Abstract: “Whitefella got that piece of paper — might be lease or something like that — but Yanyuwa and Garrwa mob they got to have kujika. When whitefella ask them kids how you know this country belongs to you, they can say we got the kujika. Kujika, you know, like that piece of paper.” These words were spoken by Dinny McDinny, an elder from the Borroloola area near the Gulf of Carpentaria, when telling the linguist John Bradley about educating children in the ways of the bush. Kujika are the epic song cycles from both the Gulf of Carpentaria and parts of Central Australia that trace the travels of creator spirits as they move through the land. If people knew kujika for an area, they had a title deed for the land, Aboriginal way. This paper explores the importance of evidentiary references to song and ceremony in land claims under both the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) (ALRA) and the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (NTA) and analyses judges’ reports to show how references to song and ceremony have figured in them. The first section of the paper looks at how song and ceremony sit within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies. It will then move on to quantify the number of references in judges’ reports for each state. Finally, there will be a detailed examination of how terms such as song and ceremony have been used in different ways as evidence for rights to country.
Koch, Grace, 2013, We have the song, so we have the land: song and ceremony as proof of ownership in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land claims, Volume:AIATSIS Research Publications, Report, viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=3300.