Uncle Kevin Buzzacott – Arabunna Nation, Lake Eyre, Cultural Practitioner, Activist, Advocate Storyteller & Educator
Kevin Buzzacott (born 1947) often affectionately and respectfully referred to as Uncle Kev is an Aboriginal elder from the Arabunna nation in northern South Australia. He is also a custodian of the largest body of water in the driest state on the driest continent in the world; this body of water is commonly known as Lake Eyre. The Lake is 144 km long and 77 km wide, at the lowest point in Australia, approximately 15 m below sea level, and, on the rare occasions that it fills, the largest lake in Australia and 18th largest in the world. The Arabunna people hold native title over the lake and surrounding region.
Uncle Kev has campaigned widely for cultural recognition, justice and land rights for Aboriginal people, and has initiated and led numerous campaigns, among them protesting against uranium mining at Olympic Dam, South Australia on Kokatha land and against the exploitation of the water from the Great Artesian Basin. Uncle Kev is a passionate and effective advocate for sustainable water management and for taking responsibility, showing respect for and recognition of the rights, aspirations and traditional knowledge of Australia’s Original people.
Regrettably, he has a higher profile on the world stage than among the general Australian populace. His awards are numerous, for instance, in 2001 he was awarded the prestigious Nuclear Free Award in Ireland and subsequently invited to travel and speak with supporters of Indigenous land rights and concerned citizens across Europe. The Australian Conservation Foundation awarded him the 2007 Peter Rawlinson Award for two decades of work highlighting the impacts of uranium mining and promoting a nuclear free Australia. Travelling tirelessly, talking to groups large and small, about the impacts of uranium mining and the threats posed by the nuclear industry, he has had a profound impact on the lives of many people and has been an inspiration – especially for younger people – fighting for the environment.
Some of Uncle Kev’s achievements include:
He drew attention to and claimed Alexander Downer and Robert Hill’s refusal to pursue World Heritage listing of Lake Eyre amounted to genocide against the Arabunna people (April 1999). Instead Downer and Hill allowed a mining company, BHP Billiton to commence mining operations. The appellant, Buzzacott v Minister for the Environment was heard in the Federal Court of Australia which predictably decided in favour of the Government. Uncle Kev initiated a Peace Walk from Lake Eyre to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and another from the Olympic Dam Uranium Mine to Hiroshima, Japan.
In 2002 he reclaimed his tribes’ Emu and Kangaroo totems used in the Australian Coat of Arms from outside Parliament House, Canberra. He was forcibly arrested three years later at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy for theft of the Coat of Arms. This resulted in a lengthy court battle where he served the government with a counter writ on charges of genocide.
In 2003 the Australian Film Commission Indigenous Unit and the Special Broadcasting Service produced a documentary called We of Little Voice in the Australia By Numbers series, which featured Kevin Buzzacott on a journey through northern South Australia to hear the stories of Aboriginal elders who have experienced the effects of the nuclear industry from uranium mining to nuclear testing.
He has given support to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra where he lit the Fire for Justice in 1998. He was also involved in the 2006 Camp Sovereignty at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, called by many indigenous people as the ‘Stolen-wealth Games’.
In Melbourne on 21st of April 2007 a group of non-indigenous and indigenous supporters raised money in support of his efforts to raise awareness about Uranium Mining issues.
Ruth Forsyth, said of her meeting with Uncle Kev, ‘The decision for me to drive the 5,500 kilometre round trip was a heartfelt one made in response to an invitation to come to the desert from enigmatic and charismatic Arabunna elder Uncle Kev Buzzacott:
‘Sleeping underneath the ground there is an old lizard, Kalta the sleepy lizard.
The lizard ain’t so sleepy any more,
BHP is mining right into that lizard’s body.
Kalta is angry and wants revenge.
Arabunna elder Kevin Buzzcott is calling the
people of the world to help the lizard shut down the mine.
He is calling for the people to come and heal the land in the name of peace and
Justice for the next 10,000 generations to come.
The land, the lizard and the creatures of the earth are summoning everyone who cares to the gates of Roxby Downs.
Come and be involved in the creation of this autonomous zone
for the peace and healing of this land.’
During Creative Spirit; Healing the Land, Healing the People Uncle Kev will offer two yarning circles, “I wanna talk about my country, my role and the destruction to sacred sites and the lack of consultation.
