Numburindi: Strengthening Culture and Country

— by Rebecca Renshaw

Deondre and Jumaleo Nunggarrgalu with Duwayne Nundhirribala bringing back Magpie Goose after hunting, 2018

Numburindi: Strengthening Culture and Country 2018 – 2020 focusses on inter-generational learning and exchange through the delivery of bush camps annually with the young people in Numbulwar and surrounding homelands. Artback NT received multi-year funding from Tim Fairfax Family Foundation to coordinate, support and collaborate on this project with the community. Eve Pawlik, Indigenous Traditional Dance Coordinator discussed the importance of the bush camps to the community and the lasting positive outcomes for the young people in the lead-up to and following the 2018 bush camps.

Numburindi Festival Director, Ella Geia spoke with Eve ahead of the first culture camp in 2018 and said “I’ve been here for 10 years in this community and I’ve noticed that the young people are not engaged, they are not engaged with community, they are not engaged with whatever programs are happening. It puts them in a no zone situation. I think these camps will bring about a sense of belonging, a sense of pride.

My grandparents lived out here in Miwul before the mission came and pulled everyone to Numbulwar …

Grant Nundhirribala

When I first came out to Numbulwar one of my sons was telling me a story of a time that he went fishing with his cousins. He was showing his cousins their traditional country of the sea and they were surprised that that was their country because this was the first time they saw it. He was shocked too, it was the first time they saw their country, their traditional lands.  I think these bush camps will bring about that connection … the person and the place.”

Responding to an identified community need, the Numburindi culture camps provide opportunities for Elders of Nundhirribala, Murrungun, Ngalmi and Nunggarragalu Clans to teach young members song, dance and language on country. Grant Nundhirribala, Numburindi Festival Director reflected “the bush camps is important for me, for the kids. Why we doing this bush camp so kids can concentrate, singing and dancing, proper way you know. Because if you do teaching kids in town, big mob things happening in town, people are distracted, it’s good for me to take kids camping, away …

That old man Henry is real happy about this camp – he be showing everyone hunting spots, telling stories …

Grant Nundhirribala

Culture is really important for kids. Their culture is important for them, for their future. Dancing everything, in their own country, so they know their story, where their country is, their song line, the kids follow their song line, they are singing and dancing in the right place. So they know the right area.”

Each clan group will facilitate on-country dance and culture sessions aiming to strengthen community well-being and cultural maintenance. Activities will include: visiting significant cultural sites, learning songs and dances for community and public performances, hunting and collecting local bush foods, sourcing, collecting and preparing clay for body-paint and making costumes, including armbands.

Selena Uibo, MLA Member for Arnhem said “any strengthening and holding up culture is important for young people in terms of the fabric of communities. That our kinship systems, the cultural ties, connection to country all of that interwoven you can’t pick at a single thread without the rest of it unravelling. I think having that emphasis for youth in particular. It’s really great here because culture is celebrated and it is woven into everyday life, it isn’t an isolated thing.”

The rainbow serpent made this place, the billabong, it always has water, never dries out …

Anne-Marie Nundhirribala

Speaking about the culture camps Cerice Farrell  said “it’s important to keep our culture, we need to be here [Numbulwar] you know, it can’t be changed in a different way, because you can’t change it or let it go, keep it going the way old people left it, it needs to stay strong. Even though you are in a different community or in a city, you need to still keep that in you. Ancestors left good things behind for new generations, and they need them to keep it, even though you are doing something, or even if you are married to another cultural clan you need to keep your culture. You can’t lose that, because if you lose it that means your kids and their kids they might lose it. If you keep it strong it will stay strong. Culture is still there, it is everywhere.”

This is jelly fish time, stingers, this plant here on the dunes we use to put on the burns, to heal them.

Rosanne Nundhirribala

Rich place here, I call it my supermarket …

Rebecca Love

Neysa Nundhirribala said “teaching the kids how to dance, how to sing. Show them how to dance, keeping the culture up. In the future they need to be the next ones.

On Friday night I dreamt of my grandfather who lived in this place, he told me the new song we danced tonight [Saturday]. I taught them tonight, the new song for the women. I dreamt up from what my grandfather told me.

Grant Nundhirribala

We still go on country, we used to go Yilila, and we go and visit it, especially when it is dry season and that is so important to do.  Most of the kids need to learn, dancing their ceremony dance, culture dance, keep their roots, and keep it close to them. Young kids and young people together to be happy and pride in what they are doing.”

Photographer: Eve Pawlik