Image: James Henry
Source: Museum Victoria
My mob is the Jaara mob, also known as the Dja Dja Wurrung language group from Central Victoria. Our lands go from Boort in the north over to Rochester, down to the slopes of Mount Macedon in the south and over towards Ballarat in the west. I was born and bred on Country. Most of my kids have been born and bred on Country.
Dad is very highly respected Elder in the Jaara community and Country and in the wider communities. Dad's built a lot of relationships with community and government organisations. He worked for Parks Victoria for just on twenty years and so that's kind of set the foundation for a lot of the relationships in Bendigo and surrounding districts.
It wasn’t until I had kids myself that I really understood and cherished the value of cultural knowledge. I'm Dad's protégé so I follow Dad everywhere, everything he does, I'm with him. He started doing the same with my kids. Dad's so proud of his grandkids. He would take us on walks up to Mount Lanjanuc in Castlemaine, which is Mount Alexander, and certain times of year show plant foods and other sites. At the time, I had the two eldest boys who were probably seven and five. He came to this big rocky outcrop where you could get a really good look way over to Maldon and right out to Carisbrook. It was just on sunset and Dad was standing so you could get the silhouettes of everyone. He said to my youngest boy, come on now, it's time we go home, and this little fella held Dad's hand and said, but Papa, we are home. I was half teary, Dad was a bit teary, because it was just one of those beautiful moments. They know Jaara Country is home.
We try and live our culture daily in this urban environment, but we try to get up on Country often to have that reconnection and rejuvenate ourselves. I also get involved in local community up home. We have a place called the Keeping Place where we do workshops with local Aboriginal kids, and weaving and storytelling and that kind of stuff. I have a business doing events, but through that I've also started a youth project where I'm trying to use events industry knowledge to give Aboriginal and Islander kids opportunities to follow their dreams. I'm trying to create those opportunities for the kids to do stuff they'd not normally be able to do and to talk with high-profile people that they may look up to in sport or music. In today's society, Indigenous kids in particular face different barriers – they can push through that to try and achieve their highest goals. Like Dad always says, we're getting there. We will get there at some point.
I am so proud to be part of Yulendj. I honestly feel so blessed to have been asked to be part. This was something my Dad would have been involved in but he's unable, so I'm keeping Dad's place. I think it's so amazing to be surrounded by Elders and people with such knowledge from different mobs. Being the younger one of the group, and being able to be part of that and build something that's so big and representative of the whole Victorian nations, I'm honestly blessed. I love it.
As soon as my kids know that I'm coming in they say aw, can we come? Because they love it and it gives them connection as well. They get to see further back and see evidence, not just through their mother or grandfather telling stories of what used to be and what used to happen. It reassures them that that's their culture. They've had their grandfather and myself to always keep them grounded in their culture.
You get so filled with culture being here. It's like you get this burst of culture back in this setting, because you can lose your way a little bit living in the city. I believe that it gives you those prompts to do more, to go home and do more. It keeps me passing on more of those dances and songs and language. Being around those objects and seeing things that I know my people made with their very own hands, all the stuff that they've been through and our whole race has been through, and me here today, it's really overwhelming but at the same time rejuvenating. It peps me up to keep going and do more.
I really hope that visitors to First Peoples feel the very heart of our culture and our story. They'll walk away as if they've really experienced it with us, and then they'll want to know more. Local people and even Aboriginal people from different parts will really get how us Victorians were. We tend to get forgotten as Aboriginal people as opposed to the Central Desert or Kimberley region up north. So that's what my hopes are, that people really get a sense of who we are, and that we're a living culture. They get to walk away as though they have travelled our paths.
It's such a battle to try and break down the stereotypes of what an Aboriginal person is or should be or looks like. A lot of people didn't even think we were still here. I think that to say that we are is actually a big thing for us.