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News

Ngurrara Cultural Camp - black soil, spear-making & stories about water!

Peter Murray

It rained out at Kurlku when Shell Australia visited for our cultural camp in May. Nothing too serious where we were camped—just enough to take the bite out of the heat and make for three nights of good, deep sleeps on country. The road back to Fitzroy on the Friday was a little tricky, with boggy black soil, but on the whole, the Ngurrara 2-Way Learning Cultural Camp was a success. 

There were a couple of key purposes for the camp. The first was to celebrate the Shell 2-Way Learning Project, which has been running now across different phases for over five years. The project’s about water monitoring, and Shell has been sponsoring our rangers to check the water at our significant jilas. They’re gathering baseline data against which we can measure any impacts on our water from development, climate change or feral animals. The rangers have also been running workshops in the schools.

As part of the project, we’re hoping to encourage a two way learning about water that encompasses traditional knowledge about water from our old people, and western scientific knowledge. The camp was a space where old people could pass on some of these stories to the young people, including at two significant jilas. All visitors were welcomed to country at Purluwarla, and then travelled on to Pirnirni, the site where the Ngurrara Great Sandy Desert Canvas was painted. 

Knowledge exchange also happened during the workshops. Students from Yakanarra Community School, Fitzroy Crossing District High, Wulungarra Community School and Djugerari Remote Community School had a go at spear and boomerang making, painting, traditional hair dying, and the sampling of traditional food, like the bush onion and bush coconut. 

Yanunijarra CEO, Peter Murray, says, being out on country—away from the distractions of television, internet and video games—meant the young people could properly engage with these activities, on their traditional lands. 

“When you’re running workshops on country, you notice the difference with the kids. They’re motivated, connected and there’s been no bad behaviour. We had multiple organisations at the event, all working together for the benefit of Ngurrara people,” Mr Murray says.

The camp was also a gesture of appreciation to Shell Australia, who have, over a number of years now, sponsored the 2-Way Learning Project, and who sponsored the camp. 

The Shell mob said something key to their business was really understanding local communities and sharing mutual respect. They hoped to pass this knowledge on to their colleagues. 

VP Production Manager David Bird, says, “In the corporate world, there can be a lack of awareness and appreciation of indigenous culture. We like our employees to be ambassadors, demonstrating respect where appropriate … [and] we’re hoping to develop a common language with Ngurrara Traditional Owners, so we can both move forward together.” 

Senior Exploration Geoscientist Jason Roberts agrees, adding that respect is also crucial to a long-term relationship.  

“I think it’s been an absolute success story … [On our side] it’s about honesty, integrity and respect. Our long-term relationship attests to that level of respect,” Mr Roberts says.

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation would like to thank Shell Australia and all other stakeholders who supported the camp, including: The Yiriman Project, 
Eight Mile Catering, the Ngurrara Rangers, KRED Enterprises, the Kimberley Land Council, Mangkaja Arts, Ngurrara Canvas Committee, Nindilingarri Cultural Health, Garnduwa, Marra Worra Worra and all Traditional Owners and schools.