Wisdom from the Karrajarri Women
We were privileged last week to spend several hours in the company of two wise and wonderful women. Whilst sharing dinner outdoors in the balmy Broome breeze, poignant and meaningful narratives and storytelling was shared. Stories of Country, kinship and skin families. Narratives of caves, living-spirits and hope. Anna Dwyer and Jessica are Karajarri Aboriginal Women from the Bidyadanga community,190kms south of Broome in the West Kimberley.
Anna is a Researcher in the Nulungu Research Institute at the Broome Campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia. As a researcher, Anna’s interest is working closely with her people living in Broome and Bidyadanga Aboriginal Communities. My son Aharon has had the good fortune through repeated Aboriginal studies cultural immersions to have spent time learning from Anna on Yawuru Country and at Notre Dame Broome. Anna was keen to meet some of the family and we were keen to meet her and her kin. So Anna brought Aunt Jessica Bangu; an elder and ranger from Bidyadanga and Aharon brought the only ‘elders’ he could find (his parents and his Aunt from over east) and we joined in breaking bread and more.
As a relative newcomer to Australia, (barely a decade) I am no expert on the history and challenges of Aboriginal Australians. I have attempted to engage and read and learn as much as possible, but have not yet skimmed the surface. Moreover most of what one gleans from the media, albeit real and pressing issues -are the bad news stories; the abuse of alcohol, family violence, the health gap and escalating chronic diseases of diabetes and renal disease as well as the heartbreaking scourge of teenage suicide. We may all know and love Aboriginal art and are aware of a sacred rich culture from way back. Alas, little else. Do we know what “Welcome to Country” really means? Do we understand native title, community development, language preservation, law and culture about which Anna is an expert? Or just how pertinent is the current issue of Constitutional Recognition of Australia’s First Peoples? What do our kids know of the customs, languages, kinship and ancient spirituality that is still alive and pulsing through the red ochre, the blue waters and through the veins, hearts and spirits of the original owners of this land? The very brief time spent and insights from Anna’s and Jessica’s personal experience as Karajarri woman have inspired me to try understand and learn more. But my real hope is that all Australians and especially every one of our children and grandchildren who live on this sacred land could be provided with some of this depth of knowledge that informs and challenges our thinking and learning and provides a connected future for all who live here.