1:30pm – Sunday, May 13 on ABC1
Murrungga Island is situated in the top end of Arnhem Land. This is where Message Stick finds 95-year-old Baymarrwangga or as she is affectionately known, ‘Big Boss’. Baymarrwangga was also awarded ‘The Senior Australian of the Year’ on this year’s Australia Day.
In the nine decades since her birth on the island of Murrungga, Baymarrwangga has seen the arrival of missionaries, Japanese and European fishermen and has endured harsh times through the war. Her story documents a historical legacy of government neglect and suppression of bilingual education: because of this the language and culture of the Yan-nhangu people was nearly lost.
Undaunted, Baymarrwangga has almost single-handedly nurtured transmission of local knowledge from generation to generation through a lifelong commitment to caring for her culture and country. Her single greatest achievement has been the Yan-nhangu Dictionary.
The Dictionary Project is actively capturing and recording rich and vibrant rituals plus the ecological knowledge of the sacred ancestral sites of the seas and islands. The purpose of the Dictionary Project is to preserve the Yan-nhangu language, culture and local knowledge from the potentially damaging consequences of rapid global change, and most importantly to safeguard it for future generations.
Baymarrwangga had also started the Crocodile Islands Rangers Program where a dedicated group of rangers patrol just under 10,000 square kilometres of the Arafura Sea defending the breeding and nesting sites of many endangered turtle and other species.
In the face of many obstacles, this great-great-grandmother has shown extraordinary leadership in caring for the cultural and biological integrity of her beloved Crocodile Islands.