Bala ga’ lili: communicating, relating and co-creating balance through relationships of reciprocity

Publication Name

Social and Cultural Geography


Intercultural communication at Bawaka often brings ŋäpaki, non-Indigenous visitors, into a series of new relationships–with Yolŋu people, with each other, with place, and with themselves. From a Bawaka Yolŋu ontology, this is part of bala ga’ lili, giving and taking, co-creating balance through relationships of reciprocity and responsibility. This paper is a collaboratively written piece by Yolŋu hosts and non-Yolŋu academics as part of Bawaka Country and reflects our own efforts at embodying bala ga’ lili. It considers how visitors to Bawaka come into relationship with themselves, their hosts, each other, and place. It discusses the opportunities and limitations of these relationships and emphasizes the importance of multi-directional, embodied, more-than-human communication. Through an analysis of a student fieldtrip and discussion of Yolŋu hosts’ expectations and aspirations, it argues that with communication and the formation of new relationships comes responsibilities to translate new understandings across time and place, assisting with the important, although only ever incompletely possible, work of breaking unjust systems and contributing to more just and sustainable processes and outcomes.

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