People. Culture. Country.

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.”

By Jalyay Thompson

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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