Black Wallaby (Ngana Banggarai): Emerging Indigenous Writers’ Project
Australia’s First Nations are the proud Custodians of Culture, Language and Country: it is Aboriginal people who Sing the Country, keeping it well and strong; it is Aboriginal people who carry the legacies of colonialism’s crooked paths; it is Aboriginal people who survive to raise the flag of strength: black for the people, yellow for energy and life, blood-stained red for Country.
Barbara Nicholson is a senior Wadi Wadi woman from the Illawarra. While primarily a poet, Barbara has also published academic writing. Barbara is active across the spectrum of Aboriginal disadvantage: education, criminal justice, land rights and the Stolen Generation. She worked as a lecturer in Aboriginal Studies at UNSW and UOW, has taught course work to inmate students at Goulburn Gaol and is part of both the Human Research Ethics Committee at UOW and the Ethics Committee for the Australian Institute Of Criminology in Canberra. In addition, she is a Board member at the South Coast Writers Centre (SCWC) and the chairperson of the SCWC Aboriginal Consultation Team and the project Leader of the Junee project, facilitation creative writing workshops with Indigenous inmates at Junee Correctional Centre.
Aunty Barbara is the recipient of the 2014 NSW Public Schools Nanga Mai Award for her achievements in Aboriginal education in NSW public schools, school communities and throughout the Department of Education and Communities. She was granted a Doctor of the Laws (Honoris Causa) from UOW in 2014.
Phillip Hall has worked for many years as a ‘wilderness’ expedition leader throughout NSW & Far North Queensland; but since 2011 he has worked in remote Indigenous education in Borroloola, the Gulf of Carpentaria. Phillip designs sport and Outdoor/Environmental Education programs designed to teach emotional resiliency, cooperative group learning, safe decision-making and respect for Country. He has been adopted into Gudanji family; where he is also known by the skin name of Jabala and the traditional or bush name of Gijindarraji (given to him because it was the bush name of his nana’s pop); he is a member of the Rrumburriya clan; and is a Jungkayi (custodian) for Jayipa (Catfish Hole). His Mother is the emu and goanna though his nana jokes that his real Dreaming is the curlew or ‘Worry Bird’.
In 2012 Phillip established Diwurruwurru (The Borroloola Poetry Club). Diwurruwurru means message stick and is used by permission of the Traditional Owners. Diwurruwurru is an Indigenous writers’/storytellers’ group that meets at the local school, or at the local Warralungku Arts Centre. The club is made up of both adult and school student members and meets every Friday afternoon/evening (and sometimes on camp out bush). Diwurruwurru has established an annual poetry prize (with children’s, young adult and adult sections) as part of the Borroloola Show. This year’s prize attracted over 70 entries; and was a glorious testament to the club’s dynamism. Diwurruwurru has also collaborated with The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, since 2012, to establish an annual poetry festival in Tennant Creek; to publish member poems electronically on The Barkly Poetry Wall and in the print publication, Coming to Voice. In 2013 the Club also worked with the NT Writers’ Centre to secure an Australia Council grant to host Lionel Fogarty (an award-winning Indigenous poet) and Amanda King (a digital artist) in a month long residency in Borroloola. This exciting program saw Borroloola school students writing poetry, learning to perform and then recording their efforts onto film. In 2014 twenty members from Diwurruwurru were invited to WordStorm, the NT Writers’ Festival, to launch the Borroloola poetry film onto the national stage – a wonderful celebration of creativity in the Gulf.
Brenda Saunders is an artist, activist and writer of Wiradjuri and British descent living in Sydney. She began writing poetry in 2001 because, she says, she has a lot to say about the urban Aboriginal experience. As Secretary of the NAHHC, in the 1990’s, she was active in the fight to save the 1938 Aboriginal Day of Mourning and Protest site in Sydney.
Brenda has published three poetry collections and has won several Poetry Awards. Her work has also featured in selected journals and anthologies here and overseas. She continually draws from her life experience as an urban Aboriginal woman; the challenges and dramas of the human condition inform much of her writing, which is evident in her recent publication Looking for Bullin Bullin. This collection has many poems about family; portraits of suffering, anger and loss. She also writes of Aboriginal dispossession, the knots of memory and resilience, and expressions of survival. This collection, her second book, won the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry in 2014.
As a digital artist, Brenda has run many art workshops for Aboriginal children and adults in regional areas. Her work is now on permanent display in The National Museum and the Museum of Sydney.