Lajamanu Kurdiji group

Note: The information in this section is here as a repository for Warlpiri people to access materials developed by the Lajamanu Kurdiji group since 2011 as part of the CLC’s Governance Project.  Non-Warlpiri people are encouraged to read and watch this content, but permission to use it in a non-Warlpiri context should be given by the appropriate Warlpiri authorities.

The Lajamanu Kurdiji group is a group of senior men and women from Lajamanu community who are actively involved in promoting respect for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal law and justice within their community.  Kurdiji, or shield, is a Warlpiri word and carries the meaning ‘to shield, block, protect or ward off’. The shield represents protection of the community and is also an integral part of the initiation ceremonies in which young men and women are taught respect for the law in order to be fully functioning members of the community.

Gurindji traditional owners and senior Warlpiri people jointly open the new Lajamanu Kurdiji office,  Monday, 20th May, 2015. Photo by Penny Smith from the Karungkarni art centre in Kalkaringi

The Kurdiji group was first established in 1998 in Ali-Curung and over the next few years similar groups were established in Yuendumu, Willowra and Lajamanu.  In 2001 a combined communities committee was established and named the Kurduju Committee (Kurduju is a regional variation of Kurdiji).  After the withdrawal of funding for support workers by the NT government in the early 2000s the Kurduju committee was unable to continue at the same level, but various individual community committees continued functioning within their communities.  The Lajamanu Kurdiji committee continued on an ad-hoc basis with periodic assistance from various bodies, until 2010, when NAAJA (Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency) supported the reinvigoration of the group’s work with the court and in dispute resolution.  

Photo : Gurindji traditional owners and senior Warlpiri people jointly open the new Lajamanu Kurdiji office, Monday, 20th May, 2015. Photo by Penny Smith from the Karungkarni art centre in Kalkaringi

From 2011 the group has also been intensively supported by the CLC’s community governance project and have addressed a range of issues, including proactively addressing problems caused by outside conflict, representing community views to the Liquor commission and lobbying to have a direct line to the local police reinstated.  They have also travelled to neighbouring communities to discuss their work and initiate collaboration on issues of mutual concern, spoken to the media about issues affecting Lajamanu, presented at the APONT Strong Aboriginal Governance summit in April, 2013 and are actively engaging with a range of agencies in, or visiting, Lajamanu.  For instance, in June, 2015, they presented at the Elders Visiting Forum in the NT Parliament House and initiated discussions with Corrections to establish an outstation offender rehabilitation facility south-east of Lajamanu township and hosted a community consultation meeting with the NT Commissioner of Corrections in September, 2015.  They also host regular Community Safety Committee meetings, attended by the Police, Night Patrol and the Commonwealth Government Engagement Co-ordinator and Indigenous Engagement Officer as well as continuing their active engagement with the court system, working closely with NAAJA’s Community Legal Education team to provide feedback and recommendations about offenders to the Magistrate.

They meet regularly at the Kurdiji office, a 100% Warlpiri-controlled and owned space, established and maintained exclusively by funds granted by the community-controlled GMAAAC committee (royalty funds).

Over the coming years they plan to consolidate and expand their work

Please see the links below for more information about the work of Kurdiji.

Kurdiji Visitors Booklet 

This booklet complements the map that the Lajamanu Kurdiji group developed in 2013/14 and gives further information about the area around Lajamanu and some basic information about Warlpiri law and culture.

It was developed by Kurdiji group members, with the support of the CLC governance project, to welcome visitors to Lajamanu and explain some of the initial things that would help non-Aboriginal people to have a safe and happy time in Lajamanu.

 Download the booklet (published in March, 2014).

Warlpiri Governance charts

These charts have been developed by senior Kurdiji members in collaboration with the CLC Governance Project.  Their primary purpose is as a tool to teach young people about Warlpiri governance structures, but they have also been used as a visual aid in explaining Warlpiri governance and dispute resolution processes to non-Aboriginal visitors and residents.  
Kurdiji Lajamanu Restricted Areas Map

This map was produced by the Lajamanu Kurdiji group to explain the restricted ceremony areas around Lajamanu to visitors. The Kurdiji group had the active support of the CLC and the Shire to do this.
This map complements a series of signs, designed by the Kurdiji group, that mark the restricted areas.
The map was developed in the second half of 2013 and finalised in February 2014.

Kurdiji building opening day booklet

This booklet documents the views of community members and visitors on the day of the opening of the Kurdiji office.
 Download the Kurdiji building opening day booklet (Warning: some of this material features images of J. Japanangka James, a senior man who passed away in 2014)

Videos and media coverage

IHHP / NAAJA - These videos were made in August, 2015

Kurdiji documentary (Video projects by Indigenous Hip Hop Projects (‘IHHP’) teamed up with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency’s (‘NAAJA’) at Lajamanu)

This mini-documentary explains some of the work of the Kurdiji group.

This song was created in Lajamanu to explain important Warlpiri concepts of law and justice.

Keep our Kurdiji strong - This video was made in mid-2013 to support a CLC request for further funding for the governance project from the then-Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

ABC News - 30 October 2016 -  The Kurdiji Law and Justice Group.


CLC Lajamanu Governance Project

 Download the Independent Evaluation of the Central Land Council’s Community Development and Governance Programme Prepared by Chris Roche (La Trobe University) & James Ensor 
(People and Planet Group Pty Ltd) for the Central Land Council in March 2014
This paper was completed in late 2014 and reviews the progress of the governance project with a particular emphasis on lessons learnt and development principles that are more broadly applicable