Minymaku Way: 'It doesn't belong to us'

Minymaku Way: 'It doesn't belong to us'
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
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The Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council are holding their executive meeting. The women express their objection to the presence and abuse of substances in their communities. Summary by Romaine Moreton.

The NPY Women’s Council are a group of strong-willed Anangu women who are invested in effecting change in their communities. The voices raised at the NPY meeting illustrate a strong matriarchal presence and a welcome positive representation of Indigenous women who possess the power and the belief to create a healthier environment for their people.


Minymaku Way synopsis

This documentary celebrates the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council.


Minymaku Way curator's notes

In 1980 the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council was formed as a response to the women being excluded from important debates. Minymaku Way documents the strength of the Anangu (Indigenous) women, and the implementation of programs that are designed to preserve culture and to heal the ills of the community. The film focuses on 'Malpa’ (working relationships in Pitjantjatjara) between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, and we witness how the Women’s Council strategise to counteract the increasing attraction of the Anangu youth to Western culture, and the potential loss of cultural knowledge as a result.

The strength of the Women’s Council is evident in the 10-year struggle to get a local publican to not sell liquor to Anangu people. The NPY Women’s Council now boasts a membership of 3,000 and is a powerful political and cultural voice. The documentary shows the women choosing and preparing a song for the opening of the 2000 Olympic Games and the cultural protocols that had to be observed before a song and dance could be chosen, as well as implementing projects within Anangu communities. This documentary is important for showing the proactive ambition of grass roots Indigenous peoples in contesting the afflictions ailing their own communities, and for challenging any prevailing views that Aboriginal communities like these are dependent upon outside bureaucracy to deal with their physical, cultural, spiritual and emotional ailments.

Notes by Romaine Moreton


Education Notes

The clip shows a meeting of the executive of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council and an example of its work in central Australian communities. The voice-over explains the role of the Council in giving women an opportunity to discuss issues and take action. The clip shows Anangu women speaking of their concern about substance abuse. A spokesperson explains the cooperation between Anangu and non-Anangu. An outing for the community’s elderly is shown. Traditional language is spoken in the clip; subtitles are included.

Educational value points

  • The clip records and celebrates the NPY Women’s Council as an organisation for Anangu women of central Australia to discuss issues within their communities and take action. The clip is an excerpt from a documentary celebrating the Council’s twentieth anniversary. The Council was established in 1980 because women felt excluded from important debates, and it now represents and empowers more than 3,000 Anangu women of the Western Desert.
  • The active involvement of the women in the executive meeting and the community outing is an example of Indigenous women confronting and dealing effectively with complex social issues in their communities. Although men are present at the meeting, only women speakers and organisers express their views about the effects of substance abuse on women. The speakers are portrayed as strong and brave and their contribution is respected and acknowledged.
  • The clip documents the importance of health issues to the women in the clip and the way that health and culture are intertwined in Indigenous communities. Speaking passionately of their concerns, the women in the clip connect substance abuse to domestic violence and neglect of children and grandchildren. The outing for the elderly is presented as an example of the women’s desire and action to look after their old people properly.
  • Through the use of Indigenous language and by showing adaptation of cultural practices the filmmakers assert a contemporary Anangu culture in central Australia. Anangu refers to the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara peoples, who are shown using both Indigenous language and English. Reference is made to earlier ways of caring for elderly relatives, and the Tjilpipampa outing is presented as a modern way of continuing this practice.
  • In the clip a spokesperson talks about Anangu and non-Anangu people working together, and explains that people working side-by-side is called 'malpa’, which is a Pitjantjatjara word. The emphasis on cooperation leading to better outcomes reflects the decade of reconciliation during which the film was made. In 1991 the Council for Reconciliation was set up by the federal parliament to reduce divisions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
  • The clip explores some of the NPY Council’s work regarding substance abuse in Indigenous communities in central Australia. The NPY Council has acted on concerns voiced in this clip through involvement in coronial inquests into deaths related to petrol sniffing, the development of a Young People’s Project and lobbying for an 'unsniffable’ petrol. It also acted successfully to ban alcohol sales to Indigenous people at Curtin Springs roadhouse in the Northern Territory.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia

Production company:
CAAMA Productions
Executive Producer:
Priscilla Collins (AKA Cilla Collins)
Erica Glynn
Kate Gillick

This clip starts approximately 5 minutes into the documentary.

We see footage of the NPY Women’s Council Executive Meeting.
Aboriginal Woman (Translated) Women’s Council is for the women to have a voice, to discuss issues and to take action. Women’s discussions are very strong. 
Aboriginal woman 1 addressing the Council For years some poor wives get beaten up, their arms broken and the live in fear. We have lost our strength and are now weak. Alcohol, marijuana, petrol. Where the hell did it come from? It doesn’t belong to us.
Aboriginal woman 2 addressing the Council There is always petrol sniffing. It’s seen but no one does anything. It is ignored, ignored, ignored and now it is all over the country — small children are sniffing.
Aboriginal woman 3 addressing the Council The community councils are not really strong. So everything has escalated. Men, with kids, women, with kids are sniffing. Their children and grandchildren get neglected and then those kids start sniffing themselves.

The Women’s Council spokesperson is being interviewed.
Council Spokesperson I think the women have been very brave about doing this work, taking it on means taking on a lot of stuff, but the way — like all our work, we have Anangu and non-Anangu people working together and we call it malparara way and that means working side by side and the philosophy behind that is you actually, you get more from that from bringing teams together so the non-Anangu worker — you have people who are ex-teachers, social worker, sister, people who have got skills to bring to their particular area and then the Anangu worker of course, it’s their communities, it’s their families that they’re working with.
We see footage of Tjilpi Pampa, an outing for the elderly.
Aboriginal woman When the Women’s Council started we did not have the programs like the programs we have now. Like looking after our old people properly. When those old women were young, they took care of their elders, so now that they are old themselves, it is our turn to take care of them.