Singing Saltwater Country: Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria

By John Bradley & Yanyuwa Families


John Bradley’s compelling account of three decades living with the Yanyuwa people of the Gulf of Carpentaria and of how the elders revealed to him the ancient songlines of their Dreaming

At the age of 20 John Bradley was posted to Borroloola Primary School in the fragile wetlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria in far north Australia. There began a journey over three decades which has taken him into the heart of the Dreaming of the Yanyuwa people. Slowly and patiently, the Yanyuwa elders educated young John Bradley in the songs of their ancestors. Sung with fierce passion and pride, they are the stories of relationships between humans, animals, plants, and the land that extend beyond anything in western culture. They are the wellspring and source of power, ancestry, authority, and continuity that are embedded in what is known as “Law” and “country” in Aboriginal culture. Written in collaboration with Yanyuwa elders, Singing Saltwater Country reveals the sacred knowledge of the songlines at a time when Yanyuwa culture is under enormous threat. It is also a time when westerners need to become familiar with Indigenous understandings of country if we are all to survive in the fragile ecosystems of this land.

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