‘Nhaŋu dhangany yuwalkthana Yolŋu mitji marnggimana dhana mayili mana dhangany mana limalama ganatjirri marimba barathalayuma gurrku mana wanggalangga’.
‘We will pass on the stories of our sea country for the benefit of a new generation to make it strong’. Laurie Baymarrwaŋga, 1999
Laurie Baymarrwangga (Gawany) Baymarrwaŋa (c. 1917 – 20 August 2014) was born on Murruŋga Island (largest of the outer Crocodile Islands of North-East Arnhem Land), in the Northern Territory of Australia. Laurie was the Senior Aboriginal Traditional Owner of the Malarra estate, which includes Galiwin’ku, Dalmana, Murruŋga, Brul-brul and the Ganatjirri Maramba Salt Water surrounding the islands and inclusive of some 300 other named sites. She devoted her life to the intergenerational transmission of the ancestral language and knowledge of her homelands on the Crocodile Islands, for the benefit of future generations.
Laurie died in August 2014. The Crocodile Islands Rangers, which she helped establish, stated “Our wonderful patron sadly passed peacefully away in August 2014”. The anthropologist Dr. Bentley James, who worked with her to create the Yan-nhaŋu Atlas and Illustrated Dictionary said on his website –
“The very much adored, and deeply admired paramount matriarch of the Yan-nhaŋu people Laurie Baymarrwaŋa passed peacefully away in her ninety seventh year on Wednesday 20th of August. Her life was inestimable, her virtue remarkable, and her passing bequeaths a fabulous legacy. Born in the time before the coming of the missions, she remembered the old ways, the ways of kin and country. Her dream to entrust this knowledge to new generations as a foundation, a font of strength and counsel in the law, drove her to create a homeland, a school, ranger and heritage programs, marine sanctuaries, language nests and an Atlas among other gifts. Senior Australian of the year 2012, her vast knowledge of generations of social and physical geography was revered by others who themselves are old and wise. To the very end she struggled to save her ocean home from mining and exploitation, unspoiled for future generations. Baymarrwaŋa’s love and generosity for the world is something one rarely sees . . . if only it were more common. A truly great leader, a nurturer, her spirit returns to the homelands that created and compelled her”.
Big Boss - The Last Leader of the Crocodile Islands Rangers
Laurie Baymarrwangga - Learning from our Senior Australia of the year
Crocodile Islands Rangers is a program of the Milingimbi Outstations Progress Resource Aboriginal Corporation.
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