WALGA recently presented an Aboriginal Forum ‘Doyntj Doyntj – Come Together’ and Natural Area sent a couple of staff to attend. Welcome to Country was given by Dr Richard Walley OAM who is a Nyungar man, and one of Australia’s leading Aboriginal performers, musicians and writers, he has been a campaigner for the Indigenous cause for many years.
The morning keynote session was hosted by the Danjoo Koorliny Elders – Dr Richard Walley, Prof Emer Colleen Hayward, Carol Innes and Ezra Jacobs-Smith. Danjoo Koorliny Walking Together Towards 2029 and Beyond is a long-term, large-scale, Aboriginal-led systems change project to help all of us – in Western Australia, the rest of Australia, and around the world – walk together as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to co-create a better future for all. It was obvious how passionate the Elders were about this project and there was a positive reception from the audience with an interactive Q&A session.
Check this video for more info on Danjoo Koorliny.
After morning tea there were four presentations covering a range of topics.
- Aboriginal Employment and Traineeship Programs presented by Noel Mason, Chief Executive Officer, Shire of Halls Creek. The Shire, together with local Indigenous Communities are leading Western Australia’s first Justice Reinvestment Site, Olabud Doogethu: Smart Justice in the Heart of the Kimberley. Noel outlined Olabud Doogethu which is an Aboriginal community designed place-based solution to reduce incarceration and provide better outcomes for the young people of Halls Creek and surrounding communities.
- Walyalup – What’s in a Name, presented by Brendan Moore, Aboriginal Engagement Officer, City of Fremantle and Russell Kingdom, Manager City Design and Projects, City of Fremantle. Brendan and Russel outlined the process it took to rename Kings Square in Fremantle to Walyalup Koort. In May 2021, the City voted to change the name of Kings Square to Walyalup Koort – a Whadjuk Nyoongar name meaning ‘Heart of Fremantle’ after an extensive community engagement process. The Minister for Lands gave Geographic Naming Approval to rename all of Kings Square to Walyalup Koort. The naming proposal was considered appropriate and the origin of the Whadjuk Nyoongar name has been recorded by Landgate as: Walyalup Koort – Walyalup (Wal-ya-lup) being the name for the Fremantle area and Koort (koo-rt) being the word for heart.
- Let’s Talk About Racism, presented by Leanne Woods, First Nations Engagement Advisor, City of Melville, Barbara Freeman, Family and Community Development Manager, City of Cockburn and Marlee Kickett, Aboriginal Community Development Officer, City of Cockburn. This program, involving Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff from the neighboring cities of Cockburn and Melville tackles racism head on, its impacts, causes and solutions. The workshop series aligns with each city’s commitment to its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
- Truth Telling at Lock Hospital Memorial, presented by Deb Wilkins, Lock Hospital Working Group and Jade Pervan, Shire of Shark Bay. This was a truth-telling session of a decade’s worth of mistreatment of hundreds of Aboriginal men and women who were imprisoned on Bernier and Dorre Islands off the coast of north-west Australia because authorities suspected they had venereal diseases. The story is about remembering those who suffered, acknowledging what happened and what impact this has had on the loss of Aboriginal culture.
There were several concurrent sessions after lunch, and we opted for the one we could relate to the best – Aboriginal Landcare and Thriving Culture.
- Wadandi landcare practices and fire management presented by Wayne Webb, Wadandi Elder, Undalup Association. The Undalup Association Inc. embraces the Aboriginal culture. They believe that the shared ownership of events and projects will lead to a more reconciled and respectful future giving us all a sense of belonging and drawing everyone into the culture, spirit and history of the area.
- Protecting the Dukes Dunes – a practical partnership in coastal management and cultural heritage in the Shire of Esperance presented by Mathew Walker, Director Asset Management, Shire of Esperance. The Duke of Orleans Bay Regional Park has experienced increased degradation from high levels of recreational use and unauthorized access. The project, led by the Sire of Esperance engaged with traditional owners and included on-ground restoration actions and education initiatives aimed to promote environmentally responsible public behaviour.
- Aboriginal Tourism Academy: a business mentoring opportunity for Local Governments, presented by Robert Taylor, Chief Executive Officer, WAITOC and Tijah Colleran, Economic Development Officer, City of Perth. The City of Perth supports the Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (WAITOC) with sponsorship to help support their Aboriginal Tourism Academy and provide further Aboriginal tourism experiences that locals and visitors’ desire. The Academy is a business mentoring program, that assists Aboriginal-owned businesses in gaining advice from a tourism expert. The Academy has helped business like Kaarak Dreaming and Goolamwiin amongst many others.
- Gathering Noongar water knowledge for the urban Djarlgarro Beeliar catchment, presented by Gail Barrow, Sharon Wood-Kenney & Cristina Ramalho, Research Officers, UWA. The Swan (Derbarl Yerrigan) and Canning (Djarlgarro Beeliar) Rivers, their tributaries and the many wetlands that cover the Swan Coastal Plain are a fundamental biophysical component of the Perth’s environment and have an immense cultural value and meaning. Noongar Knowledge can guide the planning and management of this environment, and provide a holistic foundation to the spatially partitioned, administrative boundary-based approach in which lands and waters are often locally and regionally managed.
Noongar knowledge has been gathered over the decades in the scope of multiple studies but is scattered across organisations and not easily accessible. This project aims to:
- Gather & map Noongar water knowledge for a study area in the catchment of the Canning River.
- Understand how such knowledge can be made available, in a culturally appropriate way, to guide land use and water planning in Perth.
The forum concluded with closing addresses by Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians and Hon John Carey MLA, Minister for Housing; Local Government.
The Forum presented a wide range of topics relating to Indigenous culture, history, land, community and business. The truth telling session of Aboriginal history was confronting but the future of Aboriginal knowledge – caring for country, businesses and employment is bright with the programs and projects that are underway and currently being planned. At Natural Area we hope to integrate more of local Aboriginal knowledge into our daily work practices and on-ground environmental management.