About the structure of my old people of the Lake Eyre area”
Uncle Robert Corowa, Ceremonial Fire Man
Uncle Robert Corowa is a Ceremonial Fire man. He was a child when the first Tent Embassy was created in Canberra, but he has camped there many times and has been charged with keeping the site’s sacred fire burning. “We have a sacred healing fire, which we try to keep going. We try to make people understand the Aboriginal Tent Embassy loves Australia and we try to heal everyone in Australia with that fire. We want to heal Australia and the world. We want all the Aboriginal people, all the white people and all the people who haven’t been born yet to be part of this nation. There is such a thing as love, peace and respect and that’s what we are trying to instil in people who come here – you better respect Aboriginal people and Aboriginal land.
“Aboriginal people are represented by the land and the land is what we care about.”
Mali (Marilyn) Mpetyane
Mali was born 1964 in Port Augusta , South Australia, to an Arrernte Woman from Alice Springs and strongly identifies as an Arrernte woman herself. Mpetyane (pronounced Mm – bich-arn) is her skin name from her maternal grandmother (Ipmenhe), who is from the descending line of song keepers for the Utnerrengatye (Caterpillars) and Irlperenye (Green Beetle).
Her Father’s side is Ngarrindjeri and Narungga, South Australia, and has connections to Boulia QLD through her paternal Grandfather’s Mother .
Mali studied to become an Early Childhood Teacher in the mid 1980’s and later followed her Ancestors Spirit Calling to Alice Springs, where she has spent most of her adult life.
She has been living here and on surrounding outstations, in her grandmother’s, and her maternal grandfathers’ (Atyemeye kenhe) country, (Urlpmerre), who is from the descending line of song keepers & country protectors of Kwatye (rain) .
Mali works in the areas of Community Development, Capacity Building, Adult, Youth and Early Childhood Education. As a Teacher she found herself thrust into the depths of facilitating Cultural Awareness / Immersions and Teaching Language programs. This is where she had to learn fast.
She has continued to nurture her relationships with Arrernte and Pitjantjatjara Elders (her Teachers) and Ancestor Spirit, which has given rise to deeper insights and spiritual awakenings, and more recently to finding that place of serene presence, embracing Ngkarte (GOD) and Altyerre (Creation).
For the past 12 years Mali has been working with Arrernte Bush Medicines making ointments, oils and cleansing smoke, balancing energies and clearing.
Both Mali & John share the passion of Utnenge Mwerre Ileme – Making Spirit Well (UMI) in the midst of injustice and operate within the spirit of Aneme Ware (to Just Be), which is their logo for their bush medicine rubs.
Mali will offer a kin and skin workshop, including basic language greetings and intro to arrernte. She will also offer hands-on bush medicine making and describes her way of working as, “ We do just as our ancestors did, we seek permission from the ancestor spirit of our country and the plant chooses us. We make connection to the plant through the song vibration, this draws healing power. The leaves are picked. Now both the plant and I are one. We only take what we need.”
This knowledge of medicinal plants has been passed through the generations.
It is within Aneme Ware (to Just Be)
where we find our power
To sustain the threads
Utnenge (soul, spirit)
In us as human form
In Apmere (country)
Which is Land and all it’s Life
Rlkere (Sky) and
& Life Giving
Mali Mpetyane 2019
– Wise Man Lightning Child –
Senior Eastern Arrernte Man, John Cavanaugh, is carrying one of the most ancient traditions on Earth. The Cavanagh family, belong to Urlpmerre Arenye, the Eastern branch of the Arrernte tribe, one of the oldest continuous cultures on Earth still alive today.
Uncle John’s country is Urlpmerre, Rainmaker Country, passed from his grandfather’s care to his father’s care; from his father’s care to Uncle John who now has a duty of care as Custodian of the land, to the land, the culture and the people. This is how it has been done through the generations since time immemorial.
He says, ‘This is what I like to do, go round and visit country, try to make it happy, check that everything is okay.’
The Arrernte culture, songs and stories are alive in Uncle John and it is his wish that they be preserved for all time. His heartfelt wish is to see the revival of ceremony on traditional country.
The Cavanaugh family is helping to keep the traditions of Central Australia alive with their family enterprise Utnenge Mwerre Ileme (Making Spirit Good). Keeping the Arrernte culture strong and creating sustainable and healthy lives for family is critical for the future of the planet as this culture contains some of the strongest knowledge about sustainability and living in harmony with the land known to humanity.
