Western NSW Aboriginal Elders lead new project with environmental and Cultural benefits

KurruPurra Pila Weavers Aunty Jeananne Edwards, Aunty Nolene Nean, Aunty Dot Martin, Aunty Shirley Renayne and Aunty Sandra Kelly at Maranguka Community Hub

Aboriginal Elders from six Western NSW communities are leading a new project that will create wide reaching environmental and Cultural benefits.

Yarning Online OnCountry – Kurru Purra Pila provides a culturally safe place for sharing knowledge and skills – enabling the transference of Cultural Knowledge between Elders and extended family while producing both creative and environmental outcomes.

“This project grew from another,” said Lorina Barker, Director of Taragara Aboriginal Corporation.

“In 2020, Bourke Elders were weaving and yarning during the original Yarning Online OnCountry project. They used raffia and other purchased materials but were keen to work with the broad range of materials that have traditionally been used for weaving – and they were very aware that the Cultural Knowledge around caring for, harvesting, and weaving with those materials could potentially be lost.”

Master weaver and Ngarrindjeri Elder Aunty Ellen Trevorrow joined the Bourke Elders online during the 2020 workshops. 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 for weaving at appropriate times.

The group looked at areas around Bourke where spiny sedge and other grasses were still occurring naturally, and some areas that had been previously revegetated. While vegetation had been hit hard by drought, the plants had survived and were making an environmental difference on the Baaka.

“The Bourke Elders wanted to build on what they had begun during Yarning Online OnCountry, and were keen to facilitate a process that would both preserve Cultural Knowledge and care for Country,” said Dr Barker.

“They reached out to Elders in other Western NSW communities via their kinship networks and, in partnership with Taragara, devised Yarning Online OnCountry: Kurru Purra Pila Weaving.”

Aboriginal Elders and Knowledge Holders, as well as younger people, from Bourke, Brewarrina, Weilmoringle, Enngonia, Goodooga and Wilcannia will contribute to the project that will connect people, the river, the spiny sedge and weaving techniques to the Mura (Songlines) – Baiame, Water Snakes, Seven Sisters along the Baaka Barwon river systems and its tributaries – Ngarntu (Culgoa), Paroo and Warrego Rivers. It includes private and public lands as determined by Aboriginal Elders in consultation with landholders and land managers. Traditional Owners include Ngemba, Barkindji, Wangkumara, Murrawarri and Kunja people.

“This is a Cultural and regeneration project that will pass on oral history – reconnecting with and preserving Cultural Knowledge and skills while also regenerating sites to enable this process,” Dr Barker said.

“Taragara is excited to be able to work alongside ours Elders and we are looking forward to what is ahead!”

‘Yarning Online OnCountry’ has been created in partnership between Community and Taragara Aboriginal Corporation. This project is funded by the NSW Government through Heritage NSW and Western Local Land Services NSW, and by Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife through its Community Conservation Grants program. It is supported by the University of New England.

Special thanks to our Elders, community members, local partners, landholders and land managers for their support of this project.

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