NAIDOC Week is held in the first week of July each year, celebrating and recognising the culture, history and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
It is an incredible opportunity for all Australians to learn about the culture and histories of the First Nations, as well as participating in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.
This year, the theme is “Get up! Stand up! Show up!, encouraging all to become active campaigners, moving beyond acknowledgment and implementing lasting, meaningful change.
We were lucky enough to walk with Girri Girra, a 100% Aboriginal owned business, operating on the stunning NSW Central Coast.
Our friend Chloe, artist of Gumada Art, joined us on this walk on a rainy, yet wholesome day in June.
Chloe put into words her personal experience of this journey and the knowledge we acquired along the way with Girri Girra.
Do you know what it means to walk with truth?
Each step open eyed and open hearted to the deep history beneath you, above you and around you.
My name is Chloe Webb, I’m a proud Boorooberongal woman of the Dharug nation and the Artist behind Gumada. We meet here in NAIDOC week 2022, celebrating First Nations leaders who have driven and led change in communities across generations, this year under the theme Get Up! Stand up! Show up!
Last week I had the opportunity to meet with the Tree of Life team to walk with one of those leaders, Tim Selwyn; owner and director of Girri Girra tours.
Tim is a Wongaibon and Wiradjuri man hosting Aboriginal experiences across the sacred Wanganine, Guringai and Darkinjung lands of the Central Coast NSW.
Upon meeting Tim we were immediately greeted by his deep spirit and passion… the beating heart of what he offers at Girri Girra.
Rain fell on the day we gathered, giving us the chance to really connect and yarn under shelter. It was here Tim offered words that I will carry with me for a lifetime.
It often comes as a surprise to people that even as an Indigenous person I have bumped up against struggle after struggle when it comes to connecting to culture and wanting to learn. I understand this to be an ongoing effect of colonisation.
See, when we think of First Nations history we so often use past tense, as if the battle is over. With many unaware that for many mobs the battles sadly continue. The desperate battle to piece back together and preserve culture and lore that was intended to be eradicated. This now means that culture has become somewhat inaccessible because of how closely it is kept to chests, in an attempt to protect it.
For my Dharug people, as the invasion swept its way through the Harbour, into the Nepean and over the Blue Mountains; so did displacement and disease.
The loss proved nothing short of catastrophic. And with each loss of life, a loss of a teacher, a guide… an Elder.
Disconnected from cultural lore, I hear stories of my own mudjin (family) in the 60’s forced to tell people they were Spanish to avoid the heartbreaking racism and shame that would greet them if they were to stand in their truth of being Aboriginal. How was culture ever to be shared when it couldn’t be embraced? How was it ever to be sustained when it was forced under the rug?
So I can understand the tight lid. I can understand the protection. And I understand that my journey now is to earn my place in culture and connect the dots.
I stand in the firm belief that is my soul purpose... It’s why I speak my Dharug dalang (tongue) and why I am dedicated to learning it and sharing it. Because I understand that culture and lore cannot be sustained when so tightly contained. The time has come where the question must be asked; at what point do we protect culture to the point that it dies with us, rather than being embraced and passed on?
Yes, this is sacred and privileged information; so of course we must make sure it’s passed to people with the right intentions.
This is exactly where Tim’s extraordinary work comes in. The experiences that Girri Girra offers allows everyone to learn their unique place in culture… how to walk with good intention so that you can walk with truth. Each step open eyed and open hearted to the deep history beneath you, above you and around you.
Walking and yarning with Tim is beyond just an educational experience, it is deeply healing on many levels. From the safe space of openly chatting and learning, to the smoking ceremony cleanse… Tim’s work connects the dots between the yearning and the learning. And opens up the space for culture to be shared, revived and sustained.
There are battles still being fought, not common knowledge.
And what we need is you…
We need you to Get up, Stand up, Show up.
There is a place for you in culture.
There is learning for you as long as your heart is open and intentions true.
In Dharug dalang we say Yanama budyari gumada, meaning walk with good spirit. If you’ve been wondering what you can do this NAIDOC week, please carry those words with you and join us on the journey.
Walk with us. Deep listen with us. Learn with us. Connect the dots with us.