ABC MID WEST AND WHEATBELT BY CHRIS LEWIS
It is a place with no internet or phone coverage, located hundreds of kilometres from the nearest shops.
A place rich in culture, history and stories, where red dirt, granite outcrops and silver mulga trees have borne witness to generations of people living gently within their folds.
It is one of the quietest places on earth — the outback of the Murchison region, in Western Australia.
In that quiet place there is deep knowledge and a connection to country that continues to be passed from one generation to the next.
But it is not always easy to do that.
While Aboriginal elders spend much time in the Murchison, it is not the case for the younger generation.
Most young people live in the nearby regional city of Geraldton and there, surrounded by a modern world of social media and technology, they have little experience of the bush.
For this reason, a campout at Wooleen Station in the Murchison was organised to enable elders to pass on traditional Aboriginal knowledge and culture to the young.
Throughout the three-day campout, the new generation walked through the bush following the echoes of their ancestors’ footsteps.
“We’re drawn to the bush, it’s hard to explain. You just feel it here,” elder Elvie Dann said, patting her heart with her hand.
“There’s just this connection of belonging, knowing that our father was born in this country.”
Finding bush tucker
The young participants discovered how to find traditional bush tucker such as gagurla or cogola (bush pear), gulya (bush potato) and guwiyarl (goanna).
“We caught our guwiyarl and cooked that up. The kids got to experience that for the first time and they were pretty amazed. They really enjoyed it,” organiser Donna Ronan said.
Vaughan Lane was pivotal in helping to find the bush tucker and worries about the next generation not having a connection to the bush.
“They’ll end up losing their culture and losing themselves. Their culture will be social media,” he said.
“Without your culture you haven’t got much at all.”
The elders say that trips such as the camp highlight the importance of going back to the bush, not just for connection, but for healing.
Bush tucker has been part of Aboriginal people’s diets for thousands of years and it is believed some of these traditional foods might help curb health problems.
Sharing around the campfire
The camping trip was arranged by the Northern Agriculture Catchments Council [NACC].
Stories and knowledge were shared over the three days, which elders hope will reignite the flame of culture within the young hearts.
“I’m really hoping to see these kids grow up and wanting to bring their grannies out here,” event organiser and NACC Aboriginal liaison officer Bianca McNeair said.
“To sit around the campfire and share stories.
“To come back to this same place where their ancestors sat and where they told the same stories; that’s what we’re looking for here.”
Time was also spent collecting and gathering seeds for the Waranygu Bayalgu Bush Garden at Bundiyarra Aboriginal Corporation in Geraldton.
The concept was inspired by local elder Dora Dann, who wrote a book, Waranygu Bayalgu: Digging for Food.
The garden will be used to support traditional food and medicine within the community.