PETER (COCO) WALLACE – ELDER, STORYTELLER, SONG KEEPER & SENIOR NORTHERN ARRERNTE LORE-MAN
70 year-old Alice Springs elder, storyteller, song keeper & Senior Northern Arrernte lore-man of the central desert wishes to tell the aboriginal history of Alice Springs in book and video. Mr Wallace holds Central Desert lore including important dreaming stories and totems relevant to non-indigenous Australians, such as the caterpillar, the uninitiated man, ‘Pine Gap’, yam, water dreaming and more as well as the intercultural history of Central Australia.
Uncle Coco has spent his life working for the protection of culture and country .https://caama.com.au/news/2018/peter-coco-wallace-an-amazing-life-journey-caring-for-country
He says, “My Father’s country is Alatyeye, Yam Country, Gem Tree. I’m Apmereke-artweye for that. My Mother’s country is Antulye (Undoolya), Eagle Dreaming: that’s my Mother and Grandmother. Kukatye, Gum Tree Dreaming, that’s my Grandfather. I’m Kwertungurle for that. The sacred site near Pine Gap, that’s my Mother’s and Grandfather’s. I’ve seen people standing there, like soldiers, you know, like that … but that’s my Mother and Grandfather’s country.”
“I can speak for Antulye. I don’t speak for Mparntwe. But if people need me, I can help them. If they ask me. Because it’s all connected, see. All those stories were told and kept for us.
“To be able to hand it over to younger ones. I got it all up here. I learned it all from my Grandmother and Grandfather, when I was this high. I’m over 70 now, and I’m white on top. But I still got it all up here. From way back then. I still remember it.”
UNCLE PELTHERRE CHRIS TOMLINS, ARRERNTE ELDER
“I am Peltherre Agnillinga Agkmoura, one of the most ancient names on the planet.”
Uncle Chris Peltherre Tomlins’ mother was a Warlpiri woman; his father was an Arrernte man.“Through my father I claim that Arrente, my sisters go Warlpiri, through my mother. 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 80s 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.”
A strong 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.”
“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.”
Part of ‘moving together from here’ is The Bonnet Series. A Collaborative Art Project uniting Indigenous participants from Central Australia with non-Indigenous participants from various parts of the country. The project focuses on direct participation with the Kaytej community living in the area of Wilora (Barrow Creek) which is approximately 250km north of Alice Springs, but will also include involvement with neighbouring Arrernte and Walrpi peoples.
There are two parts to this Project. Firstly it is an outreach program focused on skill-based learning in a safe and culturally engaged space. Secondly it aims to clean up communities by repairing discarded vehicles dumped across the landscape where that is possible, or re-purposing to create a sculptural legacy from the junk metal where it is not.
Resident Elders: Kemarre Martin MacMillan, Pelterre Chris Tomlins.
Community Representatives: Evritt Tomlins (Alkgnirrweltye), Raymond Campbell (Ankweleyelengkwe)
Artist in Residence: Corey Thomas (Sculptor, including Welding, Fabrication and Tooling Tuition)
Project Manager: Jason Freddi
Project Architect: Anna Ancher
Documentary Team: Jason Freddi (Producer), Shahnaze Martin (Stage Manager) Daniel King (Video & Photo Documenter)
UNCLE JAMPIJINPA NED HARGRAVES –
WARLPIRI SENIOR LAW MAN & RAINMAKER
Warlpiri Elder Jampijinpa Ned Hargraves is a keeper of ngapa jukurrpa (rain dreaming) and senior law man of his country. In Warlpiri language, law is called Tju-Tju, from Tjukurrpawarnu, The Spirit Creator. Law is transmitted through the Pulkapardu, the old men whose white hair is a sign of the wisdom and the knowledge they have gathered over the years. The Pulkapardu are the custodians of the law, the ceremonies and the history of the tribe. It is their responsibility to uphold and keep these strong and to teach the coming generations.
In August 2006 the Northern Territory government commissioned research into allegations of serious sexual abuse of children in Aboriginal communities. An inquiry was established to find better ways to protect the children [editor’s emphasis]. On 15 June 2007 the commission released its report, called Little Children are Sacred. Less than a fortnight after its publication, on 23 June 2007, the federal government staged a massive intervention in the Northern Territory (site of data collection) sending in army troops. This was referred to as ‘Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER)’. Aboriginal and non-Indigenous people however quickly labeled it ‘the intervention’.
