An homage to the homelands, Garrangali Band’s new song One Voice is a celebration of the Yolngu way of life in the Blue Mud Bay region.

Lead singer, Mudiny Guyula, said the song is about bringing people “back to their promised land, their homeland, so we can recognise who we are”.

“People in town can get confused as to what they are about, what they are supposed to be. That’s where they lose their connections between Yolngu to Yolngu, we forget what it’s like to be a homeland person,” Guyula said.

“People are using homeland[s] as a picnic or for just a hunting trip, but it is a place to be.”

“We can recognise each other and our relationship to the land. For example, where I am now is my mother Country, I am its son.”

Garrangali Band hails from Baniyala, a northeast Arnhem Land community along Blue Mud Bay in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Bay was the topic of the 2008 Blue Mud High Court case.

The High Court recognised Traditional Owners’ rights to exclusive access to water which fell in the areas covered by the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 (NT). This meant Traditional Owners controlled access to 85 per cent of the NT coastline, including the intertidal zone.

Since the decision, the NT Government has managed and regulated fishing in the area through temporary fishing permits granted to commercial operators and recreational fishers.

However, Traditional Owners felt the arrangement did not benefit them.

In 2019, the Northern Land Council’s (NLC) Sea Country Working Group (SCWG), the NT Government, the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the NT (AFANT), the NT Seafood Council and the NT Guided Fishing Industry Association (NTGFIA) signed the Nitmiluk Heads of Agreement.

The agreement committed to real benefits for Traditional Owners and compromised with commercial and recreational fishers.

In July 2020, the NLC and the NT Government signed the Blue Mud Bay Action Plan, part of the Nitmiluk Heads of Agreement.  

The plan commits both parties to working towards securing permanent fishing access and investing in economic opportunity for Aboriginal Territorians.

“The Northern Territory Government is delivering for Aboriginal Territorians by supporting Traditional Owners to realise their aspirations by capitalising on the social and economic potential of their ancestral lands and waters,” said Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Selena Uibo, at the time.

The agreement calls upon the Territory Government to collaborate in drafting and introducing a Fisheries Act Amendment Bill, expanding Aboriginal Coastal Licences and securing commitment to Aboriginal Capacity Building Programs. Ten million dollars will also be provided to fund the establishment of an Aboriginal-owned fishing entity.

NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour said the first step is the reform of the Fisheries Act 1988 (NT) to “accommodate Aboriginal rights and interests that flow from the Blue Mud Bay decision”.

“The Northern Territory has never had contemporary legislation that encompasses the sea-Country rights of Traditional Owners, including increased involvement in fisheries management for Traditional Owners and greater responsibilities for Aboriginal sea rangers,” Scrymgour said.

“The second step under the action plan is establishing an Aboriginal sea company. This entity will facilitate the participation of Traditional Owners in the seafood industry. As part of this there will be a major focus on how we manage those fisheries in a sustainable way so that they’re there for future generations.”

With a deep love for culture and community, Guyula hopes to pass on a message of the importance of home.

“I’m not telling [people] what to do, just giving a message if people want to … it’s a message to feel what is good and what is bad, for our life and our kids. It’s safe in the homelands,” he said.

Listen to Garrangali Band’s new single, One Voice, here:

By Rachael Knowles