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Songspirals

Sharing women's wisdom of Country through songlines

Gay'wu Group of Women Laklak Burarrwanga Ritjilili Ganambarr Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs

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Allen & Unwin
05 August 2019
Joint winner of the 2020 Prime Minister's Award for Non-Fiction. Shortlisted for the 2020 Victorian Premier's Award for Non-Fiction.

'We want you to come with us on our journey, our journey of songspirals. Songspirals are the essence of people in this land, the essence of every clan. We belong to the land and it belongs to us. We sing to the land, sing about the land. We are that land. It sings to us.' Aboriginal Australian cultures are the oldest living cultures on earth and at the heart of Aboriginal cultures is song. These ancient narratives of landscape have often been described as a means of navigating across vast distances without a map, but they are much, much more than this. Songspirals are sung by Aboriginal people to awaken Country, to make and remake the life-giving connections between people and place. Songspirals are radically different ways of understanding the relationship people can have with the landscape.

For Yolngu people from North East Arnhem Land, women and men play different roles in bringing songlines to life, yet the vast majority of what has been published is about men's place in songlines. Songspirals is a rare opportunity for outsiders to experience Aboriginal women's role in crying the songlines in a very authentic and direct form.

'Songspirals are Life. These are cultural words from wise women. As an Aboriginal woman this is profound to learn. As a human being Songspirals is an absolute privilege to read.' - Ali Cobby Eckermann, Yankunytjatjara poet 'To read Songspirals is to change the way you see, think and feel this country.' - Clare Wright, award-winning historian and author 'A rare and intimate window into traditional women's cultural life and their visceral connection to Country. A generous invitation for the rest of us.' - Kerry O'Brien, Walkley Award-winning journalist
By:   Gay'wu Group of Women, Laklak Burarrwanga, Ritjilili Ganambarr, Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs, Banbapuy Ganambarr
Imprint:   Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm, 
Weight:   448g
ISBN:   9781760633219
ISBN 10:   1760633216
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   05 August 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  Professional and scholarly ,  ELT Advanced ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Gay'wu Group of Women is the 'dillybag women's group', a deep collaboration between several Yolngu women and three non-Aboriginal women over a decade. Sisters Laklak Burarrwana, Ritjilili Ganambarr, Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs and Banbapuy Ganambarr are elders in the most influential Aboriginal community in Australia, the Yolngu of northern Arnhem Land. Each is a community leader in her own right: Laklak is a caretaker for the Gumatj clan, founder of the family's successful tourism business Bawaka Cultural Experiences and has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Macquarie University; Merrki is principal of Yirrkala school; Ritjilili works for Miwatj Health and Bawaka Cultural Experiences; Banbapuy is an author, artist, weaver and teacher. Their daughter Djawundil Maymuru has been on the board of Laynapuy Homelands Aboriginal Corporation and is a key member of Bawaka Cultural Experiences. The sisters have collaborated on a series of cultural and research projects with Associate Professors Kate Lloyd and Sandie Suchet-Pearson from Human Geography at Macquarie University, and Associate Professor Sarah Wright from Geography and Development Studies at the University of Newcastle. They are all co-authors of the book Welcome to My Country.

Reviews for Songspirals: Sharing women's wisdom of Country through songlines

'If you want to learn about Aboriginal ways of loving and honouring their land, Country and kin, paying careful attention to the wise words contained in this book will be an education you won't forget, for it is potentially transformative.' - Ann McGrath, Aboriginal History


  • Long-listed for Best Designed Nonfiction Book 2020 (Australia)
  • Long-listed for Victorian Premier's Literary Awards 2020 (Australia)
  • Short-listed for Australian Book Design Awards 2020 (Australia)
  • Short-listed for Best Non-fiction 2020 (Australia)
  • Short-listed for Non-fiction Award - Chief Minister's NT Book Awards 2020 (Australia)

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