JalyayThompson-SWFW

As a Wiradjuri woman on Gumbaynggirr country, I feel so very welcomed and privileged to be working with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people toward greater healing, understanding and reconciliation. The Saltwater Freshwater Festival provides a space for us all to connect in the celebration and acknowledgement of Aboriginal culture. Working with our local Elders, artists and community, we continue to explore how we move forward together with the wealth of knowledge and wisdom in our communities.

Working with Uncle Mark Flanders is enriching and his passion is contagious, leaving the yearn to learn more. Uncle Mark is a Garlambirla Elder and will be sharing stories about bush tucker on his guided Discovery Walks at Festival. Uncle Mark says “the Festival brings people together … whenever you talk with someone, it has the power to change the way people look at country, nature and community.”

Being with Aunty Bea Ballangarry, a Gumbaynggirr Elder, is always such a warming experience. Whether it is story, language, healing or hugging, her colourful and firm disposition always exudes a welcoming gentleness. Aunty Bea’s work involves healing circles from the old ways. When we yarn about how we move forward together she reflects on “what kind of ancestor I want to be; one that shows respect and honours people, to hear their stories and share mine; to walk beside other people; cause it’s not only about me, it’s you and me who make the we, and we make communities.”

Dancing with Steve Donovan not only evokes mother’s earth core within me, it is also a plethora of fun. Steve is a Biripi, Dunghutti and Gumbaynggirr man and his dance workshops connect people with our land and each other. Steve will be at the Festival teaching dance, as well as performing with Gugabarrway Bindarray. The duo create powerful dance pieces about culture and country.

Learning Gumbaynggirr language with Clark Webb keeps my heart alight. Language connects us to country and spirit, and Clark’s tangible enthusiasm to keep this language alive seeps from his every pore. As an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Officer, Clark spends a lot of time with young ones through the successful program he started called Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan (Two Paths Strong). Clark will be sharing his cultural knowledge and passion on our Yarn Stage at the Festival.

These are just some of the amazing people that ignite my passion. I believe if all Australians recognise the immense value of our Aboriginal culture, that this respect within itself is the healing to move forward. We all need to be assessing how we are living with our earth and looking at how old ways can be made meaningful in our modern context. I believe Aboriginal cultural knowledge and the integration of it into our current ways holds the key for a more balanced eco-civilisation. As Yothu Yindi remind us ”We don’t own mother earth, mother earth owns us.”

Jalyay Thompson is the Marketing and Event Coordinator for the Saltwater Freshwater Festival which will be held in Coffs Harbour on 26 January. For more information visit www.saltwaterfreshwaterfestival.com.au