Remaining attuned to multiple perspectives

This research project has shown me that attempting to remain attuned to whose cultural perspectives trace back for millennia, to those who have just arrived, as well as the non-human inhabitants helps to better know the rhythms of this place. Building a greater understanding of the traditional Aboriginal names of the Bunurong Coast, its ecosystem and actants, has been enormously enlightening in this regard.

Prior to this journey, I only knew the locations, animals, plants and things of this place only by their common use and colonial titles. I knew Bass Coast, Wonthaggi, Harmer’s Haven, Wreck Beach and Cape Paterson. However, the generous and diligent public dissemination of traditional language and cultural knowledge by the likes of N’wett Carolyn Briggs (Boonwurrung), Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir (Boonwurrung) and Sonia Marie (Bunurong) has shown me that these places, its animals, plants and seasonal ebbs and flows can be conceived of in many different ways.

Thanks to their work, my children and I, know about the Nayook (Black Cockatoo), we can heed the words of Bunjil (Eagle), listen to the Barroworn's (Magpie) warble, and observe Waaki (Crow) watch us. We know of Djaak (Wattle Gum), Warrak (Banksia), Muyan (Silver Wattle) and the Wurun (Manna Gum)[1]. We also understand how the seasonal rhythms of this place can be conceived of in an array of ways. We can appreciate, for example, that the Seven Wurundjeri seasons described in Woiwurrung traditions include Biderap (Dry) Season, Iuk (Eel) season, Waring (Wombat) Season, Guling (Orchid) Season, Poorneet, (Tadpole) Season, Buarth Gurru (Grass Flowering) Season and Garrawang (Kangaroo-Apple) Season[2].

This Traditional Aboriginal knowledge and language demonstrates the deep, continuing and constantly evolving histories and connections that overflow within the Bunurong Coast. Comparing and ontrasting borrowings, appropriations, and the bardardisations of language also highlights its contested nature. But it also shows rich continuing histories and polyvocality. It demonstrates that actants, places, things, and relationships can be known by various names and in unique ways. Each perspective and knowledge set encompass vastly different cultural, spiritual, and historical connotations. No single understanding should be prioritised over, or to the exclusion, of another. However, this research project has made it clear to me that nuanced and multifaceted understandings offer a more attuned alignment with the lived reality of this place.

Acknowledging and honouring this Traditional language and knowledge is akin to practice of re-placing narratives and suturing together segregated stories described by the Australian Historian Karen Hughes.

Adopting this approach has helped me gain different new understandings of the Bunurong Coast and I firmly believe this type of activity can only help new cross-cultural Australian histories to emerge. As Hughes argues, the act of ‘putting stories back into place’ reconnects “land, body and story, and prepares the possibility of allowing wounds to begin to heal” (Hughes, 2012, p. 274).

Works Cited

Ngarara Willim (????) ‘Indigenous Word Cards’, RMIT University.

Marie, S. (2022) ‘Animals from Bunurong Country: Learning Language Memory Cards

Greenway Architects’ (???) ‘The Seven Seasons of the Kulin People’ Nagara Place, RMIT University.

Gott, B. (????) ‘The Seasonal Calendars for the Melbourne Area

Hughes, K. 2012, p. 274

Jones, Mackay and Pisani (1997) 'The seven-season pattern for the Upper Yarra Valley' in Victorian
Naturalist.

Reid, A (1996) 'A six-season calendar for the Middle Yarra region' Victorian Naturalist

 

Footnotes

[1] These traditional language titles were sourced from a range of sources. This includes words articulated in the Ngarara Willim ‘Indigenous Word Card’ collection, Sonia Marie’s (2022) ‘Animals from Bunurong Country: Learning Language Memory Card’ collection, Greenway Architects’ (???) ‘The Seven Seasons of the Kulin People’ place-based installation at Nagara Place, as well as Dr. Beth Gott’s compilation of historical references entitled ‘The Seasonal Calendars for the Melbourne Area’.

[2] Jones, Mackay and Pisani proposed a seven-season pattern for the Upper Yarra Valley in 1997 (see Victorian
Naturalist, 1996 & 1997). At the same time, a six-season calendar for the Middle Yarra region was proposed by Alan Reid, an interpretation that was later updated by Glen Jamerson to include the ‘late summer’ title (see Victorian Naturalist, 1996 & 1997). Detailed information about ‘The Seven Seasons of the Kulin People’ is articulated a place-based installation designed by Greenaway Architects that occupies Nagara Place at RMIT University’s city campus.