Yolngu Boy

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Yolngu Boy
Directed by Stephen Johnson
Produced by

Patricia Edgar
M. Yunupingu
Galarrwuy Yunupingu

Gordon Glenn
Written by Chris Anastassiades
Starring Sean Mununggurr, John Sebastian Pilakui, Nathan Daniels
Music by Mark Ovenden
Cinematography Brad Shield
Edited by Ken Sallows
Release dates
22 March 2001 (2001-03-22)
Running time
85 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Box office $645,700

Yolngu Boy is a 2001 Australian drama film that follows three Yolngu teenagers as they make the transition from childhood to adulthood.


After being been initiated together and growing up together, troubled natural born leader Botj (Sean Mununggurr), conservative and traditionalist Lorrpu (John Sebastian) and football loving ladies man Milika (Nathan Daniels) are transitioning from childhood to adulthood.

Botj, who has recently been released from prison, decides to break into the local store to get cigarettes and he convinces Lorrpu and Milika to join him. Lorrpu and Milika decide to return home, but Botj remains and gets high by sniffing petrol. He makes his way to the Community Centre, where he lights a smoke, but as he does this, the petrol ignites and the building is burnt down. Determined to help Botj avoid imprisonment, Lorrpu and Milika trek with him from their home in north-eastern Arnhem Land to Darwin to plead his case before Dawu (Nungki Yunupingu), a Yolngu elder.

In Darwin, Lorrpu tries to convince Dawu that Botj is rehabilitated, but Dawu does not believe him. Botj fears he may be turned over to the police, so he leaves the group and attempts to find his father. When he finds his father, his father is so intoxicated that he is unable to recognize Botj. Following this, Botj turns to sniffing petrol once again and while under its effects, he falls to his death from a bridge. His body is discovered by Lorrpu and Milika later that day.

Lorrpu and Milika return to their original home and their old lives. For Lorrpu, the journey has been a rite of passage, and through it he has been able to gain the acceptance of his elders.[1][2][3][4]


  • John Sebastian Pilakui - Lorrpu
  • Sean Mununggurr - Botj
  • Nathan Daniels - Milika
  • Lirrina Mununggur - Yuwan
  • Makuma Yunupingu - Matjala
  • Nungki Yunupingu - Dawu
  • Mangatjay Yunupingu - Maralitja Man
  • Gurkula (Jack Thompson) - Policeman
  • Gerard Buyan Garrawurra - Lunginy[5]


Sean Mununggurr is from Gapuwiyak in Eastern Arnhem Land and is a Gumatj dialect speaker, while John Sebastian Pilakui (Sebbie) and Nathan Daniels both hail from Bathurst Island in the Tiwi Islands. For all three, English is their second language, and all three were fifteen years old at the time of filming.[6][7]

The film was mainly shot in Yirrkala over the course of seven weeks, beginning on 20 September 1999 and ending on 5 November 1999.[6][7]

The scene where Botj, Lorrpu and Milika climb down a cliff overlooking a waterhole to go for a swim was filmed at Lightning Dreaming at Twin Falls on the edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment. It took months of negotiations with local elders to arrange permission to film at this site.[6][7]

Box Office[edit]

Yolngu Boy grossed $645,700 at the box office in Australia.[8]


  1. Kakadu - M.Yunupingu
  2. Neva Mend - Nokturnl
  3. Black Bugs - Regurgitator
  4. Gapu - Yothu Yindi
  5. Poisonous Love/Ghost Spirit - Yothu Yindi
  6. Treaty - Yothu Yindi
  7. Surrender - Songlines Music Aboriginal Corporation
  8. Farewell - Garmadi Community, Co-Ordinated by Laura Naborhiborhl


Ceremony Category Year Result
Zanzibar International Film Festival People's Choice Award 2001 Won[5]
Giffoni Film Festival Italy Bronze Gryphon Award 2001 Won[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pomeranz, Margaret (1 January 2009). ""Yolngu Boy"". SBS. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Vogelsang, Cyndy Kitt (11 March 2001). ""Yolngu Boy"". SBS. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "" Yolngu Boy (2000)"". National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  4. ^ ""A failure to confront reality"". World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c ""Yolngu Boy"". www.CreativeSpirits.info. 4 December 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c ""Behind The Scenes"". Australian Children's Television Foundation. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c ""The Australian Film Finance Corporation presents an Australian Children's Television Foundation and Burrundi Pictures Production in association with Yothu Yindi Foundation: YOLNGU BOY"" (PDF). Australian Children's Television Foundation. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  8. ^ ""Australian Films at the Australian Box office"" (PDF). Film Victoria. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 

External links[edit]