Yolngu cultural ambassador receives Honorary Doctorate in CDU graduation ceremony 

Gawirrin Gumana and CDU Chancellor Richard Ryan

The graduation ceremonies held a fortnight ago at Charles Darwin University (CDU) recognised Gawirrin Gumana, a Yolngu Aboriginal man of high esteem with an Honorary Doctorate (correctly termed Doctor of Arts, Honoris Causa).

The award to Gawirrin Gumana recognised the outstanding leadership and achievement in the field of arts, Aboriginal cultural maintenance, Aboriginal community advancement and the promotion of inter-cultural understanding and respect.

Over the years, Gawirrin has played integral roles in the recognition of ownership and management of land and the homelands movement for the Yolngu Aboriginal people as well as being recognised for his contribution as an artist.

In 1968, when the Yirrkala people took action in the Northern Territory Supreme Court to protect their interest in the land, Gawirrin acted as an interpreter and cross-cultural bridge during the proceedings.

Gawirrin says he looks at things three ways – the Yolngu Aboriginal way, the western way and God’s way – and credits his importance as a mediator to his ability to see and understand things from these different points of view.

Gawirrin has been painting for over sixty years and over the last two decades Gawirrin’s stature as and artist and ambassador for Yolngu culture has been recognised nationally and internationally.

In addition, Gawirrin’s stature among his people has been recognised, when he was selected as the lead plaintiff in the 2005 Federal Court case which resulted in the affirmation of Yolngu native title rights over inland and costal waters.

CDU Chancellor, Richard Ryan presented Gawirrin Gumana with the degree of Doctor of Arts, Honoris Causa, in recognition for his outstanding contribution to the whole of Australia and the Northern Territory in particular; especially in recognition of his part in creating a contemporary world where people can live together with mutual respect and understanding; and in acknowledgement of his notable work as an artist.

The CDU graduation ceremonies saw Gawirrin’s daughter graduating with a Certificate Community Services Work and also honoured a group of Community Services Work students from remote Indigenous communities.

Read Gawirrin Gumana's biography (.pdf).