Bala ga’ lili: communicating, relating and co-creating balance through relationships of reciprocity

Bawaka Country, Laklak Burarrwanga, Ritjilili Ganambarr, Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs, Banbapuy Ganambarr, Djawundil Maymuru, Kate Lloyd, Lara Daley, Sandie Suchet-Pearson*, Sarah Wright, Matalena Tofa, Laura Hammersley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Intercultural communication at Bawaka often brings ŋäpaki, non-Indigenous visitors, into a series of new relationships–with Yolŋu people, with each other, with place, and with themselves. From a Bawaka Yolŋu ontology, this is part of bala ga’ lili, giving and taking, co-creating balance through relationships of reciprocity and responsibility. This paper is a collaboratively written piece by Yolŋu hosts and non-Yolŋu academics as part of Bawaka Country and reflects our own efforts at embodying bala ga’ lili. It considers how visitors to Bawaka come into relationship with themselves, their hosts, each other, and place. It discusses the opportunities and limitations of these relationships and emphasizes the importance of multi-directional, embodied, more-than-human communication. Through an analysis of a student fieldtrip and discussion of Yolŋu hosts’ expectations and aspirations, it argues that with communication and the formation of new relationships comes responsibilities to translate new understandings across time and place, assisting with the important, although only ever incompletely possible, work of breaking unjust systems and contributing to more just and sustainable processes and outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1203-1223
Number of pages21
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number7
Early online date17 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2023


  • co-becoming
  • indigenous geographies
  • intercultural communication
  • more-than-human communication
  • responsibilities and reciprocity
  • student fieldwork


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