West Pilbara Visit
Updated: Jun 10, 2021
The Danjoo Koorliny Walking Together team has visited the West Pilbara at the invitation of the Pilbara Aboriginal Voice (PAV) to meet and build further relationships with local Aboriginal Elders and leaders, as well as with non-Aboriginal leaders.
To our knowledge, this is the first time such a trip has occurred.
Two workshops were held, one in Roebourne called Wagagu Guma, and one in Port Hedland called Wakaku Julu (both local translations of ‘walking together’). These workshops focussed on how we can better move forward together as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people towards 2029 (200 years of colonisation in Western Australia) and beyond.
In between these workshops, the Danjoo Koorliny team visited places of significance with local Elders and leaders.
The invited Danjoo Koorliny team who flew from Perth included Dr Noel Nannup, Dr Richard Walley, Carol Innes, Oral McGuire, Barry McGuire, Robyn Smith-Walley, Jason Barrow, Ali Nannup, Ezra Jacobs-Smith, Danielle (Wella) Thurlow, John Stubley, Katie Stubley and Shenali Perera.
They were greeted in Karratha by trip organiser and PAV Co-chair Margaret (Sissy) Ramirez, together with Town of Port Hedland council member Tim Turner.
After dropping their bags off at the accommodation, the group were shown around Dampier where they watched the sun set over the islands while discussing the following day’s workshop in Roebourne.
The Wagagu Guma Walking Together workshop in Roebourne began with a welcome from Yindjibarndi Elder Tootsie Daniels who was given permission by Ngarluma Elders to perform the welcome on this day.
Noel then spoke about the Danjoo Koorliny story, the Danjoo Koorliny Social Impact Festival, and the importance of it being an Aboriginal-led project, as well as family connections to Yindjibarndi country. Carol Innes spoke about the need for one voice. Richard emphasised that Danjoo Koorliny was also a platform for Aboriginal people from around the state to speak directly with leaders from government, business and not-for profits who have their headquarters in Perth.
Tootsie was then joined by PAV Co-chair Danny Brown. Tootsie said that we should not be afraid of changing, while Danny made it clear that social impact is for everybody.
These seven pics: Ngaarda Media
Oral McGuire presented on cultural frameworks underpinning his caring for country work, while senior Ngarluma Elders Violet Sampson and Pansy Hicks, and Yindjibarndi Elder Wendy Hewitt also greeted all those present.
Other local leaders, including Latoya Geary, Janice (Blondie) Ramirez and Bernie Ryder spoke of the importance of education in creating positive change.
Other attendees also spoke about their work with the Department of Justice, the Department of Transport and other government agencies.
Roebourne event scribing by Danielle Thurlow and Shenali Perera. Please don't share outside of this context.
Following the workshop, the group travelled to Murujuga National Park and Hearson’s Cove with guide Vince Derschow to look at the local rock art and surrounds before again returning to Dampier to watch the sun set.
These pics: Ngaarda Media
The next day, the group travelled on back roads via the Harding Dam to Millstream National Park, where Noel had worked as a park ranger in the 1980s. Noel spoke about his family connections to the area, and took his daughter Ali to several sites of significance.
These pics: Ngaarda Media
The group had lunch in the campground kitchen, then visited a section of the Fitzgerald River with Vince and his nephew Elijah and daughter Lily. Around a thousand white cockatoos visited at the same time.
That night, the travelling party sat in the courtyard of their accommodation and watched, on a TV through the open door and window of a single room, the Fremantle Dockers take home a two-1point win, much to the joy of their patron Richard Walley.
The following day the group left their accommodation in Karratha and travelled to Port Hedland via the Yindjibarndi Cultural Centre in Roebourne, where they were shown by Hayden Woodley the digital archiving of stories and artwork related to country, as well as of family groups.
In Whimm Creek there was a stop to pay respects at a monument to five brothers of the Lockyer family who served Australia during World Wars I and II.
