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October 23, 2021

Aboriginal elders share their stories

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Bundjalung elder Mickey Ryan with the Elders Spinning Yarns book.

Darren Coyne

Some stories are worth sharing; for now and the future.

In a project organised by the North Coast Institute of TAFE, 21 Aboriginal elders from throughout the Bundjalung nation were brought together over a 20-week period to share stories of their life, culture and history.

At a ceremony at the Wollongbar campus yesterday, they saw the result of their effort for the first time, in a book called Elders Spinning Yarns, which will now be shared with local schools and libraries.

Bundjalung elder Mickey Ryan of North Lismore told Echonetdaily how he had been proud to share memories about the river in Lismore, and how Aboriginal people depended on it for food in the lean times.

He was delighted to open the book for the first time to find not only his story, but also photographs of his mother, his grandmother, and great-grandmother.

‘Old Topsy Brown was my great-gran’s mother, and she was connected to that area (North Lismore plateau, which is now subject to major development plans).

No book launch is complete without a welcome to country and a smoking ceremony.
No book launch is complete without a welcome to country and a smoking ceremony.

Midginbil elder Athol Compton, a representative of the Tweed-Byron Aboriginal Land Council, shared a love story for the project.

‘I love sharing stories and often go to schools. I chose this love story because it was one I liked as a child,’ he said.

Other elders from Tweed, Lismore, Casino and Coraki attended yesterday’s launch, which began with a welcome to country by Auntie Dorrie Roberts, a smoking ceremony, and songs led by Burrel Jakamarra Didge and Robert Corowa.

Burrel shared a song sung in ancient times when the bunya nuts were formed.

The song, he said, would travel on the wind and neighbouring tribes would begin gathering their own local produce and come together for a feast.

The nuts, and the song, would be taken back to other tribal areas for those unable to make the journey.

Likewise, Aunty Marie Delbridge of Lismore said the stories in the book would be shared widely.

‘This is great. It’s the first time that something like this has happened and now we want to share more of our life stories,’ she said.

Editor Dale Roberts said the project had started a year ago with groups meeting in Kingscliff and Lismore.

‘At the end of it we had just four weeks to finish it but it came together, and if the elders are happy, I’m happy,’ she said.

TAFE’s Aboriginal vocational initiatives consultant Sharon Taylor said the initiative would enhance sharing, connect families and the community.

‘There were a number of anticipated outcomes from this project that will benefit the community, such as the documentation of Indigenous history for local and educational purposes, establishing connections with relevant community groups, and very importantly pass down cultural history to younger generations,’ she said.

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  1. What a wonderful project. Such rich tradition and important knowledge needs to be both acknowledged and preserved for younger generations. Every now and then something truly wonderful happens; this is one of those occasions.

  2. What a great project! I would love to purchase a copy of this book. I no longer live in Brunswick Heads, but feel very connected to the area and would greatly enjoy reading this history!

  3. Where can I get a copy of the book – I live in Victoria – I tell my children about our family – so I would love for them to read more about it. (and so would I.)


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