Marissa Verma explaining to CJ staff the many uses of the wattle tree
CJ staff had a wonderful time being shown significant sites for Noongar people by Marissa Verma and her Bindi Bindi Dreaming team. Marissa organised a fun and informative day for CJ staff to immerse ourselves in Noongar culture. We were encouraged to make the connection to country by way of visiting significant sites and using our senses of sight, touch, smell and hearing. At each site we practiced rituals and learnt about sense of place for Noongar people.
We bussed to our first place of cultural significance, The Yagan Memorial Park, ‘a unique place that has been created to commemorate the life, death and spirit of the great Nyoongar leader and warrior, Yagan (c. 1795 – 11 July 1833).’ A site that is maintained and looked after by the City of Swan. The memorial includes an amazing garden, designed around the Noongar six seasons and showcases many varieties of plants that can be used for food and medicinal purposes. The site also features artwork by local Aboriginal artists, sharing the story of Yagan. Before we left, Marissa’s team served delicious wattle seed cake and damper for morning tea.
The next stop was Walyunga National Park . The Avon River looked majestic as Marissa showed the staff how to acknowledge traditional owners and the importance of the water way. She explained that when we visit a site, we need to say hello and goodbye and practise our rituals to let the spirits know we are there to respect and look after the country, rather than destroy or disturb it. We rubbed a little dirt in our hands, threw it into the water and said, ‘boorda,’ meaning ‘see you again soon’. This part of the river is special as it’s where the Avon River called Golgugar meets the Swan River known as Beeliya. These rivers are very important and go back to the Noongar stories of creation of the waterways by the Waugal.
We also walked through the bush with Marissa who pointed out significant places and plants for Noongar people, such as the bush surrounding the river where there is an ancient garden. The garden was designed by Noongars, so as each time they came through the garden it would be flourished with food. The place is registered and protected by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and can only be visited with permission by the department and accompanied by a local Aboriginal member.
We finished our time at this beautiful, peaceful place with a tasty lunch of chicken, kangaroo and salads. All of the foods were infused with traditional fruits, herbs and spices such as bush tomato, native pepperberry and lemon myrtle. The Bindi Bindi team also included samphire plant in our salad that was spotted growing by the riverside. Bush tucker at its freshest!
Our final visit was to Success Hill to hear Nan May McGuire and Peter Phillips, Noongar Elders, tell us about the significance of the place and surrounding area as many Noongars lived within the area and utilised the river. With the sun streaming through the trees, we sat or stood around Nan as she told us about her childhood, being with her loving family in the bush and how her and her siblings had to run from the authorities, so they wouldn’t be taken from their family. Nan and Peter, also told us about their experiences as older children, living in New Norcia in the orphanage, and when asked how they felt about being taken by the authorities, Nan said, with a heavy heart, ‘Our mothers loved us…’
Nan talked about the changes for Noongar people with the arrival of the ‘tall ships,’ but she also chatted about her grandchildren and great grandchildren. We loved hearing about her twelve year old great grandson whose nickname is Mr Hollywood because of his desire to be a filmmaker.
Overall, we all enjoyed Marissa’s passionate stories about the Noongar culture and the importance of the natural world for its people. We came away with an appreciation of Noongar culture and the area where we teach and where many of our students hail from.
The Bindi Bindi Team, elders Nan May and Peter Phillips and CJ staff at Success Hill
53 Reid St Bassendean 6054 WA
P: (08) 9379 5122
F: (08) 9379 5111