Retired La Trobe University lecturer of sociology and indigenous history Gerald Gill has spoken about his unique relationship with Dja Dja Wurrung elder Uncle Brien Nelson, as part of Reconciliation Week.
“Uncle Brien has made an extraordinary lifelong contribution to the recognition of indigenous culture and reconciliation,” Mr Gill said.
Mr Gill said Uncle Brien was an elder who stepped close to people when he welcomed them.
“He was always generous with his time and with sharing his knowledge of his people and their land,” he said.
Such was his commitment that he was recognised as an Honorary Associate of La Trobe University in 2009.
Uncle Brien worked closely with Mr Gill on a number of documentary films and research projects.
One of the films shown at the LAI was a welcome to country.
“Uncle Brien was often busy as he would participate in many cultural events where he was asked to give a welcome to country,” Mr Gill said.
“After a time we realised he was becoming ill. In fact he is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
“In order to save his energy, we made this film with Uncle Brien talking about country and performing a welcome ceremony.”
Another film focused on the remarkable stones of Mount Barker.
Working together and within a larger team, the two men surveyed the land, rich with indigenous scar trees, wells, an oven and a serpent-shaped rock formation.
According to local culture, the serpent was called Mindi and he enforced the lore of the land.
The work of both Uncle Brien and Mr Gill was significant in ensuring that the Mount Barker land was returned to the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.
Eight sites on the property are listed on Victoria’s Aboriginal Heritage Register.