Yarning: A First Peoples Tradition

The Art of ‘Yarning’

Across various societies, storytelling takes on the form of ‘yarning,’ a term deeply rooted in the dialects of Aboriginal English among the First Peoples of Australia. Pay homage to First Peoples ways of being in our everyday lives by embracing ‘yarning,’. A yarn, at its core, delves into human experiences, and realities. It will highlight the achievements of remarkable people, and situations of the ordinary. A yarn serves as a vessel for sharing insights and knowledge. In this way a yarn is a teaching tool.


First Peoples Wisdom in Storytelling

In First Peoples cultures, storytelling through ‘yarning’ embodies tradition’s resilience, vitality, and adaptability. It is a collaborative act, weaving together experiences to create a shared reservoir of knowledge—a performance that transcends mere conversation to become an endeavour to explain the distinctions between opinion and justified belief.


Yarning as a Research Method

Bessarab and Ng’andu (2010) were the first to publish on yarning as a research methodology. It is different from interviewing a research informant as the data is obtained through gentle conversation rather than the harsher process of direct questioning. Yarns are also used to support members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants to find their ancestral groups and lands. It has been through further investigating the yarns as family oral history that inspired both my metaphysical and physical journeys on the path to finding the exact First Peoples to whom my Grandfather and thus, I belong. The methodological process of yarning, as I practise it, is a method underlined by the adherence to First Nations principles of relationality, -a view of the world where no person or thing exists in isolation, and reciprocity-the exchange of something between people when each person gives something to the other. Usually, the something is given is ‘in-kind’.



Bessarab, D & Ng’andu, B 2010, ‘Yarning about yarning as a legitimate method in Indigenous research’, International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 37-50.

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