What the “Intervention” changed:
Legislation passed by both major parties (Labour and Liberal)
• removed the permit system for access to Aboriginal land,
• abolished government-funded Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP),
• subjected Aboriginal children to teaching in a language they don’t speak for the first four hours at school,
• quarantined 50% of welfare payments,
• suspended the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA),
• expected Aboriginal people to lease property to the government in return for basic services,
• compulsorily acquired Aboriginal land and
• subjected Aboriginal children to mandatory health checks without consulting their parents, and against the sacred oath of doctors
Critics of the invasion/intervention point out, however, that the word ‘child’ or ‘children’ does not appear once in the hundreds of pages of the NT Emergency Response Act. [Editor’s emphasis]Because the Act has plenty of references to land, many Aboriginal leaders see the intervention as a land grab to make it easier for mining companies to access Indigenous land, in particular in the N.T.
Source: Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) – “The Intervention” – Creative Spirits, retrieved from https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/northern-territory-emergency-response-intervention
Uncle Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves states unequivocally, “As Yuendumu community leader I have called on the NT Government, and call on you again today, to respect and place the importance of our environmental concerns above the loss of profits that only benefit a handful of multinational corporations who are stealing resources from our land without our permission.
- This country belongs to the people of the Warlpiri nation
- We carry the sacred law and the dreaming as our ancestors taught it to us and as we teach our children. This is our sacred Tjukurpa. It belongs to many people and it is vital for the wellbeing of our country and the health of our people that we keep our stories strong
- It is our sovereign right to protect our land, our water and our people from all harm
- There has been no consultation with the traditional custodians of this country to discuss any form of mining, water use, “fracking” – all of which endanger and contaminate the precious and limited water for our people
- There has been no consent given by the people of this land
- Limiting the water available to the Warlpiri people or forcing First Nation people to use water contaminated because it has become stagnant or polluted through mining or “fracking” practices is an abuse of human rights and tantamount to genocide
- We demand the end of lies about “job creation and better living conditions”; lies that exploit the poverty we are forced to live in, lies used to trick us into giving consent to the gas extraction industry
- We demand the end of blackmail where consultants tell us we can either choose to agree to the terms offered or miss out because the mining and fracking and theft of our country will happen anyway whether we want it or not
We, the people of the Warlpiri Nation
- demand the Northern Territory Government bans fracking once and for all
- demand the protection of all water in the N.T
- demand the full respect of our sovereign rights
Ned Jampijimpa Hargraves, NT fracking inquiry 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D26yyiiigL8
Warlpiri Traditions: Jurntu is a ceremony that teaches about law and justice. Four themes from the traditional ceremony are: Justice, Respect, Discipline and Responsibility. These themes were matched with songs, stories and metaphors related to traditional Warlpiri artefacts. For example, boomerangs symbolise respect, digging sticks symbolise the search for knowledge and the stone axe is a mark of responsibility. The performance culminates with the songs and dances for the Milky Way. In Warlpiri Law the Milky Way is a symbol of the path or road that a person should follow to be a productive and moral citizen. This Milky Way is also connected with the Emu stories, which stress the importance of teaching, and the Southern Cross stories that outline the essential principles of Warlpiri culture.
Milpirri – Jurntu 2009 tracksdance.com.au/milpirri-1
BRENDAN BEIRNE – ‘DARK DAYS’
WALKEY AWARD-WINNING PHOTOGRAPHER
Dark Days is an ongoing passion project of Walkey award-winning photographer, Brendan Beirne. Brendan has travelled across this continent documenting the sites that bore witness to Australia’s darkest moments: the massacres of the First People committed by white settlers during the 18th and 19th Century.
Brendan created this project to bring awareness to and create engagement with the untold stories and injustices forgotten or denied. His photographs capture these places using specialised technique and unique intent. The pictures are shot with an infrared camera, which is more sensitive to the unseen light than the visible spectrum. This is intentional, as it encourages each viewer to consider what has previously been unseen in history, and to imagine the horrors that occurred in these places not so far from home.
While photography was invented in the early 1800’s, its practice was slow to spread from Europe to the furthest colonies. Perhaps this is why there are no photographic records of the multitude of massacres that occurred across the Australian continent during that time. History books accurately record that settlers and troops took the land – what they often neglect to detail is that it was by force, taking not only the land, but the lives of the people who had thrived here for over 50,000 years.
