Early in November, Michelle and I were privileged to see our dear friends Dr Wayne (Wonitji) Webb and Stuart Hicks present their wonderful slide show on the Wadandi people’s inhabitation of our magnificent region, ‘3000 Generations & the Next One’, at The Margaret River HEART – Nana Bardip Mia (Our Story House).
The event was organised and sponsored by the Capes Foundation division of Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association.
We were fortunate to have purchased tickets early before the event sold out in the first week. However, for those that missed the event, our wonderful local Margaret River Transition Group organised filming of the event, which will be available on its website in the near future www.transitionaustralia.net
What a magnificent presentation it was; the highlight event of the year for me.
The presentation started with a brief history of Wadandi occupation of the Cape to Cape region, including archeological evidence found in Devil’s Lair Cave which provides evidence of Wadandi occupation from 48,000 years ago. Devil’s Lair is one of Australia’s most important and earliest sites of human occupation and has provided an incredibly rich source of cultural and natural history, including bones of the long extinct Thylacine (Tasmanian Devil).
This was followed by a very personal story of Wayne’s experience of growing up in the region, including many fond childhood memories of growing up by the sea.
We were then presented with an opportunity to look back through deep time, looking both ways – Koodjal Jinnang. With White Man’s perspective, a scientific perspective, presented by Stuart and Wadandi perspective – Koora Koora, a history of deep time remembered through dreamtime stories, presented by Wayne. It was wonderful to hear how some of these Dreamtime stories had been recounted by Wayne to help Marine Scientific Explorations find ancient riverbeds under the sea.
The purpose of the presentation then unfolded with Wayne offering Four Wadandi gifts for the next generation. These were heartfelt and insightful gifts to help all people live together harmoniously in our ancient landscape. Wayne and Stuart illustrated each one with examples of the connections in action, whether in the deep past or the present day. We can’t recommend strongly enough that you watch the presentation when it is available, so you can also receive, reflect and act upon these generous words of wisdom.
One of the stories which absolutely resonated with us was of the Wadandi joint management of the Leeuwin Naturalist National park, and the amazing evidence of the success of Wadandi cultural burning in reducing catastrophic damage in an area of Country near Boranup that had received a cultural cool burn the year before the devastating Margaret River fires of 2011. An incredible aerial image clearly showed how this well managed (cool) burn had completely saved this area from the destruction of the out of control (hot) burn started by DBCA.
The evening then finished with Wayne coaching us all to join in and repeat after him in Wadandi language:
Nitja-be nan-ya Wadandi Boodjara – This is my Saltwater Country
Nitja-be kidjie noonda kallip – This is also your home
Nala jenna-biddi wah, watto Galyarra – We will walk this path together
A very short time after the incredibly disappointing Voice vote results, here was Wayne, one of the few remaining Wadandi elders, sharing his story and some Wadandi history without any mention of the incredible lifestyle they have lost, or of how White Man has done little but destroy the majority of the magnificent ecology that the Wadandi people managed so carefully to enable humans and the extraordinary diversity of plants and animals to flourish together for more than 60,000 years.
But it was so much deeper than this, Wayne wasn’t just sharing stories and culture, he was asking us to help share these stories, to interact, engage and learn how to care for our natural environment and to feel welcome and at home in this magnificent region.
This has had a big impact on me, and I have to say, I feel more at home on Country than ever before.
Thank you so much Wayne and Stuart for making the time to create and share this presentation with our community. And to Wayne, his family, and all of the First Nations people of this Country: thank you for your extraordinary patience and generosity.
I know I can speak on behalf of the Ecovillage in saying, we feel privileged to be living here in this magnificent region with you, and we can’t wait to learn more about managing Country from you.