Guide Land, Kinship and Life-Cycle

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Culture: Family and Kinship

Each nation and language has its own term for Moiety. In the Yolngu worldview, ancestral beings assigned everything in the universe to either the Dhuwa or the Yirritja Moiety. For example, the black cockatoo is Dhuwa, while the white cockatoo is Yirritja. The two Moieties complement and balance each other in ceremonies, marriage, and daily life.


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The second level of kinship is Totem. Each person has at least four Totems which represent their nation, clan and family group, as well as a personal Totem. Totems link a person to the universe - to land, air, water and geographical features. Each person has a responsibility to ensure that their Totems are protected and passed on to the next generation.


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  • Totems are split between Moieties to create a balance of use and protection. For example, while members of one Moiety protect and conserve the animal, members of the other Moiety may eat and use the animal.

    Kinship Systems

    The third level of kinship is the Skin Name. It also conveys information about how generations are linked and how they should interact. Each nation has its own Skin Names and each name has a prefix or suffix to indicate gender. There are sets of names in each cycle. When that child grows up and has children of their own, those children will be Threes.

    Kinship Systems

    This sequential naming continues until the end of the number cycle is reached, then it begins again at One. When you read about Indigenous kinship systems, what thoughts, feelings and questions does it raise for you? How do Indigenous kinship systems celebrate some of the same values that are important to your family?

    How is it different? What elements of Indigenous kinship systems do you think could be of value to wider Australian society? Understanding and appreciating Indigenous kinship systems is one way we can seek to build more respectful relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. These relationships are activated primarily during ceremonial exchanges, and as exchanges are frequent and important economically, these stocks are important.

    AIFS Secondary links

    Villagers inherit all the stock Memberships of both parents. Kinship Terminology. Terminology varies, but it Commonly stresses the relationship between the descendants of brothers and of sisters. Generational skewing of the Crow type occurs.

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