A handful of these crimes, and their locations, are well documented. Other incidents can be inferred from newspaper clippings or books. But many truths are just whispers throughout history – accounts of genocide passed down from generation to generation.
COOMADITCHIE UNITED ABORIGINAL CORPORATION
The Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation (CUAC) was established as a community organisation in 1992 through the efforts of the current staff members and Management Committee members in collaboration with the Illawarra TAFE.
The organisation was established primarily because of the neglect and lack of service provision to the Coomaditchie community. The organisation has provided welfare and advocacy services to the community for over twenty years since its incorporation in 1993, as well as being active in bush regeneration, art projects and cultural heritage and community development programs.
Adjacent to the Coomaditchie Lagoon is the Coomaditchie Mission. Many of our mob lived up on Hill 60 – not far from here, till the war broke out. The army needed Hill 60 for strategic purposes and so we were moved. Many people set up camp in the sand dunes along Port Kembla beach and around Coomaditchie lagoon. They lived in sugar bag shacks and in any kind of shelter they could create. Later many people slept in their cars. Eventually, the mission houses were built and people could move into little weatherboard houses. It wasn’t till 1989 that the brick houses that are on the mission today were finally built.
Our hall has historic significance. The Aboriginal Advancement League with all our Elders started in the hall. It was also where dances and Christmas parties and wakes were held. Now it is our studio gallery – and we still hold many important meetings here.
Artists from the Coomaditchie Co-operative are some of the premier Aboriginal artists in the Illawarra region. Their art captures the spirit, colours and stories of their cultural heritage as coastal people.
To learn more about the symbols used by Coomaditchie artists in their paintings view the glossary of symbols.
Research shows that when people participate in art making they are likely to form new friendships, find new ways of expressing their own story and develop a sense of belonging to a community.
Coomaditchie artists work collaboratively with community groups, schools, and university students to create art using murals, mosaics and public artworks.
“The Dreaming lies at the core of Aboriginal spiritual belief – it has no beginning, no end, and does not recognise time linearly, as in days, months and years. It is a part of everyday life, encompassing totems, ceremony, the division of labour, social structure and storytelling.”MICHAEL ORGAN & CAROL SPEECHLEY
The Aboriginal people of the Illawarra call their dreaming the Alcheringa. The main creator spirit of the Illawarra is Biamie (from which is derived the word Kiama). Biamie sent his two sons to the earth, one was Duramulun, the law-giver, who, during the dreaming, taught the local people traditional laws and customs related to kinship, totems, religion and social observances. *
Dreaming stories relating to all aspects of the local culture have survived, including those on the creation of the Illawarra landscape.
Coomaditchie elders share these local stories of the Dreaming with the children of Coomaditchie via oral storytelling traditions and through art.
Below are three local Dreaming stories, The Story of Five Islands (reproduced with artwork by the children of Coomaditchie), Gurangaty (reproduced with artwork by the youth of the Ngaramura Project, and Birth of the Butterflies.
The following Artists will be part of the Yarning Circles and guide the interactive painting during the creative afternoon sessions:
Lorraine is the premier artist of the Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation. Lorraine views her ability to paint as a gift. She uses bold colours that reflect her coastal upbringing. “We are East Coast Saltwater People”, Lorraine says. My colours symbolise my life.
Narelle is one of Lorraine’s sisters and they paint together. Lorraine
does the fine work and Narelle fills in the details. Lorraine and Narelle work like professional dancers, one leads and the other follows and no-one steps on any toes. It is clear they have been working together for many, many years.
Shane has been painting since his teenage years. He is the eldest son of Lorraine and Sonny Brown. Initially mentored by Lorraine, Shane is a talented artist who continues to develop his own unique style.
Allison has been working as an artist at Coomaditchie since 2002. She grew up in the WOllonogng are and her paintings reflect the colours and influences of the Illawarra. Symbolic references to her life experiences can also be seen in her work.
Tynan Lenihan Brown
Tynan, son of Shane Brown and Denise Lenihan, has been painting at the side of his father since childhood. While his distinctive style is influenced by Shane, Tynan’s art continues to evolve.
DALE KERWIN, PhD – WORIMI MAN, HISTORIAN & AUTHOR
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.”
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 LEWIS WALKER – BUNDJALUNG ELDER & WAHRLA-BAL CUSTODIAN
Bundjalung Elder and Wahrla-Bal Custodian, Uncle Lewis Walker was born on his country in Tabulam. He belongs to the Wahrla-Bal 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. Uncle Lewis’s tribal name is Spirit of the Night or Possum Spirit.
