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National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer

4

Yuk Puyngk law stick

2002.0077.0001

Object information

What

Type

Collection

Dimensions

L 1260mm x W 330mm x D 140mm

Material

Physical Description

A Law stick called a Yuk Puyngk . It has a bulbous end with a plume of grey and black feathers attached to the top of it. The trunk of the stick is coloured with ochre and painted in the centre under the bulb with decoatraions in black, red, cream and mustard colours. There are three single feathers that accompany the law stick.

Statement of Significance

The Denny Bowenda Collection features Yuk Puyngk (law stick) - a symbolic representation of Wik law and customs. Law sticks are used by the Wik People of western Cape York Peninsula to proclaim traditional laws including ownership of land and material goods. This particular Puyngk is a carved and painted matchwood stick (1.26m) adorned with emu feathers, and was made by Denny Bowenda in the 1990s to assert Wik law in cases presented through the Australian legal system.

The Yuk Puyngk relates to the struggle for Land Rights by Indigenous Australians and was used during Federal and High Court cases to help establish Wik people's entitlements to lands. The Puyngk holds a unique place in the history of Australian land ownership as it was used in a case that showed Native Title could co-exist with pastoral leases. The Law Stick represents both the collision and convergence of two different cultures and symbolises a developing mutual understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

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