Connecting to country

AN immersion into various aspects of Aboriginal culture was prominent during celebrations to mark the conclusion of a project to reverse the declining health of the Avoca Marshes.

Ten thousand native trees have been planted in the Marshes since the 2016 floods in a partnership between the Barapa Barapa traditional custodians, the North Central Catchment Management Authority and other agencies.

Authority project manager, Amy Russell said that about 20 people were involved in the project, with guidance from Barapa Barapa wetlands ecologist consultant, Damien Cook.

Ms Russell said some trees had already grown to 1.5 metres in height. "The red gums have really taken off," she said.

Celebrations at the former Koorangie wildlife station site opened with a welcome to country extended by Uncle Ron Galway and a smoking ceremony led by Dixie Patten with accompaniment by Uncle Ron Murray, who later told a series of Dreamtime stories to an engrossed audience.

Mr Patten explained that the smoking ceremony was more than symbolic.

"It's spiritually significant and our way of welcoming you onto our country," he said.

"There's also a responsibility for those taking part to also care for country."

Mr Patten also demonstrated using rock implements to crush ochre to paint onto the chests and faces of three Aboriginal dancers.

He also made a club from a tree branch with a mistletoe and children were invited to paint boomerangs.

Mr Patten said that the project enabled Barapa Barapa people to reconnect to country and their culture.

"On country, we also connected with each other," he said.

"The traditional elders cared for country and it's up to us to do the same. I hope my great great grandchildren will see the trees grown up and wildlife back with a better water regime."

GROWTH. Project manager Amy Russell, left, Uncle Ron Galway, Dixie Patten, Rochelle Patten, Daniel Patten and catchment restoration officer Chris McGrath.

GROWTH. Project manager Amy Russell, left, Uncle Ron Galway, Dixie Patten, Rochelle Patten, Daniel Patten and catchment restoration officer Chris McGrath.

TRADITIONAL. Grinding ochre paste for a ceremonial tribal dance.

TRADITIONAL. Grinding ochre paste for a ceremonial tribal dance.

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