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.
JASON FREDDI, Ph.D
Dr Jason Freddi holds a Master of Arts in Psychoanalysis – before beginning an intensive engagement with indigenous Australia, involving travels from Cape York to South Western Australia – Jason wrote his Ph.D dissertation on concepts of sovereignty.
Always working closely with Arrernte Elder, Pelterre Chris Tomlins, Jason became an advocate of the coming together of indigenous and non-indigenous people through the cultural organisation Dreaming Australia, an initiative of the senior men’s group Alice Springs. Jason attended the Uluhru Convention on Recognition and has represented tribes in mining, housing and other matters, both nationally and internationally.
Above all, his passions are is music and the performing arts. He has produced over 200 original songs; written, directed and produced eight stage plays and acted the lead role in a feature-length comedy, Virtual Dogs and Loaded Guns (2016), directed by José Luis Bayonas, with John Waters.
Jason also collaborated with Pelterre Chris Tomlins and others in The Bonnet Series, a Collaborative Art Project uniting Indigenous participants from Central Australia with non-Indigenous participants from various parts of the country.
KERRIE SELLEN, TERRY O’CONNELL & LIZ BROWNE – RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
Kerrie Sellen – Director Restorative Journeys
Kerrie is an accredited Restorative Practice Trainer by the International Institute of Restorative Practice, as well as an accredited trainer for Youth Mental Health First Aid, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, and Coaching Young People for Success. She is commitment to raising standards and service delivery within the youth and community sectors. For over twenty years, Kerrie has worked in community services, including Youth Justice, Homelessness, Domestic Violence, Drug and Alcohol, Youth Development, Case Management and Program Design & Delivery.
She is passionate about working with First People and has gained extensive experience in remote communities in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands and Arnhem Land, setting up new and consulting with existing service providers to enable them to better meet the needs of their communities.
In November 2018 Kerrie presented a Keynote address at the Lutheran Community Care Services (LCCS) Restorative Practice Conference, Singapore, and provided training to staff at Changi Prison, Singapore Girls home, Singapore Boys home and a range of other agencies.
She takes a proactive role in shaping the youth sector, sitting on several boards and networks, including chairing the Southern Youth Round Table. Kerrie is also a member of South Australian Childhood Death and Serious Injury Review Committee and the South Australian Youth Worker’s Association.
Terry O’Connell – Director of Real Justice Australia
Terry O’Connell is an international restorative practitioner and director of Real Justice Australia. He is the founder of the ‘restorative questions’ used worldwide today by the International Institute of Restorative Practice (IIRP), a ‘conference’ model that fosters empathy and shared understanding among offenders, victims and their respective friends and family members.
His work has been featured on the ABC [Australia] in three documentaries: Facing The Demons; Murder He Wrote; Justice for All. A former police officer, Terry says he was “executed” by the justice system, quitting the force in 2000 because “the prevailing culture was into control, bullying and above all else suspicion of decent ideas”.
Terry’s work has evolved from a restorative program for young offenders  to a framework that has universal application in all practice and has been especially effective in bringing restorative practices to schools as an integral part of teaching and learning, in the youth service sector, aged care, indigenous communities, corrections and policing in many countries. His vision is a world where restorative dialogue is common place in families, communities and countries where the emphasis is on building strong relationships.
Terry is a highly decorated Australia who has been award a Churchill Fellowship; Order of Australia [OAM]; Rotary Paul Harris Fellowship; Honorary Doctorate Australian Catholic University; 2016 NSW Finalists in Senior Australian of the Year.
Terry and his wife, Margaret, have seven children and thirteen grandchildren.
Liz Browne is a trainer, facilitator and speaker with over 20 years’ experience working in child, youth and family services across education, youth justice and community services. She has a Bachelor of Social Science and a Graduate Diploma in Restorative Practices from the International Institute of Restorative Practices. Liz is a fellow ‘sojourner’ and relational learner. She is a wife, mother, mother in law, grandmother, sister, aunty, colleague and friend, and seeks to use her life story and skills to build reconnected and restored people and communities. With lived experience of the joys and challenges of relationships, including within faith communities, she seeks to strengthen the ‘how’ of relationships for individuals and groups, that we might be people of mutual care, healing and hope.
David Robertson – Warlpiri man, painter, storyteller Indigenous media presenter (1970s- 80s)
Sharon Kinchela and Dee Kay
and others … stay tuned!