John Cavanaugh is calling on support to restore Cultural Law for the Central & Eastern Arrernte tribe in Central Australia. ‘Our aim is to pass on authentic knowledge, which supports self-determination for a new era and an awakened People into our future.’
Continuation of the Oral Traditions and the practicing of Culture
Direct engagement of young people in cultural activities
Self Determination and Sustainable Income
Cultural tourism business
Cultural healing and bush medicine
Culturally Appropriate Employment for Youth and Elders
Establish Cultural Healing Business
Establish Cultural Bush Medicine Business
Establish Traditional Woodworking Business
Cultural Tourism Business
Restore Elders as caretakers of the land.
Establish Cultural Heritage Education Programmes
Most importantly: the revival of ceremony on traditional country
Arrernte & Kaytetye
Men and Women of Central Australia
Alison Furber, Janie Ampetyane, Rebecca Numina
Raymond Campbell, Alan Palmer
This is the first time we will be presenting our story telling together in a public setting.
The importance of living on Country takes in many elements, including the obligation and responsibilities of our place within the hierarchy of our tribal structure.
We are chosen to take on the role of leadership; this means this ‘choosing’ has been approved by our elders. But like most of us, we encounter challenges. As a strong group, we are taking forward our tribal voice equally [as equals] to the ‘yarning circle’.
In this circle, we will share the different ‘ways’ where we need to maintain the ‘balance of power’ of our obligations, so that we can show our younger generation how we will continue to do this for generations to follow.
Greed, destruction of land for financial gain – especially by non-aboriginal people – has eroded our peoples’ spiritual obligations; it has impacted on our sense of being a family, who attempts to keep our stories, our cultural beliefs, alive and intact. We heal this, by reminding our mob about the importance of reminding everyone about their role in healing our land and our people.
The Kaytetye and Arrernte Skin Name Systems of Central Australia are important to identity and they play a vital role when establishing linkages within our groups and to other tribal groups.
Pelterre Chris Tomlins
Arrernte Elder Pelterre Chris Tomlins is a custodian, a peaceful protector of his country and and a passionate activist. Uncle Chris has, among other things, supported actions such as ‘Close Pine Gap’, Indigenous Sovereignty, and recognition of the Frontier Wars.
Pine Gap is the extensive US military and intelligence base that occupies Aboriginal lands of the Arrernte people, the original custodians of country. The Arrernte people were never asked for their permission to build Pine Gap on their land.
When in 2016 six pacifists were arrested at the US’s Pine Gap military intelligence facility, together with other Elders, he offered a Smoking Ceremony and spoke of the healing power of the smoke and the cleansing powers – but most of all he spoke of its protective powers. He told the peace pilgrims that the smoke would shield their spirit and protect them as they entered the courtroom.
Uncle Chris wrote in a letter: “It’s not only Black Australia that has a sovereignty issue. The Arrernte people have been the custodians and peaceful protectors of their country for thousands of years. Our sovereignty is contained in our songlines, stories and dances, which have been handed down over thousands of years.
“As the lawful custodians we are responsible for what occurs on our land and the harm it brings to the rest of the world. The activity of the facility at Pine Gap has implicated us in criminal military actions, which threatens the dignity of all people, implicates us in war crimes and generates instability and conflict around the globe as a consequence of US imperialism.”
Another focus of Uncle Chris’ work is his push for the recognition of the Frontier Wars. He says the desert pea, as a national symbol, would encourage Australians to remember their long forgotten history. He says, ‘The desert pea symbolises a story from deep within our past and parallels one of the most historical stories known to the Western world.
“It’s a story of the past the desert pea, its written in the Bible about Kane and Abel where one brother slayed the other,” he says.
“[It’s] thousands and thousands years old as well where one brother slayed the other and that’s what the desert pea is about, the blood of the earth from our past, the history of the country.”
“To understand that they have a past that’s built on genocide and slaughter its something they can come to terms with and learn about. And that way we can grieve and heal and move forward together. At the moment its all hidden secrets, to heal this country we need to heal the people. And to heal the people, we need to look right back into our past and move together from there.”
