Recently the West team had the privilege of spending two days with Whadjuk Traditional Owners Karen Jacobs and Murray Yarran from Indigenous Economic Solutions, to undertake cross-cultural awareness training in Perth. From the importance of Welcome to Country, to Aboriginal spirituality, native title and bush foods, the team learnt about the Traditional Owners of this land and the 68,000-year history of the world’s oldest living culture.
We learnt about the significance of ‘Welcome to Country’ as a protocol that sets standards of respect, recognising the traditional custodians, ancestors and continuing cultural, spiritual and life practises of Aboriginal people.
We learnt that the Noongar country we know as South West Western Australia is actually made up of many different ‘countries’, including the Whadjuk country of Perth.
We learnt about the complexities and realities of the kinship system – and the strict codes of respect that must be followed – including why some fellas have to sleep on the veranda when their mother in law is in town!
We learnt that Aboriginal spirituality is not a religion, but a belief system and a way of life that is so intimately entwined with the land that the people and the land are spiritually one.
Murray explained to us why this is so important, and about his work to bring peace to areas where his people’s blood has been shed on the land. He asked us to consider this, and the importance to his people that this part of history is recognised as part of Western Australia’s history.
We also got to spend a few hours with Melissa Jacobs, who showed us some of the Bush Foods she uses, and that her people have used for thousands of years.
“Plants are everything” said Melissa, “food, medicine, economy, everything.”
Need a band-aid? Ground Marri gum will do the trick! You can also drink it for heavy chest colds and mix it with oil to make an ointment.
We got to try bush lollies, pickled Quandong in balsamic vinegar and native mint. We were shown how to dig native yams (Dioscorea hastifolia, or Warrine), with its fine root that goes really deep – you can end up with sand in your ears digging for yams said Melissa! While hard to get, they're one of the most sought-after bush foods.
Karen, Murray and Michelle, we want to thank you for your time and for the stories that you shared with us about your culture and from your lives. We were both honoured and humbled by the time we spent with you, and I know that I certainly left the course with a new respect and appreciation for Aboriginal culture and a better awareness of the realities of British settlement.
Finally, I was struck by the importance of this culture for everybody, as we learn how to respectfully walk forward together.
For more on Aboriginal culture in South Western Australia, see Stories of the local Noongar elders.
Learn more about Bush Heritage's Aboriginal Partnerships.
Bush Heritage Australia recognises and respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's ownership, rights and enduring relationship with their lands and waters, acknowledging that it's the lands, winds and waters of the first Australians that we all share today.