The Central Tilba community celebrated NAIDOC Week on Saturday, July 8 with an art exhibition in the Small Hall at Central Tilba, an open day at nearby Bellbrook Farm and an evening ceremony at the Open Sanctuary, Tilba Tilba.
The exhibition featured display of historical information about the Yuin people and culture, art by Yuin artists Cheryl Davison and Bronwen Smith and by students from Central Tilba Primary School and Little Yuin pre-school.
The Yuin children produced two works, each consisting of hand imprints on ochre, one in red and one in black. The primary school children produced drawings of Australian native animals, and in keeping with the “Our Languages Matter” theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week, Cheryl Davison captioned them with Dhurga language names.
Dhurga is the first language of the NSW South Coast from Wandandean to Braidwood to Wallaga Lake.
Gulaga National Park Board of Management chairperson Iris White, conducted the Welcome to Country and formally opened the exhibition.
She paid tribute to the way Aboriginal and nonAboriginal members of the community had joined in organising the celebrations, and said she hoped this would be the start of a continuing conversation in which the focus would be on what people had in common and not on their differences.
Ms White also thanked the Tilba CWA branch for making refreshments available at their regular pop-up morning tea and for their donation of $25 to help fund the NAIDOC events.
Four generations of the pioneering Dibden family were present: Mal Dibden, his daughter Julie, granddaughter Elle Reeves and great-grandchildren Pepper and Bayley Reeves. Another of Mal’s granddaughters, Shay Zimmerle, was also there, visiting from Perth where she is studying molecular genetics at Curtin University.
Later at Bellbrook, Iris White presented a message stick to David Oliphant in recognition of his previous ownership of Bellbrook Farm, now the property of the registered Aboriginal owners and meeting place of the Gulaga National Park Board of Management.
Land, so long a source of division between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, became in the course of the day subtly transformed into something symbolic of place and stories shared.
Ms White set the tone for this, emphasising what she saw as the importance of focusing on the things that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people have in common, an ideal she said she impressed upon her children and grandchildren.
Her presentation to David Oliphant gave tangible expression to this ideal. She thanked him for his care of country and acknowledged that non-Aboriginal people also have an attachment to this land.
She also presented a message stick to Mal Dibden in recognition of his work as a member of the Gulaga National Park Board of Management and his long service in the interests of the Yuin people.
Mr Dibden said in reply that seven generations of his family had lived in the Tilba district and had always striven to have good relations with the Yuin people.
Cathie Muller, Stuart Absalom, Lynette Goodwin and Cheryl Davison each received a message stick in recognition of their work in bringing together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to organise the NAIDOC Week celebrations.
At Open Sanctuary, Rev Linda Chapman presided over a gathering in which Yuin artist and storyteller Cheryl Davison shared part of the Yuin creation story.
This was followed by a video of Archie Roach and Sara Storer performing “From Little Things Big Things Grow”, the Paul Kelly anthem about the symbolic handing back of the land to Vincent Lingiari by the then Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, in 1975.
The image of Whitlam pouring a handful of soil into Lingiari’s hands at Daguragu in the Northern Territory has been immortalised in a photograph taken by Mervyn Bishop, an Aboriginal man who was a Sydney Morning Herald photographer at the time.
In keeping with the ideal of a land shared, Ms White spoke at Open Sanctuary of her childhood at Wallaga Lake and how, on long walks with her grandfather from Wallaga Lake to Tilba Tilba, she would see this little old church on the hill. But it was not until last Saturday evening that she had ever been inside.