Timmy 'Djawa' Burarrwanga

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Timmy Burarrwanga in Canberra 17 February 2011

Timmy 'Djawa' Burarrwanga is an Aboriginal Australian who belongs to the Gumatj clan. He is a well-respected father, business operator, cultural leader and current Chairman of the Yirrkala Dhanbul Aboriginal Corporation, a community development organisation associated with the Bunuwal group of companies. He is also a Director of the Lanyhapuy Homelands Association, a Board member of both the Gumatj Association and Gumatj Corporation, and Chairman of Lirrwi Yolngu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation. In addition he serves on the boards of numerous other Aboriginal organisations and has lent his support to the One Laptop Per Child Australia group.[1]


With his family he operates Bawaka, a unique Indigenous tourism venture that operates on their ancestral homeland in north eastern Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory of Australia. Together they move between Yirrkala and Bawaka to welcome small groups of people from across Australia and from around the world to share their culture and history.[2]

Mr Burarrwanga sees tourism as a culturally appropriate way of Aboriginal people earning a living and has welcomed numerous high-profile Australians to Bawaka to participate in a number of cultural awareness programs on offer.[3]

In a recent Territory Quarterly magazine article Mr Burarrwanga was quoted saying;

"With tourism, people can make money from their land while they are protecting the land. There is a story and significance to our land. We can make opportunities by managing the land."[4]

Renowned chef Tony Bilson is one of many people who have spent time at Bawaka.[5]

Garma Festival[edit]

For several years Mr Burarrwanga has been actively involved in the management of cultural programs at the annual Garma Festival of Traditional Cultures held at the Gulkula site in north eastern Arnhem Land.[6]

2005 Garma Festival[edit]

At the 2005 Garma Festival Mr Burarrwaŋa talked openly of his experiences in developing his own tourism company. As a speaker for a Garma session focused on key outcomes for tourism he used the metaphor of building a house to describe the chain of processes and challenges required to create the final dream.
Mr Burarrwanga stressed it was important to employ and train Yolŋu people at home, to give them respect and responsibilities for their rights and for their future. Up until 2005 his tourism business's development involved six years of hard work, persistence, and many challenges.
He went on to point out that it was much harder for an Indigenous person to succeed in a business than for members of the mainstream population. The complication being that there was the responsibility to comply with the wishes of the traditional owners in addition to the 'whitefella' law. During his talk he shared that he had experienced frustrations in dealing with the various government bodies and associations. They had an overwhelming propensity for talking and achieved little that was practical.[7]

Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians[edit]

In December 2010 the Australian Government announced that Mr Burarrwanga was to join other prominent members to sit on the 'Expert Panel' on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians. The role of the panel being to lead a wide-ranging national public consultation and engagement program throughout 2011, before reporting its findings to the Australian Government by December 2011.[8]

In February 2011 Mr Burarrwanga met with the other Expert Panelists for the first time in Canberra. The following is a brief excerpt from the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians Communiqué 16–17 February 2011;

The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians appointed by the Australian Government came to Canberra over two days for our first historic meeting.
The Panel welcomes the commitment of successive Federal Governments to constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and acknowledges the support of all major Australian political parties and independents.
The Panel is united in its view that constitutional recognition will benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all Australians.
Members reflected on the privilege and responsibility of the role with which they have been charged. They acknowledged that their work will facilitate one of our most important national conversations.
The Panel’s diverse experience makes it well placed to provide guidance and support in stimulating this conversation, and providing considered advice to government.
Co-chair Patrick Dodson spoke about the importance of the Panel’s role in engaging the Australian nation to set the foundations for recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within the constitution:
“Recognition by the nation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution will advance reconciliation and contribute towards a more united Australia. It is important to open a new chapter which celebrates the richness of Australia’s connected cultural history”.
Co-chair Mark Leibler welcomed the Panel: “ It’s wonderful to hear from such a diverse group of Australians with wide ranging views united behind a common purpose”.
The Panel is made up of Australians from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities: people from small and large business, community leaders, academia and members of parliament across the political spectrum – from all states, city and country.
The Panel considered how best to engage all Australians and ensure a wide range of ideas are sought and heard. The conversation will continue throughout the year and the Panel encourages all Australians to be involved.
A discussion paper on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be released for public comment as the starting point for Australia’s conversation on this significant issue.
In December 2011, the Panel will report to the Australian Government on possible options for recognition and the likely degree of support they could receive from the Australian population.[9]

Wider Interests[edit]

Timmy Burarrwanga at Bawaka

Mr Burarrwanga's wider interests include Indigenous health, education and social issues, particularly substance abuse, domestic violence and family health.

Timmy pointing out fish in Port Bradshaw


  1. ^ Tall Poppy: Timmy ‘Djawa’ Burarrwanga - Indigenous tourism entrepreneur Territory Q - 2010
  2. ^ Indigenous Stock Exchange - ISX Archived 20 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Bawaka Archived 12 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Territory Quarterly, 2010 Archived 16 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Tony Wilson speaks of his time at Bawaka, OLPC Australia
  6. ^ Garma sponsor, Charles Darwin University Archived 11 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Garma 2005 Session 6 Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going? Yolŋu Tourism in Arnhem Land over the past 10 years - notes,Garma 2005 Archived 11 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, FAHCSIA
  9. ^ Communiqué 16–17 February 2011,FAHCSIA

External links[edit]

Articles & Transcripts[edit]