The Untap Your History campaign (May 27 – July 15 2018) marked National Reconciliation Week and National NAIDOC week 2018, celebrating the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made, and continue to make to our families, communities, history and to our nation.
- What do you know about your own family history?
- How do you honour your family and ancestral stories?
- Do you have an item of significance that connects you to your culture and memories of the past?
- We can learn so much from the strength, resilience and bonds between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their connections to their ancestral stories, culture and country. How do we acknowledge and heal our shared history as a colonised nation?
Through the release of the ‘Untap Your History’ video in collaboration with Richmond Football Club featuring Damien Hardwick and Daniel Rioli on May 27, Culture is Life invites all Australians to take part in this online social media campaign by sharing a photo of yourself with an item that connects you to your family and ancestral stories by sharing on your socials and tagging @cultureislife #untapyourhistory #cultureislife #NRW2018
I was born in Byron Bay; my mother was born in Perth and my father is from the Maluku Islands.
The Maluku Islands are also known as the Spice Islands. The clove, which is the aromatic flower bud of the evergreen clove tree, is native to my ancestral islands. Cloves are commonly used for cooking and medicinal purposes. Cloves also have historical significance, being one of the main reasons the Islands were first colonised by the Dutch. When I hold these cloves in my hands, I feel the connection to my ancestors.’
The smell of dried cloves brings me back to our family home where I learnt about my ancestral history. Dad uses cloves in many of his recipes, their distinct smell and taste able to transport us all to another world. The clove is a reminder of where my family have come from, and of my identity through our ancestral home.
I believe acknowledgment and healing can be achieved through the act of all Australians taking the time and effort to learn our country’s history from an Aboriginal perspective. Sharing and learning each other’s cultures is a vital part of the process.
Seala Lokollo-Evans, Melbourne VIC #untapyourhistory #cultureislife
I am of Yorta Yorta woka (country) with bloodlines to many other mobs. I was raised in the small town of Mooroopna on Yorta Yorta country , a sleepy town by Kaiela (meaning Father water, the Goulburn river near Shepparton). The country is rich in wetlands with biyadirra (long neck turtles) countless amazing djunda (birds), majestic biyala nurtja (redgum forests), sacred sandhills, and beautiful cultural sites all across the land. When I wear this headdress I am reminded of how I am infused with all of those things.
It makes me consider myself extremely lucky. Not all Indigenous people have had the chance to connect to country and culture as I have. I feel incredibly blessed to have grown up on land where my roots of connection are thousands upon thousands of years deep.
My mother has always been a gatherer and creator. From gathering medicines from Country to creating magic from little, she has always epitomised to me what it means to carry the essence of culture. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to say this headdress was created by her.
When I wear this it reinforces to me how I carry the spirit of her and my ancestors with me through the essence of country that is within her and all that she creates whether that’s tangible objects or the love she provides.
In being a Yorta Yorta yiyirr (man), I am a descendent of a people who are strong and courageous. So many amazing tales of warriors I live with in my spirit, from pre colonial to more recent such as my great grandmother Nora Nicholls whom was the last woman to deliver babies on cummeragunja mission before our people walked off and departed for the Shepparton area in the 1930s.
I count my blessings and see everyday as my chance to rewrite a better garra (now ) and muniak (future) for this land and societies living upon it in the best way I can. Just as so many other amazing Indigenous people are doing in this beautiful sacred land right now.
Neil Morris, Yorta Yorta #untapyourhistory #becauseofherwecan #cultureislife
“I carry the spirit of my Bubu and my Mum with me wherever I am. They taught me that I have a right and a responsibility to take up space and honour the privileges of education so that I can make change for my people. I acknowledge my Ancestors by doing my best, working hard and allowing what they have created in me to shine. It’s not just about me and what I want to do with my life, it’s about knowing where I come from and that I stand on the shoulders of so many of my Ancestors who have fought hard for me to be here.”
“I’ve always felt like I was walking in my Bubu’s (Grandmother Margaret Latatuai Nakikus) footsteps. She’s always with me. With my name and Tolai identity, and how Bubu went across oceans and the world to follow her dreams. She was such a matriarchal force who could weave together so many different worlds. You can really feel the legacy she has left for my family and I’m so proud to carry her name.
My mum Joy Yip has made so many sacrifices to give us the opportunities that we have had. She always placed us and our futures first. Mum’s an amazing woman and she’s overcome so much trauma and adversity. She is always actively doing something to grow as a person and has not just taught me these things but led by example. It means so much to hear her say she’s proud of me now.”
“Because of her I have strength in my cultural identity, I know who I am, where I come from and what that means.
Because of her and the sacrifices she made, I have a right and a responsibility to take up space and make change for my people.
Because of her I’m not ashamed or fearful of the strength and power I have as an individual.
Because of her I can be fearless in myself as a possibility.”
Lalatuai Grogan, Kuku-Yalanji & Tolai #untapyourhistory #becauseofherwecan #cultureislife
Callisha Amber Gregg-Rowan
“My name is Callisha Amber Gregg-Rowan and I am of Canadian, Irish, Scottish and English heritage. I live and work on Wurundjeri country.
