Our Culture

Jawoyn refers to language, culture, people and country.

It is our parents’ affiliation and knowledge and our connectedness to Jawoyn country that makes us who we are.

The majority of Jawoyn live on or close to Jawoyn traditional lands, with the many living close to Katherine in small communities.

Prior to colonisation, Jawoyn was made of 43 clans, however many clans have disappeared or combined with others. Today there are 17 distinct clans with responsibilities for specific country.

In the time called Buwurr, which many know as The Dreaming, we were given Law. It is Law that guides our beliefs, our traditions and how we care for our country.

Buwurr is not something that just happened in the past, it is as significant today as it was back in the time of our ancestors walked the land.

It encompasses all aspects of life. It is the land, its gorges, its plants and animals, its rocks and rivers, and the people and all living creatures.

During the Dreaming, creative beings gave the land its form and life.

They made the landscape, they put the plants and animals into the land, created the first people that would belong to it and gave the country its language. They laid down the laws and rules people should obey.


Community, culture and country lay at the heart of our work.
Bolung – The Rainbow Serpent

The corridor of stone Nabilil’s water flows are the track of Bolung, also known as the Rainbow Serpent.

Bolung rests in the deep water at the second gorge at Nitmiluk. The spirit being is an important life giving figure but may also act as a destroyer. Bolung can take the form of lighting and may bring monsoonal floods.

Unlike other Jawoyn Dreaming figures which may be addressed for assistance in hunt-ing and foraging, such as Barraya (the Kookaburra), Bolung must not be spoken to and must be left undisturbed.

Our people do not fish in the pools where Bolung sits. When fishing close to these pools, we can take only a small portion of the fish caught and throw-back the rest in order to appease Bolung.

Drinking water must not be taken from these deep pools but rather from the shallow associated waters. Pregnant women and new initiates may not swim in the Katherine River for fear of disturbing Bolung.


Jawoyn land was created by the powerful ancestor Bula, who came from saltwater country to the north.

With his two wives, the Ngalenjilenji, he hunted across the land and in doing so trans-formed the landscape through his actions.

In a number of places, Bula left his image as paintings in rock shelters.