Media coverage of Aboriginal beauty pageant contestant

This year the Northern Territory boasted having its first finalist in the Miss World Australia pageant. She was also indigenous, a Yolngu woman named Maminydjama (Magnolia) Maymuru. There was a lot of media coverage generated by the event, but this ABC article was the only one that acknowledged Maymuru’s own language

Her grandmother is quoted as saying that the experience was “batayunmirri” which she describes as meaning “competing for things you have to show”.

It was interesting that she preferred to use a Yolngu Matha word to describe the experience. She clearly knew the English word “competing”, but in this case it obviously didn’t cover the full meaning of the experience.

When I checked the word in the Yolngu Matha dictionary ( it provided the following:

Bata’yun – race, outrun/go very quickly, run to escape. (-yun seems to be a common verb suffix.)

-mirri – full of, possessing with, having Adj former – turns noun or verbs into adjectives.

This event also brought up issues of intercultural communication. This Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece by Aboriginal commentator Celeste Liddle,, points out that Maymuru was not the only indigenous finalist in the pageant and yet she was the only one mentioned in the media coverage. Liddle says Maymuru garnered all the attention because she was considered a ‘traditional’ Aboriginal woman, however, the other Aboriginal finalists were comparatively fair skinned and from urban areas.

Liddle’s observation can be seen in other arenas such as the law and schools, where Aboriginal people may not be considered ‘Aboriginal enough’ to warrant consideration for an interpreter for example, or for bilingual education.

Rowena Mitchell LING 566


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