2007 Theiss Winner Dr Dale Kerwin.
Lecturer Academic Staff, School of Education and Professional Studies[/caption]
Dale Kerwin, PhD – Worimi man
Dale Kerwin’s book, Aboriginal Dreaming Paths and Trading Routes; The Colonisation of the Australian Economic Landscape published in 2010, explains that the dreaming paths of Aboriginal nations across Australia formed major ceremonial routes along which goods and knowledge flowed. These paths became the trade routes that criss-crossed Australia and transported religion and cultural values. His book is essential reading for all those who seek to have a better knowledge of Australia and its first people, it inscribes Aboriginal people firmly in the body of Australian history.Dale’s current research shows how Aboriginal dreaming stories and communication ways (story ways) traversed Australia along waterways. The surveyors, explorers, drovers of the colonisation period in Australian history followed the same paths post-invasion. Aboriginal knowledge and the names for the traditional walking tracks and travelling routes were overlaid with the ‘new Australian names’, traditions, histories and concepts. The inland water systems became the travelling stock routes for graziers and are known as such today. Aboriginal knowledge of these paths, tracks and roads was suppressed or made subservient when the dominant cultural group renamed these routes, the river systems and the waterways.
“Does Aboriginal knowledge of water-flows and water ways flowing along the main river systems, from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Goolwa in South Australia, still survive today? Is this knowledge still remembered as story ways? I wish to explore these questions and to put the existing knowledge, still held by Aboriginal people, back into the historical landscape of Australia by naming the rivers and the dreaming stories, still painted, carved, drawn, and told in oral histories by Aboriginal traditional owners of country.”
Fresh water midden
Knowledge of water flows is important in Native Title and in relation to the Murray/Darling River flows. Stating Aboriginal knowledge of water flows provides a distinct alternative to the dominant narrative of Australian history and delivers crucial rights to Aboriginal Native Title holders for the use of water.
Wandianwanderian Murramurrang Tomikin
Uncle Paul Jrumpinjinbah Mcleod
My name is Jrumpinjinbah (crow medicine). I am a direct blood line descendant from my maternal Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother’s Country Wandianwanderian Murramurrang Tomikin within the Bherwerre Dreaming of the Booderee National Park.
My Ancestral homeland is from the Clyde River in the south of New South wales to the Shoalhaven River to the north, between the Budawang ranges and the sea. We call this area in our Language the Northern Murring.
I show respect for my Grannies Jillabino from my father’s clan of the Underthurgetti , Jaithmathang and Yaithmathang First Nations People located in the Eastern Alps of the Great Dividing Range.
My opportunity: Promoting awareness of our traditional culture and working with Local Governments, Traditional owners and Elders, communities and other organisations to better understand, develop and strengthen cross cultural relationships throughout our entire community.
with students from the Australian Studies Centre
Cultural exchange: Promoting awareness of our traditional culture and working with Local Governments, Traditional owners and Elders, communities and other organisations to better understand, develop and strengthen cross cultural relationships throughout our entire community.
Our connection to our culture and country is fundamental to our well being and extends from the past to shape our present and survey our future.
We must ensure that we continue to keep our cultural heritage alive by passing our knowledge, arts, rituals and performances from one generation to another, speaking and teaching languages, protecting cultural materials, sacred and significant sites, and objects.
Namidge Ngambri Elder
The entitlement of First People at International Law is Allodial Title. The entitlement of First People at international law is to “everything below the ground to the core of the Earth and everything above the Earth to the stars”. That is fantastic, but how does it apply on our continent today and what effect does it have? In our “Allodial Title: The mother of all titles!” Yarning Circle we will share our thoughts, actions, successes and future of our nations through this lens.
Shane Mortimer is a Namidge Ngambri Elder, Ngambri being the derivation of Canberra (aka Mingku or Tjambantjimba).
As an Elder of his People and a social scientist, Shane espouses cultural diversity through customary deliberative inspired, gender balanced, action innovation as his approach to the future for all people on our continent. His future focus is immersed in peace, power, prosperity, acceptance, wellbeing, honesty and love. As a result of transmigration, Shane was born in the western Sydney suburb of Belmore and raised in the western suburbs. His career has taken him around the corporate world as a management trainee for an international corporation, in training in the USA and Australasia, dealer development throughout Southeast Asia, sales, production and service. In the arts, as a publicist and producer of theatre and film, and in the social sciences as a counsellor and coach. Shane is an advocate for allodial title education.