I think a lot about the ways in which those of us who are not Indigenous to this land can respectfully live on these lands. I don’t want to see history repeating itself. I believe our generation can stand together, listen truthfully to the stories of the past, and walk forward to create a future that celebrates and honours the richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, stories, ancestry and connection to country.”
“This jacket was worn by my great grandfather as a child growing up in rural Scotland. It holds the memories and stories of those who have worn it before me. As a young girl growing up in rural Victoria in the 1940s, my maternal grandmother wore this same jacket as a way to connect with her heritage. When my great grandmother passed away, I wore it to her funeral. Although I was only five years old and despite the grief, I remember a profound feeling of security, strength and connection, while embraced in this black velvet jacket.
By connecting with stories about the strong, resilient women who came before me, I honour my ancestry. Every day I am learning new things about my lineage, so that one day I can pass this history on.”
Callisha, Melbourne VIC #untapyourhistory #cultureislife
“I know some aspects of my family history well, but of other parts I am completely ignorant. Thanks to some relatives who did family research, I know my mum’s Anglo-‘Australian’ side really well. But on my dad’s side, my family history is limited to those who migrated to Australia.
I make an effort to learn about the history of the land I’ve grown up on – from 65,000+ years ago to present. I try to read a lot, particularly about the modern period of occupation in order to clear up some of the false or biased information I’ve no doubt accumulated over my lifetime.”
“My dad picked up this handkerchief embroidered with ‘Malta’ and the Maltese cross when he visited Malta in the 80’s. Thanks to my grandpa’s Maltese roots, my dad’s family became deeply involved in the Maltese community of Brunswick when they migrated to Australia. My English grandma and technically British dad became honorary Maltese-Australians. Dad always reminds me of his deep affection for the Maltese migrant community.
When I hold it, I remember the happy, distant memories of visiting my grandma at her apartment. I feel grateful for the physical connection to my grandparents who are now gone. I honour my Ancestors by making an effort to learn about the countries they came from and learning about what it was like for them in Australia when they migrated.”
Hannah, Melbourne VIC #untapyourhistory #cultureislife
“I have limited knowledge of my family history only going back a few generations. I’ve always been very interested in my lineage, so it’s a shame I don’t know more about it. My girlfriend and I talk about our family histories a lot. She’s a young Munanjahli woman and I’m a young man from the Sutherland Shire. We’re on a journey together to understand our histories and deepen our connection.
For me, I think the first step is education, ensuring all Australians are aware of what happened in the past, and education about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture so it can be fully understood, shared with the rest of Australia and given the respect it absolutely deserves.”
“This is a photo of my grandfather flying a CAC Boomerang fighter aircraft during the second world war. He is in the one in the middle. I never met my grandfather – he died before I was born.
I grew up hearing stories told to me by my Dad so that’s what makes this picture really special – I feel connected to him. I have this photo on a wall in my home and often reflect on his time in the war. He was younger than me when this photo was taken, such a stark contrast to where I am now.
I try to honour my Ancestors and family history by being a genuine and hardworking person.” Scott Mutch, Engadine NSW #untapyourhistory#cultureislife
“I am searching, I am listening, I will search to speak my language.”
“At the moment I’m writing poems in my language. It feels powerful to speak the words but also upsetting that I haven’t always known them. I honour my Ancestors and the memory of my past every single day. It’s unavoidable. It’s so important to me to learn as much as I can so that my Wergaia Wemba Wemba stories and language live forever.”
Alice Skye, Wegaia Wemba Wemba, Singer-songwriter
“Pelicans are our totem on my Wergaia side. When I think of the Pelican I think of my Great Grandmother. One day when I was driving a Pelican flew directly over my car and at the same time I received a message telling me that I’d been accepted into a competition to fly up to Alice Springs to record my first ever song, which is where my whole music career started.” Alice Skye, Wergaia and Wemba Wemba #untapyourhistory #cultureislife#culturesquad
Alice Skye‘s album ‘Friends with Feelings’ is out now and available to buy and stream on all platforms.
“I feel connected to Canberra, Cooma and the South Coast where I spent most of my childhood and also to South Africa where my mum was born. I have a disjointed family history and a lot of those I consider my family aren’t biological family, but for me that’s not what determines family. My nan & pop live on a modestly sized property just outside of Cooma. I used to go down there loads and loved just meandering – to explore and lose myself as a kid in the bush. I uncovered this little glass jar – I was obsessed with the mystery behind it. I grew up loving the idea that the different sides of the family were from drastically different backgrounds, and uncovering this little object just felt so exciting.”
“It is commonplace for people to deny others’ feelings about our history, but this nation was colonised. Honouring our ancestral and family stories and learning from those around us is perhaps the best way that we can deepen our knowledge and connect to our nation – by acknowledging the past and supporting those who are hurting to heal.”
Xander Byng, Melbourne VIC