Indigenous collaboration wins inaugural heritage accolade

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

An Indigenous-led collaborative project in traditional Darug Country in western Sydney has won the inaugural Aboriginal Heritage category in the 2020 National Trust Heritage Awards.

woman with infant child
Intergenerational learning. Aunty Corina and Eli preparing for dance ceremony, Yarramundi, Darug Ngurra.

Led by the Yanama Budyari Gumada Collective, which works alongside researchers and students from the University of Newcastle, Macquarie University, and the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service the project practises ‘caring-as-Country’ in the Yellomundee Regional Park.

University of Newcastle Senior Lecturer in Geography and Environmental Studies, and member of the Collective, Dr Paul Hodge describes the concept of ‘caring-as-Country’ to be a reciprocal relationship with the environment.

“This approach is more than just land management. It invites new ways of thinking and practising Indigenous-led custodianship in heavily colonised, urban places like Yellomundee,” Dr Hodge said.

Guided by Indigenous Darug custodians Uncle Lex Dadd and Aunty Corina Norman-Dadd, the name of the collective - Yanama Budyari Gumada means to ‘walk with good spirit’ in Darug language. Children of the members are also included and considered an integral part of the ongoing intergenerational learning and knowledge transfer that takes place.

“I see this project as part of supporting and advocating for Indigenous future leaders to step into their own identity and reconnect with Darug Ngurra, Darug Country, to heal and gain strength from the land,’ Dr Hodge said.

“As Uncle Lex always says, it’s about treading gently and learning how the land and life upon it, including our own, is fundamentally connected.”

Practices of caring, healing and rejuvenation at Yellomundee Regional Park focus on two specific activities that embody caring-as-Country; the return of cultural burns and sustained presence on Country through Darug-led culture camps.

Dr Hodge said respect for Country, guided by custodians, was a crucial first step towards harmonious land management.

“Uncle Lex would like to expand the program to include people from all walks of life. For example, corporate camps could introduce Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to cultural practices with a view to integrating land-based philosophies and methods into mainstream practice.”

University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Excellence), Professor Jennifer Milam, congratulated the Collective on its win.

“This partnership between academics, Indigenous community and state authorities embodies our vision for the University’s future. I applaud this collaboration for their efforts to integrate knowledge and histories for the benefit of future generations of Australians,” Professor Milam said.

University of Newcastle Pro-Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Leadership), Nathan Towney, said there were clear benefits to such collaborations with community.

“This initiative highlights the opportunities that exist when Indigenous culture and knowledge is valued and empowered,” Mr Towney said.

The Darug Caring-as-Country Project shared the inaugural Aboriginal Heritage award with an entry by Orange City Council, ‘The Springs; an Aboriginal Journey’. The National Trust Heritage Awards celebrates all aspects of heritage in NSW and is supported by the NSW Government through the Heritage Council of NSW.

Members of the Yanama Budyari Gumada Collective

  • Darug Ngurra (Darug Country)
  • Uncle Lex Dadd (Darug custodian)
  • Aunty Corina Norman-Dadd (Darug custodian)
  • Paul Glass (Kamilaroi custodian, National Parks & Wildlife Service)
  • Associate Professor Sandie Suchet-Pearson (Macquarie University)
  • Dr Marnie Graham (Macquarie University)
  • Harriet Narwal (HDR student, Macquarie University)
  • Dr Paul Hodge (University of Newcastle)
  • Rebecca Scott (HDR student, The University of Newcastle)
  • Jessica Lemire (HDR student, The University of Newcastle)

Watch the National Trust Heritage Awards ceremony on YouTube

Watch the video on the Yellomundee Living Culture Camp 2018

Watch the video ‘Yanama budyari gumada – walking with good spirit on Darug Country, Western Sydney (Nov 2019)’

Read more about the program:

Darug Ngurra, Lexodious Dadd, Paul Glass, Rebecca Scott, Marnie

Graham, Sara Judge, Paul Hodge & Sandie Suchet-Pearson (2019): Yanama budyari gumada: reframing the urban to care as Darug Country in western Sydney, Australian Geographer


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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.