirrkala Petition (1963) which the previous generation of Yolngu leaders had sent to the House of Representatives in protest against mining on the Gove Peninsula. Galarrwuy and Mandawuy’s own father was a signatory to this petition. On receiving the Barunga Statement (1988) at the Barunga Festival, Prime Minister Hawke vowed that his government would enter into a Treaty with Indigenous Australians by 1990. However, this promise would never be realised.

"Treaty” was composed by Yothu Yindi in collaboration with Paul Kelly and Midnight Oil to protest the failure of the Australian Government to honour the Prime Minister’s promise to Indigenous Australians at the Barunga Festival. The song was remixed in Melbourne by Filthy Lucre in 1991 and rapidly climbed the Australian charts as did the album on which it was released, Tribal Voice (1992).

“Treaty” is also innovative in its incorporation of an historic djatpangarri song item. djatpangarri is a style music and dance that was pioneered by young men at Yirrkala in the late 1930s and was performed there for popular entertainment until the early 1970s. For local Yol\u audiences, “Treaty” has reintroduced the young to a fun form of song and dance that their parents and grandparents enjoyed in their youths while the song reminds older listeners a time before the advent of mining on the Gove Peninsula. On Tribal Voice (1992), “Treaty” is preceded by another historic djatpangarri item, “Gapu [Water],” which shares a similar melodic structure.

Aaron Corn

treaty1 treaty3

 

Mandawuy Comments

This song was written after Bob Hawke, in his famous response to the Barunga Statement (1988), said there would be a Treaty between Indigenous Australians and the Australian Government by 1990. The intention of this song was to raise public awareness about this so that the government would be encouraged hold to his promise. The song became a number-one hit, the first ever to be sung in a Yol\u language, and caught the public’s imagination. Though it borrows from rock ’n’ roll, the whole structure of “Treaty” is driven by the beat of the djatpangarri that I’ve incorporated in it. It was an old recording of this historic djatpangarri that triggered the song’s composition. The man who originally created it was my gurru\ (maternal great-grandmother’s husband) and he passed away a long time ago in 1978. He was a real master of the djatpangarri style.

Lyrics

Well I heard it on the radio
And Isaw it on the television
Back in 1988, all those talking politicians

Words are easy, words are cheap
Much cheaper than our priceless land
But promises can disappear
Just like writing in the sand

Treaty yeah treaty now treaty yeah treaty now

Nhima djat’pangarri nhima walangwalang
Nhe djat’payatpa nhima gaya nhe
Matjini ... Yakarray
Nhe djat’pa nhe walang gumurrt jararrk gutjuk

This land was never given up
This land was never bought and sold
The planting of the union jack
Never changed our law at all
Now two river run their course
Seperated for so long
I’m dreaming of a brighter day
When the waters will be one

Treaty yeah treaty now treaty yeah treaty now

Nhema gayakaya nhe gayanhe
Nhe gayanhe matjini walangwalang nheya
Nhimadjatpanhe walang
Gumurrtjararrk yawirriny
Nhe gaya nhe matjini
Gaya gaya nhe gaya nhe
Matjini walangwalang
Nhema djat’pa nhe walang
Nhe gumurrtjarrk nhe ya

Promises disappear - priceless land - destiny
Well i heard it on the radio
And i saw it on the television
But promises can be broken
Just like writing in the sand

Treaty yeah treaty now treaty yeah treaty now
Treaty yeah treaty now treaty yeah treaty now
Treaty yeah treaty ma treaty yeah treaty ma
Treaty yeah treaty ma treaty yeah treaty ma

Gumatj Lyrics

 

Translation


Nhima djatpangarri nhima walangwalang
 
You dance djatpangarri, that’s better

Nhe djatpayatpa nhima gaya’ nhe marrtjini yakarray
 
You’re dancing, you improvise, you keep going, wow

Nhe djatpa nhe walang
 
You dance djatpangarri, that’s good


Gumurr-djararrk Gutjuk

 
My dear paternal grandson

Nhima gayakaya nhe gaya’ nhe
 
You improvise, you improvise

Nhe gaya’ nhe marrtjini walangwalang nhe ya
 
You improvise, you keep going, you’re better

Nhima djatpa nhe walang
 
You dance djatpangarri, that’s good

Gumurr-djararrk yawirriny’
 
My dear young men

Nhe gaya’ nhe marrtjini gaya’ nhe marrtjini
 
You improvise, you keep improvising, you keep going

Gayakaya nhe gaya’ nhe marrtjini walangwalang
 
Improvise, you improvise, you keep going, that’s better

Nhima djatpa nhe walang
 
You dance djatpangarri, that’s good

Gumurr-djararrk nhe yå, e i, e i, e i i i, i i i, i i i, i i
 
You dear things, (terminal vocables)


Treaty ma’

 
Treaty now

The Music Video

There are two clips for “Treaty.” The first features footage of the 1988 Barunga Festival where the Barunga Statement is shown in its final stages of preparation, and Prime Minister Hawke is shown participating didjeridu-playing and spear-throwing competitions. As the Barunga Statement is presented to the Prime Minister, he is accompanied by his Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Gerry Hand. Also included in this first clip are images of the band in concert, and footage from the Gove Peninsula of industrial bauxite mining, ceremonial dancing led by Witiyana in the bush and children dancing on the beach. view treaty 1

A second clip for “Treaty” accompanies the remix of the song by Filthy Lucre. It features images of the band in concert as well as footage from the Gove Peninsula of ceremonial dancing led by Witiyana in the bush, Witiyana and Milkayngu dancing with their instruments on the beach, Mandawuy singing over a blazing fire and children dancing on the beach with portable stereo given to them by Mandawuy. The unbridled enjoyment of these children, in particular, is reminiscent of the youthful exuberance that the djatpangarri style captures. view treaty 2

 

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1996 Yothu Yindi Music Pty Ltd. 1996 Mushroom Records International B.V.
Under exclusive license to: Hollywood Records, 500 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521
Distributed by Elektra Entertainment, A division of Warner Communications Inc.