In the languages of Yolŋu Matha, the foundation of the relationship between country and its people is called Rom.

Rom is a complex word that has no direct translation equivalent in English; it has deep roots that start from the time of creation, extending to the present and into the future. Rom is like a tree, standing firm, not like grass that comes and goes with every season.

Rom links our clans, it tells us who we are and how we should relate to one another, it tells us how to perform our ceremonies, how to raise our children to respect people and country and, importantly, how to respect themselves.

Other cultures speak of the law, of religion, of kinship, of intellectual knowledge, of art and science — many separate things. But in our way all these things and more exist together as Rom.

We are born to a heritage of Rom but we learn it as we grow, layer by layer, listening to our mothers, our uncles, our fathers, acting in the right way until we have the knowledge and experience to finally take our place as the leaders of culture and Rom.

Many people from many places connected to Gurruwiling. In some ways we are two different peoples, Yolŋu and Bi, but we are also connected. Everything in our world is connected and divided by two halves (also called moieties) known as Dhuwa and Yirritja. This includes our people, our country, all the plants, animals, seasons, and languages.

Our responsibility for looking after country is given to us through our kinship relationships. Balanda (non-Aboriginal Australians) might call this land ownership, but it is different for Yolŋu and Bi.

Children have rights and responsibilities to their mother’s people and country and to our father’s people and country. In Yolŋu we call this Yothu Yindi. In Rembarrnga it is Ngala Dakku and for the Arafura Swamp it is Yuyung Nyanung. In English it could be something like a mother-child relationship. Relationships to the country of our maternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents are also important and we have names for those connections and the responsibilities that go with them.

We see the health of our target of Rom, and all within it, as being ganga manymak, just fair and not good.

Healthy Country Plan

We know that the land needs its people to care for it and to keep it healthy. In the same way we know that caring for the country keeps us healthy – physically, spiritually and mentally.