Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Statements by Senators

Woolagoodja, Mr Yornadaiyn

1:52 pm

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I rise to acknowledge and pay respect to Yornadaiyn Woolagoodja, or Yorna as he was called. Yorna was a beloved Mowanjum elder and talented artist whose art featured at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Yorna was born on country. His father found his Woongudd spirit in the ocean at a place called Yornadaiyn, a whirlpool where two tides meet. Yorna was the spirit of the whirlpool.

From the beginning of his life Yorna was enmeshed in negotiating the meeting of two tides, his cultural world and the world of the wider public. He lived out his early years on country and learnt from his ancestors. This was explored in his autobiography, 'I lived my own life'. Yorna's voice remains with us through his book and other artworks. Yorna was also known for his understated and quiet presence, his dignity which drew people to him and his power as a person and a teacher that was founded on the unassuming and humble way he engaged with people.

Throughout his life Yorna's energy and wisdom impacted the lives of many people across the country. He was committed to his family and his Wandjina Woongudd community. He dedicated his time to enabling young generations to visit, love and connect to their country, to be proud of their culture and traditions, to be prepared for the future and to be respected by others in their community. His encouragement gave confidence and pride to many young First Nations people.

Yorna also undertook major recording projects, established tourism ventures, participated in cultural heritage protection activities and created his own practice. He was the first chairman of the Mowanjum Artists Centre and participated in numerous First Nations organisations such as the Mowanjum Artists Spirits of the Wandjina Aboriginal Corporation and Mowanjum Aboriginal Community and several other cultural organisations across the Kimberley. Thank you, Yorna, may you rest in peace and your legacy live on forever.