Welcome to his country

Rosemary Sorensen | Bendigo Weekly | 28-Oct-2011 2.05

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BIG DAY OUT: Uncle Brien and Jarrah from Huntly Primary
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THE flat, dry area out past the scrubby Kamarooka forest is, like the entire region, looking good right now.

Last year’s flooding rains, and a kind spring have flushed the landscape with colour, softening the edges with new growth.

It is still tough country. It demands humility, and responds best to those who understand its subtleties.

Out there, hard by the Kamarooka State Park and just off the Elmore-Raywood Road, is  home now to Jaara Jaara Elder Uncle Brien Nelson.

He’s slowing down a little these days, since his retirement from the parks service, but he is still the first and last man called on when the region requires a welcome-to-country dignitary.

He is also, with his wife Jude Perry, embarking on a new and ambitious venture.

Their Neilborough property is now the home of Bunjil Park Aboriginal Education and Cultural Centre.

With the assistance of Museums Victoria, they have turned a shed into a heritage space, where they are cataloguing and displaying Uncle Brien’s collection of artefacts and records, making them available for visitors as part of a program to increase understanding of the Jaara Jaara culture and history in this region.

This week, two busloads of children from Huntly Primary School descended on Bunjil Park, for a day of activities organised by the school’s sustainability teachers, Felicity Nicholls and Wendy Edwards.

About 12 per cent of the school’s students are of Aboriginal origin, so Indigenous education is high on their agenda.

The school has also just been nominated as a finalist in the ResourceSmart Schools Awards, so the day at Bunjil Park was something of a celebration.

While Aboriginal Heritage officer Wayne Webster showed the Huntly students spears, skins, clap-sticks and all the other objects in Uncle Brien’s collection, the Elder himself wandered quietly in the background, fingering centuries-old tools, carefully examining old photographs that show his forebears, listening and watching as a new generation experienced just a little of his past.

Outside under a tree, DHS Centrelink indigenous services officer Sue Allengame showed another group weaving skills.

Nearby, school Koori engagement officer Matt Holmes was firing up the barbie, burning kangaroo snags to a satisfying char.

The snags went down well with the children, not one of whom proved squeamish when it came to sampling one half of the national coat of arms.

“We do a double act,” Jude says of her and Uncle Brien’s plans to develop Bunjil Park.

“He does the cultural stuff and I talk to people about how to engage with indigenous people.

“We have tried to get council involved through Bendigo Tourism but they are not interested, so we decided to give it a go on our own.”

Sue says ventures such as these are sorely needed in Bendigo.

“Realistically, there’s not much representing Jaara Jaara culture, so if Jude and Uncle Brien can make this work, that would be good,” she said.

“There’s heaps to be done, but you can’t get it done if people don’t work together.”

Bunjil Park Aboriginal Education and Cultural Centre is at 170 Hardings Lane, Summerfield: 5436 1060.
Jaara commented on 08-Feb-2012 12:05 PM5 out of 5 stars
I'm amazed at this article considering none of the elders children, grandchildren or great grand children are even allowed access to their grandfather/ elder to gain any of his teachings! There is no engagement with the Aboriginal community or his people
as his PA makes sure of it. The elder has even resigned his participation within the Native Title Group. What Aboriginal Elder or leader withdraws themselves from their own family and community?

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