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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'"Treaty” was composed by Yothu Yindi in collaboration with Paul Kelly and Midnight Oil to protest against the failure of the Australian Government to honour the Prime Minister's promise to Indigenous Australians.

'Dr M Yunupingu's comments about this song:

'"This song was written after Bob Hawke, in his famous response to the Barunga Statement (1988), said there would be a Treaty between Indigenous Australians and the Australian Government by 1990. The intention of this song was to raise public awareness about this so that the government would be encouraged hold to his promise. The song became a number-one hit, the first ever to be sung in a Yolu language, and caught the public's imagination. Though it borrows from rock 'n' roll, the whole structure of “Treaty” is driven by the beat of the djatpangarri that I've incorporated in it. It was an old recording of this historic djatpangarri that triggered the song's composition. The man who originally created it was my gurru (maternal great-grandmother's husband) and he passed away a long time ago in 1978. He was a real master of the djatpangarri style."' [source: ]


Production Details

    • Engineer - David Price, Ted Howard, Greg Henderson, Simon Polinski
    • Producer - Mark Moffatt
    • Remixers - Robert Goodge, Gavin Campbell, Paul Main (Filthy Lucre version)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1991
  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature Nicholas Jose (editor), Kerryn Goldsworthy (editor), Anita Heiss (editor), David McCooey (editor), Peter Minter (editor), Nicole Moore (editor), Elizabeth Webby (editor), Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2009 Z1590615 2009 anthology correspondence diary drama essay extract poetry prose short story (taught in 23 units)

    'Some of the best, most significant writing produced in Australia over more than two centuries is gathered in this landmark anthology. Covering all genres - from fiction, poetry and drama to diaries, letters, essays and speeches - the anthology maps the development of one of the great literatures in English in all its energy and variety.

    'The writing reflects the diverse experiences of Australians in their encounter with their extraordinary environment and with themselves. This is literature of struggle, conflict and creative survival. It is literature of lives lived at the extremes, of frontiers between cultures, of new dimensions of experience, where imagination expands.

    'This rich, informative and entertaining collection charts the formation of an Australian voice that draws inventively on Indigenous words, migrant speech and slang, with a cheeky, subversive humour always to the fore. For the first time, Aboriginal writings are interleaved with other English-language writings throughout - from Bennelong's 1796 letter to the contemporary flowering of Indigenous fiction and poetry - setting up an exchange that reveals Australian history in stark new ways.

    'From vivid settler accounts to haunting gothic tales, from raw protest to feisty urban satire and playful literary experiment, from passionate love poetry to moving memoir, the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature reflects the creative eloquence of a society.

    'Chosen by a team of expert editors, who have provided illuminating essays about their selections, and with more than 500 works from over 300 authors, it is an authoritative survey and a rich world of reading to be enjoyed.' (Publisher's blurb)

    Allen and Unwin have a YouTube channel with a number of useful videos on the Anthology.

    Crows Nest : Allen and Unwin , 2009
    pg. 1287-1288
  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Antipodes : Poetic Responses Margaret Bradstock (editor), Putney : Phoenix Education , 2011 Z1760960 2011 anthology poetry extract Antipodes, representing poets born between 1790 and 1983, provides a wonderful introduction to the changing views of Australia and its history over the past two hundred years as well as to the excellent poetry that is part of our heritage. -- Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Webby (from the Foreword) Putney : Phoenix Education , 2011 pg. 102

Works about this Work

Why I 'still' Hear It on the Radio and I 'still' See It on the Television : Treaty and the Uluru Statement from the Heart Bronwyn Fredericks , 2022 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues , June vol. 25 no. 1-2 2022; (p. 3-21)

'Just over thirty years ago, the song Treaty by Yothu Yindi topped the Australian charts. Treaty was the first pop song written by an Aboriginal artist to chart in Australia and the first to include Yolŋu Matha language. The song's political message is clear: it laments the government's failure to deliver a treaty as described in the Barunga Statement and calls for a negotiated treaty to recognise Indigenous sovereignty and improve relationships between Indigenous peoples and government. Thirty years after Yothu Yindi's song, talk about treaty continues, now focused on the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. This paper briefly explores the history of treaty discussions in Australia and considers the implications of the three milestones outlined in the Uluru Statement: Voice, Treaty and Truth. The author joins the growing calls for action and proposes that all Australians need to be involved in pushing for constitutional change, which will enshrine a First Nations Voice to Parliament. Australians cannot stand by and let political inaction stall the process for another 30 years.'(Publication abstract)

Treaty Is More Than a White Feelgood Moment Sarah Maddison , 2018 single work column
— Appears in: Eureka Street , 20 May vol. 28 no. 10 2018; (p. 35-37)

'Early in the night at the 2018 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras party, DJ Gemma dropped the Yothu Yindi classic 'Treaty'. All around me the mostly non-Indigenous crowd responded to the driving beats, the unmistakeable sound of the yidaki, and the call of the late M. Yunipingu's distinctive voice.'  (Introduction)

25 Years of Treaty Jillian Mundy , 2017 single work column
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 13 December no. 666 2017; (p. 37)

'The Yothu Yindi Treaty project marks the 25th anniversary of the ARIA winning Treaty (Filthy Lucre Remix.) There's also seven fresh remixes, including a hip hop version featuring rising Yolngu star Baker Boy and Dhapanbal Yunupingu, the daughter of the late Dr M Yunupingu, and a techno house version, to be released in the new year.'

25 Years On, Treaty Still Rocks Jillian Mundy , 2017 single work column
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 13 December no. 666 2017; (p. 5)

'No doubt about it, more than 25 years on and Yothu Yindi's protest anthem Treaty is every bit as current as the day it was written, and as popular with audiences as when it burst onto the charts in 1991.'

Celebrating the Songs of Australia’s Civil Rights Movement Deirdre O'Connell , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: The Conversation , 18 January 2017;
'For two hours at Bennelong Point on Tuesday night, the Sydney Opera House rang out with songs of hope, empowerment, and freedom.'
Recognition Plea as Yothu Yindi Joins Hall of Fame Stuart Rintoul , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 30 November 2012; (p. 3)
Hall of Fame First, Now Yunupingu Looks Ahead Michael Gordon , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 30 November 2012; (p. 3)
Yunupingu Voices Hope for Constitution Change Michael Gordon , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Age , 30 November 2012; (p. 9)
Frontman : Treaty, Yeah? Maurice O'Riordan , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: Art Monthly Australia , November no. 265 2013; (p. 41-42)
Treaty by Yothu Yindi – A Trojan Horse in the Culture Wars Jack Kerr , 2015 single work column
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 3 March 2015;
Last amended 29 May 2017 09:22:25