Shared connection to sea and country

Department of Defence

The close connection Navy has with the Saltwater people of Blue Mud Bay was honoured when artist and Madarrpa clan Elder Djambawa Marawili presented a bark painting at the Indo-Pacific Sea Power Conference.

Mr Marawili uses his artwork to show the sacred designs that embody his right to speak as a part of the land and the sea.

His painting, Spirit of Sea Rights, was presented as an articulation of Navy’s connection to the sea and to Indigenous Australia.

The bark painting symbolises the ancestral baru (crocodile) reaching out from the saltwater to strengthen Navy with the sacred fire that preserves and protects Australia.

Mr Marawili said if we can learn, we can understand and find a common ground for a shared future.

“I give this Spirit of Sea Rights – the Nganarr Lirrtji (tongues of the sacred ancestral fire) from Blue Mud Bay reaching out – to strengthen Navy and bukmak (everyone together) Australia,” Mr Marawili said.

Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mark Hammond said the bark painting honours a shared connection to the sea and country, and the opportunity it provides to work together.

“This bark is a remarkable gift from our First Nations people. It includes Navy in our nation’s story so that we can identify with the history of the continent prior to the birth of the Australian nation,” Vice Admiral Hammond said.

“Our Navy is proud of our relationship with Djambawa. We are proud of the many first Australian sailors who serve in our Navy and those who serve our country in others ways.

“We are committed to strong and ongoing engagement with first Australian mariners whose knowledge of our vast coastline helps inform how our Navy protects our borders today.”

Navy has worked closely with the Saltwater people of Blue Mud Bay to understand and foster this connection, founded on a common understanding of the past, a deep respect for Yolngu cultural lore and a shared vision of the future.

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