Kuku Yalanji

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Kuku Yalanji people are indigenous in Australia, originating from the rainforest regions of Far North Queensland and speaking the language Kuku Yalanji; also spelt Gugu Yalanji and here Guugu Yalandji as variants in English transliteration spellings. Guugu Yalandji language connects together their law, various dialects, clans and many communities. They also constitute one of the "Bama Rainforest Peoples". Kuku Yalanji live in coastal, riverine, and mountainous regions, their clan estates extending from Port Douglas in the south through to Cooktown in the north and to Chillagoe in the west. It is thought that there were three to five clans of Kuku Yalanji in 1770 prior to contact by Europeans, their diseases and colonisation.

A short–term–use hut built by Indigenous Australians such as the Kuku Yalanji people.


Survival was dependent on the exploitation of seasonal variation. It is believed that Kuku Yalanji lived in the rainforest region no later than 4,000 years ago. It is known that they had high population density, lived in semi-permanent hut (dwelling) huts, prepared and ate toxic species from the rainforest and produced and used distinct weaponry such as wooden shields and swords. They existed in a complex and social hunter-gatherer type society. They are defined from other groups by single language.

They saw the landscape as humanized describing it in human terms and recognizing spirits within landscape features. They defined seasonal variations into five seasons.


1877 saw contact between European colonists and Kuku Yalanji through the discovery of gold, mineral exploration and the development of a coastal road. Contact between the groups was violent. By 1890, the people were decimated. From 1897 to the 1960s, the Kuku Yalanji like other Aboriginal peoples faced the Government's paternalistic legislation that allowed for Aborigines to be placed under "protection" in attempt to preserve their culture. The Kuku Yalanji began concentrating around the Mossman Reserve around the time of World War II and the people in the Daintree region were forced to the northern bank of the Daintree River. They were further subjected to more relocations by the government.

Additional variants of transliterations into English include Kuku Yulangi and Gugu Yulanji.

Today the culture of the Kuku Yalanji people continues, for example in Mossman and Wujal Wujal.[1][2][3][4]

Notable individuals[edit]

Kuku Yalanji artist Jessica Mauboy has achieved international success.
  • Jessica Mauboy, an Australian R&B and pop recording artist.[5][6][7] She has embraced her Aboriginal culture on numerous occasions, starring in the 2012 indigenous hit film The Sapphires and singing multiple songs on the soundtrack, and partaking in the Mbantua Festival.[6]
  • Pat O'Shane, a teacher, barrister, public servant, jurist and Aboriginal activist, she was Australia's first Aboriginal magistrate.[8][9] O'Shane was also the first Aboriginal teacher in Queensland; the first Aboriginal person to earn a law degree; the first Aboriginal barrister; and the first woman and Indigenous person to be the head of a government department in Australia.[10]


  1. ^ Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku Inc. (Kuku Yalanji of the Mossman Gorge); Fisher, Colin; Ross–Kelly, Bella (1996). Aspects and Images of Kuku Yalanji Life at Mossman Gorge. Assistance: with writing the way told, by Tom Popp and with keeping their way, by Bennett Walker Qld DEH. Mossman, Qld: Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku Inc. pp. 1–32. ISBN 0-646-27739-1. Retrieved 9 Sep 2014. 
  2. ^ Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku Inc. (Kuku Yalanji of the Mossman Gorge); Roberts, John; Fisher, Colin; Gibson, Roy (2008) [1995 original ed.]. A Guide to Traditional Aboriginal Rainforest Plant Use. Assistance: with writing plant information, by Tom Popp and with recording plant use, by Bennett Walker Qld DEH (reprinted ed.). Mossman, Qld: Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku Inc. pp. 1–36. ISBN 0-646-22991-5; ISBN 9780646229911. Retrieved 9 Sep 2014. 
  3. ^ Hill, Rosemary; Baird, Adelaide; Buchanan, David; Denman, Charlie; Fischer, Peter; Gibson, Karen; Johnson, Jimmy; Kerry, Alma; Kulka, George; Madsen, Eddie; Olbar, Alec; Olbar, Lizzie; Pierce, Jack; Shuan, Judy; Shipton, Ena; Shipton, Harry; Smith, Jimmy; Sykes, Rene; Walker, Eileen; Walker, Wilma; Wallace, Peter; Yerry, Bobby; Yougie, Dolly; Ball, Doreen; Barney, Edward; Buchanan, Raymond; Buchanan, Ronald; Denman, Harold; Fischer, Ruben; Gibson, Roy; Talbot, Leah; Tayley, Elizabeth; Tayley, Norman; Walker, Dawn; Walker, Francis; Walker, Kathleen; Wallace, Marilyn; Yougie, Lily (2004).
    Yalanji-Warranga Kaban: Yalanji people of the rainforest fire management book
    . Cairns, QLD, Australia: Little Ramsay Press. ISBN 0-95809-841-7. Retrieved 18 Apr 2014. Lay summaryResearchOnline @ James Cook University (2011).
  4. ^ Bloomfield, Toby; Friday, Ruby; Roberts, Bobby; Sykes, Harry & Dolly; Walker, Johnny; The people who lived at Jajikal in Ayton (September 1986). Hershberger, Henry D.; Hershberger, Ruth, eds. Kuku Yalanji Dictionary [Kuku Yalanji to English] (PDF online version). Work papers of SIL-AAB Series B. 7. Summer Institute of Linguistics. ISBN 0-86892-238-2. Retrieved 18 Apr 2014. 
  5. ^ "Jessica Mauboy". the Celebrity Bureau. 2013. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Mbantua Festival future dreaming". Alice Springs News Online. 15 October 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  7. ^ "Design Idol & Culture Icon Jessica Mauboy". Future-ish. Keeping tabs on the science, design, and culture shaping our future. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "Pat O'Shane". Schools TV. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 23 July 2004. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  9. ^ "O'Shane, Pat". AustLit. 13 May 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 
  10. ^ "O'Shane, Pat". The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia. Australian Women's Archives Project. 2014. ISBN 978-0-7340-4873-8. 

External links[edit]