Damon Pyke

Damon Pyke


Kwodjet Goorliny (Walking Together) Symposium

I was very lucky to attend the Kwodjet Goorliny (Walking Together) Symposium on Menang Boodjar (Country) in Albany last week. This was a very special opportunity to learn more about cross cultural knowledge and looking after country initiatives across Noongar Boodjar, to hear the stories of Noongar Elders and families and to connect with leaders and practitioners.

The Symposium was the culmination of the 'Walking Together' Project - a four-year cross-cultural research program initiated by the University of Western Australia which has facilitated extensive traditional knowledge recording and cross-cultural investigations across the south-west.

The first day featured a number of yarns and presentations, particularly highlighting cultural features across Australia that have been 'hiding in plain sight', well known by traditional custodians, but many only now being recognised in academic literature. Some notable examples were:

- Linyji or ‘fairy circles’

- Trees in trees

- Lizard traps

- Gnamma Borna "water trees"

The second day was a tour around country with knowledge sharing from the Coyne, Knapp and Eades families. We travelled through a mystical morning fog out of Albany to the Kalgan River where the saltwater meets the fresh. We were shown a centuries old gnamma boorna (water tree) created in a Marri tree (Corymbia calophyla), 30,000 year old stone flake, a remnant fish trap and were taught the medicinal qualities of the Kangaroo Paw, among other yarns.

At Kwaranup (Whalers Cove) we were shown numerous gnammas (water holes created by fire) strewn across the granite outcrops and a dolorite ("black granite") quarry used for making axe heads and knives. We were introduced to the Merningar view of life, rebirth, totems and spirits and learned the incredible cultural significance of particular land formations such as Porongurup - the place where totem spirits reside. We shared a deeper understanding of a lived landscape shaped over millennia by continuous culture and paid homage to the innovation and adaptability of Menang Ancestors who endured incredible change and upheaval when seas levels rose from around 20,000 years ago. More stories of family, history, dispossession, colonisation, and the resilient spirit of Menang and Goreng people were shared in a campfire yarn.

The day concluded with a dinner featuring cultural dancers, showing the pride and strengthening spirit in the young Noongar dancers.

The whole event was a celebration of continuing connection to country and the opportunity to work together with Noongar in caring for place, country and culture.

Gnamma boorna (water tree).

An example of a gnamma borna or water tree.

Gnammas - water holes formed by fire.

A dolorite quarry used for making axe heads and knives.

Noongar dancers.

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