I first became interested in Aboriginal culture and in Indigenous healing after reading Judy Atkinson’s wonderful book Trauma Trails: Recreating Song Lines – The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia. I developed the educational initiative Sharing Culture which aimed to help Indigenous peoples heal from historical trauma. That website is still accessible, although I haven’t posted on it for some time due to me being so busy with other related activities.
I soon realised that western culture can learn a great deal from Indigenous culture and healing practices. I also learnt the key importance of connecting to culture for the healing of trauma and its consequences (e.g. mental health problems, addiction) amongst Indigenous peoples. I was lucky enough to spend a good deal of time with Marion Kickett, who at the time was a lecturer at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth, and through listening to her I learnt some important aspects of Indigenous culture and history. Marion is now a Professor and Director of the same Centre. She is a Noongar from the Balardong language group and spent the early years of her life on a reserve.
Marion asked my friend Michael (Mike) Liu and I if we would spend a day filming her on country talking about her culture and experiences, and various other related matters. We agreed and spent a day with Marion at various locations in York. It was quite an experience and we were amazed at how Marion kept going on from very early morning until late afternoon. Mike and I were buzzing by the end of the day.
We eventually edited 12 film clips from filming that day, the first of which was posted on YouTube on 25 September 2013. To celebrate the launching of the first of that series of films eight years ago, and to ensure that these films of Marion gain a wider audience, I am posting all 12 on this website over the next three days. The films are still available on the Sharing Culture website.
Marion’s Story is a pathway to facilitating more understanding of Aboriginal life experiences, culture and healing. I will always remain extremely grateful to Marion for the day that Mike and I spent filming her on country.
Marion’s Country & Dreaming: On a beautiful winter morning, Marion stands on Wongborrel hill overlooking York and talks about how her country and Dreaming Stories are an important part of her identity. She often returns to this place to look at the land features and remember and reflect on the Dreaming Stories told to her by her father. Marion feels a strong sense of belonging to York and its surrounds and emphasises, “This is where I belong.” (3’18”)
Connecting to Land: Marion was brought up on a Native Reserve just outside York until she was ten years old. Her grandparents lived there for 50 years. The reserve was eventually closed down and Marion moved into town. When she experienced racism in the past, Marion would come to the reserve and reflect on her past. She returns even now to recharge her batteries. Marion emphasises that her strong connection to this piece of land gives her strength. She has many happy memories of the reserve. (4’38”)
Early School: Her first year of school, aged five, was a real culture shock for Marion, as she had never really interacted with non-Aboriginal people. She entered a very foreign white world and struggled, particularly with not being allowed to use her native Noongar language. Marion had problems with her ears and couldn’t hear properly, resulting in her having to repeat Year 1 for being “a bit slow”. She basically hated school but her mother insisted she attend very day. (4’09”)
Dealing With Racism: Marion experienced racism at school and found this hard. In her first year, she was not allowed to enter a shop because ‘No dogs… or natives’ were allowed. As a result of the racism at school, Marion became a fighter. When she stopped doing this and said, “Yes, I’m black. I’m very proud of it too”, the white children didn’t know how to respond. However, some of her relatives turned against her. She was now not accepted by either white society or Aboriginal society. (9’06”)
Life on the River: Marion describes how the river in York has been the life force for the Noongar community. It has provided drinking water and food (fish, ducks and turtles) – not now – and been a place of recreation. Marion relates how she and the other Noongar children would try to catch djuggies by using a shovel or by the traditional way, covering one’s hand in mud and plunging it into the hole. If they managed to catch a fair-sized djuggie, they would keep it. (2’23”)
Protecting Family: Marion’s grandfather was like the custodian of the Native Reserve. He had successfully managed to keep his family together, although he had once had to go down to Carrolup to ‘retrieve’ one of Marion’s aunties from the mission to which she had been sent. He always resisted government officials and did not trust them. Marion remembers the reserve kids hiding behind her grandfather as he met officials visiting the reserve. She felt his fear and stress at these times. (3’39”)
> Part 2