At Yule River we were greeted by community Elders, leaders and community members Winnie Gray, Jan Taylor, Teena Taylor, Doris Eaton, Doris Thomas, Rhonda Mitchell, PAV Co-chairs Danny Brown and Linda Doogiebee-Dridi, Kevin Geary Jnr, Kieren Geary, Aiden Perry, Rodney Monaghan and Tracey Monaghan. The Elders and other hosts kindly cooked damper and kangaroo tail. The Elders and leaders spoke about the significance of Yule River and its annual meeting where local leaders can speak directly to senior leaders in government.
These pics: Ngaarda Media
Family connections to the area were also discussed by the Danjoo Koorliny team, who were then invited by local Elders and leaders to the next Yule River meeting in July.
Following lunch, the group visited a plaque commemorating the 1946 strikes in which around 800 Aboriginal pastoral workers from 27 stations walked off the job for better pay and conditions.
In Port Hedland, the group travelled to the ocean to introduce themselves, before watching the sunset over the water.
A dinner was then held with local Aboriginal Elders and leaders, as well with non-Aboriginal leaders including Port Hedland Mayor Peter Carter. Clontarf Foundation presented on work happening in Port Hedland.
The dinner was also an opportunity to celebrate Carol's birthday.
The Wakaku Julu Walking Together workshop took place the next day at the Hedland Hotel, with around 50 Aboriginal Elders and leaders, together with non-Aboriginal leaders.
These pics: Ngaarda Media
Gloria Ann Lockyer provided a welcome on behalf of the Karriyarra people, while Danny and Linda welcomed participants on behalf of PAV.
Noel then acknowledged and gave thanks to those who’ve come before us, and introduced the rest of the team including their Western qualifications and their family lines. He also spoke about a non-religious understanding of the word ‘faith’ as being “the assurance of things you hope for, and the conviction of the things you cannot see”.
Carol spoke about the need to come together as one, and offered reflections on the trip so far. She also spoke about family connections and some of her previous work, including journeys in the Pilbara. She said, “spirit and connection is what is going to make us strong to come together, to walk together, for our voice.”
Richard invited attendees to reflect on and discuss with one another the ideas of tradition, culture and heritage. He then spoke about how these concepts appear during such occasions as Christmas. He also asked participants to reflect and discuss with each other the ideas of colonisation and decolonisation. He then followed with his own reflections: “Colonisation is business.”
Various panels and discussions with attendees also took place, featuring the Danjoo Koorliny team alongside local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal leaders, including representatives from the Town of Port Hedland, WA Police, the Department of Justice, the Department of Communities, the Department of Education, PAV, Follow the Dream Polly Farmer Foundation, Royal Life Saving and others.
At the conclusion of the workshop PAV presented certificates of thanks as well as a bundle of sticks to each of those who’d travelled from Perth. The bundle of sticks represents the PAV logo, and the fact that one stick together can be broken, but that “together we are stronger.”
Port Hedland event scribing by Danielle Thurlow and Shenali Perera. Please don't share outside of this context.
Following the workshop there was time enough for a late lunch before the visitors boarded the plane and headed back to the colder weather of Perth, just as the sun set and the moon rose.
It was great to be met at the airport by Prof Colleen Hayward, who was unable to attend the trip.
Danjoo Koorliny would again like to thank all the Elders for having us on their country during this West Pilbara visit. More visits are hoped for in the future, and invitations have been extended for people to attend the next Danjoo Koorliny Festival in Perth in October.
The trip was sponsored by Danjoo Koorliny key partner Commonland, together with Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation, the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi Foundation, Karlka Nyiyaparli Aboriginal Corporation, Nyamal Aboriginal Corporation, Royal Life Saving Western Australia and IBN.
Once again, a very big thanks to Sissy Ramirez for all her amazing organising, which also included support from Wella Thurlow, Blondie Ramirez, Tim Turner, Danny Brown and others.