Reflections from KYC In-service on GunaiKurnai Country

The return to GunaiKurnai country, my Nallung’s country (grandmother) was a sensory journey that transcended the physical landscape. The transition from the urban sprawl to the open roads of the country towns was not merely a change in scenery; it was a shedding of the unwavering load, a sense of liberation that unfolded with every mile. The shift from dense forests to sprawling farmlands, interspersed with old bakeries and vintage signs, painted a picture of a land with stories etched into its very soil. 

Our crew from KYC had the privilege of delving into the heart of GunaiKurnai country, Morwell. During our visit, we engaged in insightful discussions with Nik, the Executive Officer of the Gippsland Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (RAJAC), and Dylan, the LAJAC Project Officer. This experience deepened our understanding of the necessary support in the region and shed light on the impactful initiatives underway, all rooted in an awareness of their effects across the area. 

Amidst the cups of tea, we set out once more, this time headed to Wulgunggo Ngalu Learning Place. The meaning of Wulgunggo Ngalu in GunaiKurnai language, ‘which way together,’ encapsulated the essence of this live-in program. Managed by Uncle Shaun Braybrook, it was a community-driven environment where participants not only fulfilled the requirements of their community correction orders but, more importantly, connected or strengthened their bond with culture. An educational component, encompassing living skills, formed the backbone of this initiative. 

In a yarning circle with the lads, we traversed through the intricate tapestries of each other’s journeys. Their ambitions and hopes for better support systems for young people transformed this space into more than just helping resource; it felt like community, a brotherhood driven by cultural grounding and care. The day concluded with a powerful ceremony: the boys smudging us, cleansing our spirits, and sharing culture through dance. 

 Whether in deep listening or moments of shared laughter, saying goodbye was a poignant experience. The evening found us at sandy beach, wrapping up the day. 

The following morning, we packed our cars and ventured down to Yiruk Wamoom (Wilsons Prom). A sacred place for the Boonwurrung, Bunurong, and Gunaikurnai peoples, it resonated with spirit and history. Here, amid the sand beneath our feet, stories flowed, March flies were swatted away, and the fresh ocean air carried a sense of tranquillity. 

As we returned home, the thought lingered: the magic resides not in the destination but in the journey itself. The echoes of our time on GunaiKurnai country became a part of our own stories, a tapestry woven with threads of connection, understanding, and the shared heartbeat of a land and its people. 

By Drew Paten, Marram Nganyin Project Coordinator

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