Elders to develop new project with environmental and cultural benefits, Yarning Online OnCountry

Bourke Aboriginal Elders who have been weaving during the Yarning Online OnCountry project, are keen to explore strategies to ensure culturally and environmentally significant native vegetation remnants are preserved, and that other Country is revegetated.

“Spiny sedge is one native plant that has both environmental and cultural benefits,” said Lorina Barker, Taragara Aboriginal Corporation Director. “The sedge has traditionally been harvested for weaving. However, the Cultural Knowledge around managing and harvesting the sedge, as well as the sedge itself, has declined since colonisation.”

The Yarning Online OnCountry project began in August. Since then, Elders and Community who have a shared history and experience, have been gathering weekly in small, socially distanced groups in Bourke – and via zoom.

Participants have been weaving with raffia and other purchased materials. At the same time, Elders have described the broad range of materials that can be used for weaving – and have traditionally been used.

With support from Local Lands Services Western NSW, the group investigated areas at North Bourke that have been previously revegetated with spiny sedge. While plantings had been hit hard by drought, plants have survived and are making an environmental difference on the Baaka.

“In addition to the obvious environmental benefits of revegetation, we recognise significant cultural benefits,” Dr Barker said. “This was reinforced when we yarned with Aunty Ellen Trevorrow during our workshops.”

Master weaver and Ngarrindjeri Elder Aunty Ellen Trevorrow joined the Bourke Elders Online OnCountry from Ngarrindjeri Country at Camp Coorong, South Australia. She described how she had developed partnerships with landholders to ensure some areas of native spiny sedge remained excluded from grazing – and that she had access to harvest the grasses at appropriate times.

“The Yarning Online OnCountry creative workshops aimed to improve Elders’ health and wellbeing by minimizing the impacts of social isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions. They have provided a culturally safe place for sharing knowledge, stories and skills – enabling the transference of cultural knowledge between Elders and extended family,” said Dr Barker. “This series of workshops are ending. But we are very excited that, not only will the Elders continue to meet and weave, but that the workshops have been the catalyst for future projects that will have wide-reaching environmental and cultural benefits.”

“With Aunty Ellen’s advice, and the support of LLS, we hope to pursue opportunities to preserve existing areas of native vegetation around Bourke – and revegetate other areas.”

‘Yarning Online OnCountry’ has been created in partnership between Community and Taragara Aboriginal Corporation. This project is funded by the NSW Government through Create NSW and Western Local Land Services NSW. It is supported by the University of New England.

Special thanks to local partners Maranguka Community Hub, Bourke Aboriginal Health Service and Morralls Bakery for their support of this project.

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