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Cultural walks in recognition of National Reconciliation Week

HKA’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) group in Oceania organised cultural walking tours for colleagues in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. The walks were to recognise National Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week, as well as increase our awareness and understanding of the connections that First Nations peoples have with the land, sky and sea.

Colleagues from Sydney participated in a leisurely walkabout around The Rocks, led by Aunty Margret of Dreamtime Southern X. The walk uncovered the authentic history of the Aboriginal people’s saltwater heritage within Sydney Harbour, their land and water use, and their spiritual connection to the adjoining waterways and foreshores. Overall, it was a perfect introduction to the living Aboriginal Dreamtime cultural heritage of Sydney’s natural landscape and seasons.

“We received a thought-provoking explanation of a number of the very many issues of indigenous culture that are not understood, leading to incorrect stereotyping. Aunty Margret provided a lovely mixture of a serious message delivered with some cheeky fun. She is a heartfelt ambassador that has an endearing way of getting her message across. My perceptions of snow and of whales are forever changed!” – David Hardiman, Partner

Colleagues from Queensland went on a walking tour of the Botanic Gardens to gain an appreciation of Brisbane’s indigenous and post-colonisation history. The team learnt about the cultural importance of the Bunya pine tree, the origins of “Boundary Road”, which was historically used to separate the Aboriginal locals from European settlers. They also heard the incredible story of British sailor James Morrill who the Birri Gubba people saved after his boat was shipwrecked off the north coast of Queensland. James Morrill went on to live with the tribe for 17 years before rejoining European settlement and acting as a diplomat.

“I’m grateful for Auntie Margret, who has deepened my appreciation of this beautiful ancient culture with its deep and meaningful connection to the land and all forms of life it contains. I must keep this elevated awareness with me in the next 51 weeks of the year.” Kourosh Kayvani, Partner

Colleagues from Melbourne participated in a cultural walk during NAIDOC week, hosted by the Koorie Heritage Trust. The walk provided great insights on the five groups comprising the Kulin Nation, particularly the Woi Wurrong people. Their guide Sam, and fellow Koorie Heritage Trust representatives Lucas and Terry, explained the individual character and common threads between the five languages. These common threads kept people united and the culture alive when children were removed from country and family ties severed. The team was intrigued by the engineering and design features of weapons and aids to daily life. It was lovely to walk down to the Yarra River to appreciate the traditional meeting place beside the river through sculpture, art and story that is shared today.

Some things we learnt about the Kulin Nation included:

  • Personal identity is captured in the designs on the skins of an individual’s possum fur cloak. New furs were added to the cloak year-on-year, decorated with highlights from the person’s life – both good and bad
  • Artwork is represented with geometric shapes and outlined circles
  • The clapping sticks are the ceremonial instrument, and the digeridoo was not used in these parts
  • Welcome to Country means “welcome with purpose”. You can go onto a group’s country with permission and use the land only for the purpose agreed.
  • The re-routing of the Yarra River combined fresh and saltwater and ‘turned it upside down’ – making it turbid (cloudy). The river ecology is slowly returning with sightings of eels and saltwater fish.

“I was really inspired to hear our young host explain her heritage and the languages and culture representing the Kulin Nation. She shared some powerful truths about the settlement of Melbourne which prompted deep discussion on impacts to personal and community identity. The sculptures along the riverbank to Birrarung Marr are incredible and it’s great to now know a little bit more about these works.” Nicolette Cumbo, Lead Consultant

The walks were a great team-building experience and opened our eyes to the 40,000+ year heritage and knowledge that the First Nations people have kept alive and passed down through generations.

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