29 June 2022

NAIDOC in the North opens doorway to world's oldest living culture

| Dione David
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Colourful woven object

Learn to weave a dilly purse with Angela Pisciotta-Firebrace. Photo: Angela Pisciotta-Firebrace.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and for those looking to better understand the rich culture of our First Nations people, that step may be taken at NAIDOC in the North.

The small but intentional curation of events in Canberra’s northern suburbs offers a window into the world’s oldest living culture.

Signs of it exist in abundance all around us, but many are oblivious to it, says Wiradjuri and Ngunnawal man Tyson Powell.

“Canberrans aren’t aware of some of the really basic things about Aboriginal culture,” he says.

“They don’t know the significance of things around them such as artefacts and scar trees, let alone that they’re living right among them.”

READ ALSO Aboriginal Memorial moves to the heart of the National Gallery

As NAIDOC week approaches, so too does an abundance of opportunities for those keen to bridge this gap and learn about this 60,000-year-old culture.

As Conservation Corridor Aboriginal project officer, Tyson coordinated a program for NAIDOC in the North at the Ginninderry development in association with the Ginninderry Conservation Trust.

He says there’s a growing hunger in the general community to better understand Aboriginal culture.

Aboriginal artefacts and natural objects

Learn about plant uses such as bush tucker and medicine at NAIDOC at Ginninderry. Photo: Gungahlin Arts.

NAIDOC at Ginninderry invites audiences to learn from Dreamtime Connections’ Aaron Chatfield about native plant use in an interactive plant use workshop from noon to 1 pm. This is followed by a bush food cooking demonstration with Yurbay’s Adam Shipp from 1 pm to 3 pm.

Local artist Leah Brideson will also run a drop-in rock painting workshop for the whole family from noon to 3 pm.

Children enjoy arts and crafts

Family fun with the child and family centres. Photo: Belco Arts.

“The most important thing during NAIDOC is for people to get out there, and take advantage of the many opportunities to engage with and educate themselves about Aboriginal culture,” Tyson says.

“For much of the community, that first step might feel a bit awkward, they’re unsure how to connect. These small events such as NAIDOC in the North can be the start of a learning journey.”

NAIDOC in the North also incorporates six events designed to cover a wide range of interests and audiences.

READ ALSO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be overrepresented in justice system

Take part in the dilly purses weaving workshop with Wiradjuri, Yorta Yorta and Kamilaroi artist Angela Jane Pisciotta-Firebrace. Combining natural fibres, coloured raffias and found objects from nature, participants will be guided in the ancient skill of weaving to create their own dilly purse.

Two of Canberra’s finest First Nations performers – Dale Robert Huddleston and emerging Ngunnawal performer Alinta Barlow – will entertain audiences at Cornerstone Pub.

Or take in Life Source, a collection of works by Leah Brideson who refers to her arts practice as “visual yarns”. They focus on the rivers of her Country, Kamilaroi and the land she lives on, Ngunnawal.

Aboriginal artwork

Artwork by Leah Brideson from the Life Source exhibition. Photo: Leah Brideson.

Developed for the youngest explorers, NAIDOC at West Belconnen Child and Family Centre will be a morning of engaging family-friendly activities celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, including crafts, live music and a sausage sizzle.

And Larry Brandy will bring his award-nominated book Wiradjuri Country to life with Wiradjuri Story Time at three northside libraries. Larry involves the children in his performance as they become kangaroos, emus and hunters, and learn about traditional Wiradjuri culture. He will also teach some words in Wiradjuri; sessions will include cultural craft.

NAIDOC in the North is a collaborative effort between Belco Arts’ Gungahlin Arts Program, ACT Child and Family Centres, Libraries ACT, Capital Region Community Service, Ginninderry and ACT Education Directorate.

Larry Brandy wraps an animal skin around a young boy.

Wiradjuri author Larry Brandy will delight children with interactive storytelling. Photo: Larry Brandy.

Belco Arts Gungahlin programs officer Michele Grimston says the event has a dual purpose – to create a platform for North Canberran Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share their work with the local community and to provide audiences with the opportunity to learn from First Nations people about this “incredibly rich culture”.

“We want to do both of those things in a way that’s joyful and about community connections and bringing people together,” she says.

For more information visit Belco Arts

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