Y is for Yindyamarra
Updated: Apr 22, 2022
Yindyamarra is an Australian Aboriginal verb (pronounced yin-dee-mah-rah) from the Wiradjuri people.
The Wiradjuri, are one of the largest Aboriginal nations in New South Wales, Australia and their traditional lands are traversed by three rivers.
Yindyamarra is a core concept in Wiradjuri philosophy. This word from the Wiradjuri language is often translated as ‘to show humility and respect’, however, it has multiple meanings including, ‘to give honour’, ‘to go slowly’, ‘to be gentle’, ‘to be kind’, ‘to be polite’, ‘to take care’, ‘to think before acting’ and ‘to take responsibility’. It is an entire way of living encapsulated into one word.
It is more than just common courtesy because it has this notion of doing things slowly. Yindyamarra seems to be about clarity of action, i.e. taking a step back to understand the cause and effect of our activities before proceeding.
Yindyamarra is about living with deep respect in a world worth living in, through nurturing right relationships, with the land and the community.
“It’s more than being respectful. It’s more than honouring an individual or country or culture. It’s more than gentle slowness or politeness. In a way, it’s a reflection of love toward someone or something else but not necessarily a romantic love or even a platonic love.” Russ Smith
Aboriginal people do not see a distinction between the environment and people; their communities operate on the concept of reciprocity and sharing for mutual growth and the belief that each person has an important place and role within the family and community.
Unfortunately, colonisation had a significant impact upon the ability of the Wiradjuri people to live by Yindyamarra. It disrupted many aspects within Aboriginal communities and particularly the global notion of caring. Windradyne, a warrior and local hero of the Wiradjuri led an uprising against the British but ultimately also led the peace process.
The errors made are now being redressed and great efforts are taking place to restore the language and culture of the Wiradjuri and in so doing one can see a restoration of the ethos of Yindyamarra. The Charles Sturt University or CSU named after the British explorer, has its roots going back to farms founded in the 1890s to spread a scientific approach to agriculture. The modern, CSU which was created through the amalgamation of two colleges in 1989 has worked to support Dr Uncle Stan Grant, a Wiradjuri elder in Wagga Wagga, to recover the language and culture of the Wiradjuri people.
The concept of Yindyamarra outlines the importance of having a holistic understanding and practice of caring, which incorporates all elements of the environment, including people.
There are lots of opportunities to learn from this integrative approach and to practise Yindyamarra in our interactions and connections with others
Russ Smith 2019: “I’m sure many of you practise yindyamarra in your daily lives without realising it. The object of your yindyamarra might not even be human. It might be a special place, like the way you act when you go for a walk ... Or maybe when you go for swim .... Or it might not even be the way that you treat an elder. It might be the way that you treat your own ...” friends, family, colleagues or anyone you come into contact with and interact with.
When we engage with others, if we do so with gentleness, politeness, slowness, honour and respect, we can bring a little bit of yindyamarra to those we connect with - our families, communities, and the wider world. If we all seek to act with yindyamarra every day, it gives one hope for the future and for humanity.
Our society does have the capacity to be kind and to slow down and enjoy what is beautiful in this life but we need to slow down and ‘take time to smell the roses’ now.
We should think about yindyamarra in all aspects of our lives; towards others including towards those of different cultures or traditions and towards the planet we live on. If we all acquired ‘Yindyamarra Winhanganha’ (‘the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in’) wouldn’t the world be a better place?
“Respect, giving honour and going slow. At first, I looked at it and thought what does it mean? Then I realised, our old people were never in a hurry, they assessed everything before they jumped in. They never acted in impulse, they worked out where they were going first— and that’s going slow. Taking time to work out where you are going and then going, it’s a wonderful notion.” Wiradjuri elder Aunty Flo
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
How can you act in a yindyamarra way?
Can you think of people you know that embody yindyamarra in the way they interact with the world?
If you want to explore this subject further, here are a few links to get you started:
Book: The Yield
Film ‘Yindyamarra Yambuwan’: