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, 144 km long and 77 km wide, the lowest point in Australia, at 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.
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 sessions, “In the first session 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.”
Ghillar, Michael Anderson (Nyoongar Ghurradjong Murri Ghillar) –
Law/Lore and The Moral Taught Through Story
“To every story belongs a song. To every story belongs a dance. To every story belongs a person. To every story belongs a place. And they all connect when we go through the ceremonies.”
Ghillar, Michael Anderson, was taught Euahlayi customs and traditions through his people’s sacred ceremonies. His is involved with connecting the sacred songlines of the ancient traditions of Aboriginal peoples around the world in an attempt to prove that they have a Dreaming that links them to the original creation.
“I was fortunate to have grown up with my family and senior Lawmen and Lawwomen of the Euahlayi and far Western Gomeroi, who secretly handed on ancient knowledge in ceremonies. These men and women were born in the late 1880s and early 1890s, all were taught by their grandparents, who in most cases were the generation who first saw the whitemen come into their Country when they were teenagers. I have been encouraged by our People to share with the broader Euahlayi community and the far western Gomeroi, the Stories of the universe that can be told publicly. I have been doing this though oral presentations and now for a broader audience in the recently premiered film Star Stories of The Dreaming. In these Star Stories I have revealed ancient Stories of the stars, the Blackholes and the creation of the natural world that we all now belong to.”
Ghillar is the National Convenor of the Sovereign Union, a new political movement in Australia that is promoting worldwide the continuing sovereignty of indigenous peoples, a Senior Lawman and Cultural Knowledge Holder for the Euahlayi Nation and Peoples, and, on behalf of his people, the Native Title claimant to Euahlayi traditional lands in north-western New South Wales. He runs a sheep and cattle property on his ancestral lands that cross the New South Wales and Queensland border in the lower Ballone river system. Ghillar has also lectured in Aboriginal studies and Aboriginal politics at several Australian universities, writing and teaching units in Aboriginal studies that were inclusive of traditional Aboriginal society.
For many decades, Ghillar has been a human rights activist. In 1969 he was a leader in the Australian Black Power movement. In 1972 his peers appointed him as the first Aboriginal ambassador to white Australia after he and three comrades established what was later called the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the front lawns of Australia’s parliament house.
[On 27 January at 1.00 am in the morning, four Aboriginal men: Michael Anderson, Billie Craigie, Tony Coorey, and Bertie Williams arrived in Canberra from Sydney and set up the Aboriginal Tent Embassy by planting a beach umbrella on the lawn of Parliament House (old Parliament House)].
In 1973 Gough Whitlam made arrangements for Ghillar to go to the United States to see firsthand how America was ‘dealing with the causes and outcomes of the 1960s, 1970s racial conflicts’. It enabled Ghillar to be present at the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee – the longest lasting ongoing civil protest in 200 years of U.S. history – and, after the siege to meet with the Wounded Knee leaders at the New York University.
Whitlam further requested that Ghillar spend time with Australia’s mission to the United Nations, under the tutelage of Richard Butler, Australia’s Ambassador to the UN. Ghillar felt inspired by the profound insights into racial conflicts and human rights he gained.
In 1979 he was appointed to the Office of Public Prosecutions in criminal law as an instructing officer (the equivalent of a solicitor) in the state of New South Wales.
Uncle Lewis Walker – Traditional Welcome to Country;
Stories of Sacred Water and Whale Songlines
Bundjalung Elder and Wahrla-Bal Custodian, Uncle Lewis Walker was born on his country in Tabulam in 1968. He belongs to the Warhlubal Bygal clan from west Bundjalung and springs from the Walker family. Poppy Harry Mundine Walker’s Clan are the custodians of the Tabulam area, and highly respected for their cultural knowledge. Uncle Lewis’s people still live very close to the land on Jubullum Community. The Clan’s relationship with Mother Earth is a deep and living reality.
His mother, aunties and grandmother taught him language. It was not until the age of 13, on entering the formal school system, that Lewis began to learn English. Uncle Lewis is a visual artist, dancer, and musician. His work reflects the country between the rocky outcrops of the east-coast ocean and represents the natural bush and animals from the Rocky River country, around Tabulam.
He is a Keeper of the ancient Songlines of the Whales. “I’m going to tell an old story, an ancient story from way, way back. About a whale, my grandmother, my great-great grandmother, the old ancient white whale, the storyteller. The blue whale is my grandfather, the storyteller of the bottom of the ocean, the songman of the ocean, the caretaker of the ocean. He also gives us visions of who we really are. They sing their songs. As they ride the waves, they dance upon the water, reaching for the stars to give us a vision about who they really are. They are caring for country, like we do; they sing songs, like we do; they dance, like we do. Doesn’t matter what colour you are, we are all individual sprits belonging to the one spirit. We are of the water spirit. We are water people. As they ride the waves and disappear to the bottom of the ocean, they are going down to teach the newborns to be free. Se we’ve got to let them be when they are under that sacred ocean. So, we are all one, we need to protect and care for this sacred ocean and care for the animals. It’s a must for the future – today and tomorrow – it’s in our hands. We are the next caretakers to pass it on from generation to generation.”
His profound understanding of the relationship between the water, the whales, the Earth and humanity and can teach us that all Earth’s creatures are our brothers and sisters. His role, in his traditions and culture, is to be a bridge between the wisdom and way of his people and the global community. He has been chosen to share the essence of the aboriginal ‘creation song’ globally to bring, once again, unity among all people. Uncle Lewis’s tribal name is Spirit of the Night or Possum Spirit.
A generous man, Uncle Lewis offers his time and energy whenever he is needed, whether performing ceremonies and music at funerals whenever he is asked, or teaching language classes with Elder Uncle Harry Walker. Lewis sees his role as a caretaker for the elders and youth alike. He passes on the Bundjalung culture so important in his own life.
“The teaching of the old ways to now, is a collaboration. We look at our animals. The kangaroo looks after his babies so well. So well, so protective and proper. That’s the kind of law that we are going to bring back in our teaching […] all the young mob who are in trouble today, when they get expelled from school, when they want to go and steal car […] they are looking for love, that’s why they steal. They get confused, they get angry and then they go and steal. We’ve got role models and mentors who can take the young people, take them back to culture, dance, sing, start them speaking the language of their family, understanding their family totem and who they are, what they are to this country. So I put these kids on the right track, teach them, tell them stories about who we really are. So its all about teaching and learning. Taking time, sitting down with the young youth, giving them love and understanding, giving them whatever they want bar the cigarettes, bar the alcohol, and bar the drugs. Don’t go giving them that. Give them something else – give them knowledge of the land.”
Aunty Sharon Kinchela – How do we listen to Country with our Ears, Eyes and Heart
“Ngiyaningu maran yaliwunga ngarra-li. (our ancestors are always watching). I will always walk gentle on mother earth and follow the footprints of my ancestors. In order to do this, I honour my ancestors and need to walk in balance – with my head and heart connected.”
Sharon Kinchela was born in Charleville, Queensland, and lived in Ipswich for 40 years. She is a proud mother of two but has raised nine children in all.
Working across remote Aboriginal communities such as Woorabinda, Kowanyama and Pormpuraaw, Sharon engaged in community capacity building. As a convincing advocate for strengthening Indigenous communities she is driven by her commitment to healing the trauma of past government policies and practices and their effects on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Sharon is the Co-founding Director of Ngiyani – meaning ‘we all’.
She describes herself as, “A grassroots and very simple woman. A proud Gamilaroi woman, a sister, mother and grandmother to many. My vision has been to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and communities to take their rightful place in Australia. And, whatever that may look like has to be determined by the people themselves, my people.”
Her life’s work has been about reconciliation and she believes recognition and respect will only come for the first people when all Australians are taught the true history of this country, acknowledge and accept it. Only when we invest in this process with a pure heart, “Only then ngiyani ‘we all’ can move forward as a nation. This is at the heart of our economic freedom.”
While Sharon is certain that social change will come, she is equally convinced that huge gaps still exist in all socio-economic indices between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the wider Australia population. She identifies the reasons for these gaps as multifaceted complex levels of racism; fear perpetuated by sensational media stories and images; the on-going exclusion of Indigenous Leaders (male and female) from the decision-making processes in government, business and corporate sectors who collectively lack the courage nor ‘know how’ to address these challenges. Sharon is convinced, “this will take a genuine and holistic concerted effort, at all levels of our society, with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people truly empowered to lead the change.”
Referring to the achievements of aboriginal women leaders, Sharon honours their ability to navigate and manage two worlds, lead extremely successful businesses, maintain community leadership and sustain their cultural obligation in accordance with their family responsibility. “Our women do not necessarily see that they are doing anything exceptional, just that they have a cultural obligation to do or responsibility for, and they do this with humility and dignity.”
Aboriginal women model survival skills, teach us how to push beyond how people see us through their projections of negative beliefs, deficient thinking and preconceived notions of how we are supposed to behave and act. While these skills are gifts to wider Australia, she says, “there needs to be an awakening of the hearts and minds of people, a deeper understanding of own spiritual beliefs systems and our lessons contained in the cultural ways of knowing, being and doing, so that they can be received in a good way.”
“My greatest challenge has been and still is, is how to use the bricks that others have thrown at me to build a strong foundation with those very bricks; working at a human level and with love for all human beings. This takes strength, courage and tenacity to keep working for social change for our people to take our rightful place in Australian society.
“Keep it real, stay true to yourself and never compromise on your cultural integrity.”
How does this relate to the yarning circle? “I guess the connect is and always will be about clarity of mind, body and spirit to ensure we are hearing, seeing and feeling what is happening to country … deep listening, connection and oneness …”
Bronny Spearim – Ngambaa Dhalaay
Whispering Words from our Mother Tongues
Bronwyn Spearim is a traditional dancer and teacher of the Gawubuun Guunigaal clan of the Murri Gubi people of the Gamilaraay Nation. She is one of the few native speakers of Gamilaraay.
Bronny was born on Moree’s Mehi Mission in 1965 when it was operated by the St PiusX Catholic Nuns under Government permit. At this time, Charles Perkins’ Freedom Ride broke through the white barriers by famously bathing in the local segregated pool.
Her education began at the St Piux Pre-School and Moree West Primary school. After the death of her father, Bronny’s three youngest siblings and mother looked for the chance of a better life in Sydney.
From there, her studies continued at Mt Druitt’s Bidwill High. In 1978 she completed her Aboriginal Studies certification at Glebe’s Tranby College, and Drama at Redfern’s Eora TAFE.
Bronny joined with her brother Paul in 1980 to form a Cultural Dance Company – visiting schools and communities up and down the eastern states to spread Gamilaraay messages – stories, tools, bush tucker, song-dance and culture.
Her key achievements during this period include: forming the Kamilaroi Dancers in Tamworth; educating with Reconciliation Australia, Coledale’s Community Centre and Moree Apex; and studying film and television production with Lester and Gerry Bostock at the Australian Television Radio School, North Ryde.
After the birth of her first child, she moved back to her home country where she continued her cultural practices with Moree TAFE and Adult Community College, Yanay-to-Gamilaraay Corroboree, Moree Tent Embassy and Myall Creek commemorations. Significantly, Bronny was instrumental in advancing the Festival of The Brolga community partnership with Moree East Public School and Beyond Empathy.
More recently she advised and supported the three-year community Repatriation of Stolen Remains culminating in the reburial of 30 Kamilaroi Ancestors at St George Q. in late 2013.
Bronwyn initiated Gamilaray Cultural and Langauge programme at Moree East Public School in 2014. She is well-known to all the students and has attained great respect with everyone at MEPS.
She married in 2016 and soon after established a traditional dance group called Ngambaa Dhalaay (Mothers Tongue) to connect and deliver Gamilaraay Culture in Sydney and beyond.
Aunty Shaa Smith – Sharing and Caring
Aunty Shaa is a Gumbaynggirr woman, Storyteller and Artist. Her Country extends along the coast, from Nambucca Heads in the south to Red Rock in the north, and inland to Grafton, Glen Innes, Guyra and Wollomombi. The Gumbaynggirr traditional custodians encourage those who live work and play on country to share in the responsibility of caring for country. Custodians continue traditional practices of holding Lore through Language, Ceremony, Story, Song and Dance to ensure continuity of Yuludarla.
The stories hold lore, of how to live with the Earth and each other. They carry this through time. They don’t belong to one time but for all time. The stories do not belong to one person, however, a cultural storyteller, such as Aunty Shaa allows the story to work its way through her. She engages with the audience and the story takes on its own life, as she shares it.
Her yarning circle is about entering the story to discover what the Lore is; to discover what is our place in the story and what is our place with each other. Through ceremony we are able to earth this wisdom, bringing it all into the sacred.
Through ceremony we are able to anchor this knowing of place, within the body. Through story we are able to discover the Lore and its relevance today with the changes taking place on the planet.
She is also a project leader of, Caring for Country – Geographies of Co-existence in Gumbaynggirr Country. The research is a collaboration between Gumbaynggirr people led by Aunty Shaa Smith with her daughter Neeyan Smith and her grandsons, with the University of Newcastle (Associate Professor Sarah Wright and Dr Paul Hodge), with the Jaliigirr Biodiversity Alliance of NRM organisations, and with Gumbaynggirr Country herself. The collaborative research has been funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage program, over 5 years.
Rod Williams – Gongan, A Holistic Approach: Incorporating Culture, Social Justice, Environmental Protection and Management, and Business Development
Rod Williams is a Bundjalung man (NSW) who has pursued a private sector career that extends across the industrial relations, financial, mining, small business; not for profit and university sectors at both national and international levels.
In 1993, he established the 100% Aboriginal owned Gongan Consultancy Pty Ltd with the aim to develop a specialised consultancy firm that focused on a sustainable, cross cultural, community and business framework and provided a process that developed a cultural and corporate fit between Community, Government and Private Sector.
Rod’s observation was that when business, government and Indigenous community representatives discussed business or projects, business speaks of profits and industry standards; government speaks of programs and measurable outcomes; and Indigenous communities speak of a holistic approach incorporating culture, social justice, environmental protection and management, and business development. These three groups often present their position and strategies in a language that can lead to misunderstanding and misinterpretation.
Rod has developed three framework models he will also talk about in the yarning circle. He uses these models to help culturally diverse organisations understand each other’s perspective in negotiations and consultation.
The Gongan sustainable business model can assist Private Corporations and Government to build stronger relationships with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait organisations and communities through:
- Improvement of communications
- Understanding that cultural sensitivities and miscommunications can lead to conflict
- Provide insights to different cultural views and attitudes; and
- The utilisation of Gongan cultural and economic models to improve business and community outcomes; and
- Strategic Risk Management tool
He brings a wealth of business experience at many levels holding management positions with the NT Confederation of Industry & Commerce (Darwin); National Mutual Funds Management (Melbourne); Normandy Mining (Adelaide); University of South Australia (Adelaide); National Indigenous Development Alliance (Brisbane); Australian Red Cross (Darwin); Marthakal Homelands Resource Centre (Galiwin’ku) and Southern Cross University (Coffs Harbour).
Rod holds a Bachelor of Business, Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, is a Member of the Australian Institute Company Directors (AIDC) and currently a Lecturer at the Gnibi Wandarahn College at the Southern Cross University.
Paul Spearim –
Maintaining our cultural integrity through – gu
Yaamagaraa nginda ngay gayrr winanga-li Gii. Ngaragay ngaya yana-y dhi-bidi Cawubuwan Gunigal Bumaay Ngaragay Wirrayaraay Gumbu. ngay yulu-gi, yugal yaambal nginda walaaybaa dhaarwaan Gumbu.
Hello, my name is Winanga-li Gii (which means to listen from the heart) and I come from the big light Dhiriya Gamil (lore) of the Bumaay and Wirrayaraay clans of the Gamilaraay Nation. My song, stories, dance, art, knowledge and culture are my connection to my sacred lands.
My Gamilaraay life’s warruwi (pathway), my very first pathway to life and learning have taught me that it firstly begins with Gamilu Bidi –Wii/Burruguu (Before the big Light/Creation) consciousness, which is closely followed by Dhiriya Gamil (lore) – the birth of Gamilaraay. These warruwi’s that we all have the honour of travelling on bestow upon us the sacred knowledge of our existence and everything after this encompasses my –gu (belong), then winanga-y (understand) and then ngamilma-li (teach) and finally guwaa-li (speak).
This then, allows me to place my wara dhina (left foot) on the sacred Dhunbarran (pathway) of the highest level of obtaining knowledge. That my –gu (belong) becomes -Gu (belonging) and winanga-y (understand) becomes winanga-y-gu (understanding) and ngamilma-li (teach) becomes Ngamilma-li-gu (teaching) and then we have guwaa-li (speak) which becomes guwaa-li-gu (speaking) and then you begin to understanding the importance of knowing in what situation that you can speak, who you can speak with and why you are allowed to speak. All of these concepts are always strictly governed by Dhiriya Gamil and Gamilu Bidi-Wii.
Other than that Gamilu Bidi-Wii, -gu, winanga-y-gu, ngamila-li-gu and guwaa-li-gu teaches me that all that I possess, understand and belong to comes from Gamilu Bidi-Wii (before the big light). For Gamilaraay people it is a concept that allows us to have a greater understanding that we come from an enlightened society that encompassed all facets of contemporary society today.
Uncle Martin Ballangarry – Gumbaynggirr Elder
Gumbaynggirr Elder, Chair of Bowraville CDAT, Deputy Mayor of the Nambucca Council, Director of the Muurrbay Language Centre.
Uncle Martin Ballangarry is a dancer and musician. He leads an Aboriginal dance group and family band called Jumbaal Dreaming (Carpet-Snake Dreaming) and has performed on many stages along the east coast of Australia. An artist, musician and Aboriginal community leader with a long record of service to numerous organisations including the Bowraville Community Alliance, the Nambucca Valley Reconciliation Group, the Bowraville Aboriginal Medical Service and the Bowraville Local Aboriginal Land Council.
When Charles Perkins and the Freedom Ride came to Bowraville, Uncle Martin was 10 years old and one of the Indigenous people who attended the segregated picture theatre at Bowraville. For attempting to sit in the seats reserved for white patrons, he was escorted from the theatre by Police. In 2009 part of his life story and the old Bowraville theatre seats were featured in the National Museum of Australia’s travelling exhibition From Little Things Big Things Grow. The exhibition traced the fight for Indigenous civil rights in Australia from 1920 to 1970 and toured until November 2011. It told a generally unknown or forgotten story using a combination of photographs, objects – among them the seats – protest material, and the personal memories of these activists of the repercussions they suffered as they brought unwelcome truths to light and fought against disbelief and denial. Source: http://www.nma.gov.au/
Uncle Martin’s leadership was critical when the Bowraville community rallied together to form a Community Drug Action Team. Their mission is to work collaboratively to provide positive health and wellbeing-focused programs that address some of the challenges and trauma caused by the unsolved murders of three children [these murders took place over a period of five months from September 1990 to February 1991 in Bowraville, New South Wales], and trauma caused by the ongoing intergenerational impact of first contact and white settlement.
Since their formation in 2017, CDAT have delivered several different programs such as, establishing sporting pathways – netball girls to participate in the NSW State trials, and starting up junior cricket teams for both girls and boys. To address the challenges faced by women and girls – particularly around alcohol and pregnancy – CDAT offers on-going education and information, providing transport and gym memberships, and delivering a healthy eating /bush tucker initiative. They deliver a ‘Capturing Culture’ program, utilise digital tools such as cameras and phones, to record stories from the community and engage elders and youth in an intergenerational exchange of knowledge. They are also working towards providing a men & boys cultural reconnection program with the aim to engage with parents to work together in order to build skills and strengths and help ensure healthy outcomes for the community.
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.”
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.
Uncle Chris Tomlins, Arrernte Elder
“I am Peltherre Agnillinga Agkmoura, one of the most ancient names on the planet.”
Uncle Chris Peltherre Tomlins from Central Australia, mother Warlpiri woman and father Arrente man.
“Through my father I claim that Arrente, my sisters go Warlpiri, through my mother, see. Its through my father that I have that status, especially because my father was born on the country on which he is buried and on which I now live.”
Uncle Chris has been involved in the land rights movement since the early 80’s and was instrumental in establishing and running Yipirinya, a bilingual, two-way learning primary school for bush kids in Alice Springs.
“I took my activism skills out of politics and legalities, into the healing and the people movement, the people’s healing.”
Since attending the Aboriginal Tent Embassy as a delegate of the Freedom Summit in 2015, Chris has been travelling the countryside as a voice for Country and an activist of peace, lending his support to many actions, often involving the protection of sacred sites.
“Upon my return to Alice Springs after four years away, we were confronted by an elder who had concerns about a a sacred site that was about to be mined, about an issue going on between a sacred site and a multi-million dollar mining company. and the challenge was between the mining company and the sacred site and thats what we’re here for, to open that up, and to open that up to explain to the mining companies and the rest of the world and most importantly, the people here, of Australia, that our sacred sites are sacred for a reason. And I would like to do a presentation in regard to this situation, and use it as a stepping stone to spiritual healing.”
“We want to target the spirituality of the country, we want to do a demonstration, we want to unveil, the unveiling of this Wampere Possum Dreaming and what it means, and its creation time, you know, its the beginning. . . just unveiling that in a small way. . . through just one story, that connects to a lot of other stories.”
“These sacred sites are our spiritual connection, they are our stories of creation, before man and woman. They are about Mother Earth and all the animals that were here before us. The truth about our Creator . . . in one little story, emanating out of Barrow Creek, for us all to bear witness to.”
Uncle Chris is a custodian, a peaceful protector of his country and and a passionate activist. Among other things, he 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 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, 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. Uncle Chris 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.”