Life Saving Health Information in Language!

Witiyana Marika star in High Country at the film launch in Germany.

Our goal: Our goal: is to save hundreds of Yolngu people's lives by providing them with essential health information in their language, to give them and their children real hope for a brighter future.

Needed a Heart Valve replacement
After Witiyana returned from the film's launch in Germany, he needed a valve replacement operation for his rheumatic heart condition. In a phone call to Richard after his operation, Witiyana said, "Thank you, brother, for teaching me about my sickness (rheumatic heart disease). You have kept me alive when many of my brothers and sisters are dead because they did not understand what rheumatic heart was about." He went on to say, "We now have to get this information to other Yolngu and other Aboriginal people across Australia".

Witiyana Marika, star in High Ground, the last founding member of the Yothu Yindi band and MC at the nationally recognised Garma Festival, has joined up with Richard Trudgen of Why Warriors to raise funds to produce a number of health videos.

The highest avoidable death rate in Australia
Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land suffer from the highest rates of avoidable death in Australia in modern times. If you go to this site, scroll down to the map and you will see northeast Arnhem Land with the highest death rate in Australia.

The Why Warriors bilingual-bicultural team is ready to help. We have already produced hundreds of podcasts and many health videos covering Covid 19, Lead Poisoning and Heart Attack. So we know how to produce educational videos and podcasts around difficult subjects.

Chronic disease videos
We thank the Peter Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne for helping us produce our latest life-changing videos on chronic diseases. They only had the money to produce two ten-minute videos. Our research around the knowledge gaps that the people had around the subject and the hard English words they did not understand showed us that we would have to produce a number of 20 Minute videos.

The Peter Doherty Institute's support got us started, and we produced two great 20 min Chronic Disease videos for the price of one and with the help of donations we have already received.

Hope for Health, our sister organisation, then found money to produce one more.

These videos are already saving many lives. But the people have many other questions about chronic disease they need answers to for themselves and their children.

We will need to produce at least two more 20-minute videos to complete the series, but we lack the money to do this.

Rheumatic heart disease video
Of course, Witiyana also wants us to produce a series on rheumatic heart disease. He knows our education worked for him. And he has been able to use the same information to help his son with the same condition and even through the same heart valve replacement operation. However, he desperately wants to stop the terrible effects of rheumatic disease from killing any more of his own family and other people.

We have the storyline that works for Yolngu
We have worked on a rheumatic heart disease storyline for over ten years, with many Yolngu with rheumatic heart disease. We now need to turn this into a series of videos so thousands can get the same life-changing information.

Government seem unable to fund us
It seems the Government only wants to fund medical organisations for this sort of educational videos. But medical organisations do not have the skills, know-how or track record of producing bilingual, bicultural videos and podcasts in the people's language and worldview.

Scripted translations do not work
Sadly they try to do it by just getting a medical storyline translated. This does not work because the translation methodology is flawed.

This methodology is like getting someone in China to produce a storyline in Chinese about chronic disease for English-speaking Australians. Then getting someone in Australia to translate it into English.

Only the Australian Chinese-to-English translator does not know the meaning of all the Chinese words used in the storyline. And let's say they do not have a Chinese-to-English dictionary, just as most Aboriginal language translators do not have comprehensive English to their language dictionaries. And so they just go ahead doing the best they can.

Wasted money and more suffering
In this case, the translator will probably use the unknown Chinese word/s instead of translating them. This happens all the time with government-funded translations into Aboriginal languages. The English words get used without being translated.

But it is an Aboriginal Organisation
It does not matter if an Aboriginal organisation is doing it. If there is no bilingual, bicultural team using a good translation methodology, the result will be the same. Wasted money and continued suffering for the Aboriginal people because the information will not empower them with the knowledge they need to understand the subject.

Sadly, it will just leave them more confused and blaming themselves because it makes no sense to them.

The right team using the right methodology
This is where you need a bilingual, bicultural team using the right methodology. In this case, the English-first-language speaker who also speaks Yolngu Matha works together with the Yolngu Matha-first-language team speaker/s to unpack and understand the particular English word.

While we were producing the last chronic diseases videos a number of English words were not understood by the Yolngu Matha-first-language speakers. And these team members had worked in translation all their lives.

The words included chronic disease, infectious disease, nutrition, 'food as fuel' and many others. This was also despite the fact that these Yolngu producers had suffered from chronic disease most of their lives. So the words' sounds and spelling were not strange to them, just their meaning.

Now, if we used the methodology most governments and NGOs used, the Yolngu tranlator/s would have no chance of understanding those terms. And if you do not understand a particular term, you do not know what you are missing.

So in most cases, the translator will just use the English word because it means nothing, and they might also think that it cannot be translated into their language. Sadly, this excuse is often used even by many Aboriginal translators.

However, the English-speaking people involved in the production will think this is OK because they do not know any better. This translation work is well above their pay rate. The final product in Yolngu Matha will seem alright to them. They will not even realise the English words used are not translated.

But the educational video is for a Yolngu audience, and the English words will mean nothing to them. Plus, the storyline by the English scriptwriter works from where they are at rather than working from where the people are at. So the produced 'education resource' comes out as useless gobbly gook, and the death rate just continues to climb.

Using cross-cultural, cross-language methodologies
Our Why Warriors team has decades of experience developing good bilingual-bicultural educational resources because we use highly refined methodologies that have been developed with our team here in Arnhem Land.

At times we will spend hours/days/weeks/and even years working on hard English words and concepts we encounter. Once a particular term is understood both ways, we do not have to do it again. Now the video or podcast will do two jobs. Empowering the people around the subject and teaching them the meaning of difficult English language terms.

We also work with the expert in the field
We also work with health professionals or other experts in the particular subject we are working on. If medical, we work with the medical expert around that particular disease or condition to make sure our content is evidence-based.

As we have shown above in our work with Melbourne University, we worked with experts to ensure the content was right. They work with us from the beginning right up to when it is checked off. Nothing is released until the expert in the field OKs its release.

We need your help
But we can not do this without your help to produce these life-changing educational resources. Please help give hundreds of Yolngu people a better future. If many people each gave us a few dollars, we could make this happen.

Please encourage your friends and relations to do the same.

Or, if you know anyone with deep pockets or someone in authority who has access to resources, please connect us with them.

Please join us and become future changes.

Richard Trudgen


Who we are:
Click here to understand more about Why Warriors Pty Ltd.

The Why Warriors bilingual-bicultural team includes Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, senior political leader of the Gulamala clan; Maratja Dhamarrandji from Djambarrpuyngu clan; Witiyana Marika, senior elder of the Rirratjiŋu Clan and co-founder of the legendary rock band Yothu Yindi; and Dianne (Biritjalawu) Gondarra, a Yolngu leader from Elcho Island. These are the Yolngu Matha language speakers.

Richard and Tim Trudgen are the English first-language speakers on the team who also speak the legal, economic and health levels of Yolngu Matha.

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  • Ruth Haig
    • $45 
    • 2 mos
  • Belinda Pearce
    • $100 
    • 3 mos
  • Kim Borrowdale
    • $20 
    • 3 mos
  • Chris Barry
    • $300 
    • 3 mos
  • Margaret Graham
    • $100 
    • 5 mos


Richard Trudgen
Gapuwiyak NT

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