Media Release: Women Weavers Share Knowledge and Stories on the Lachlan
January 2020: Women with a passion for reviving Aboriginal cultural practices gathered at the CORRIDOR project property near Darby’s Falls for a weekend of sharing and learning!
Women from Canberra, Albury, Orange and Cowra collected reeds, grasses and matt-rush from along the Lachlan River and wove string used for cultural practices including fishnets, baskets and dilly bags.
There was good natured debate over whether the event started with the spectacle of the full moon rising behind giant granite boulders; the collection and presentation of fresh possum and echidna roadkill picked up on the way; or the welcoming of everyone to Wiradjuri land by Harry Wedge and George Coe from Cowra Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC).
And whilst there were no possum skinning skills, the merits of ‘burying’, ‘boiling’ or ‘open air decomposition on an ant mound’ were discussed as ways to extract echidna quills for weaving needles!
During Harry Wedge’s welcome in Wiradjuri language, he reminded us all of the importance of Yindyamarra Yambuwan (Respecting Everything) whilst collecting plant material on the banks of the Bila Galari.
It thus seemed fitting for Harry Wedge to present the cultural packages to representatives from each group, containing a Wiradjuri to English dictionary, a short film in the Wiradjuri language, and two DVDs containing songs and common phrases of the Wiradjuri language.
The weaving and string making sessions began with harvesting material alongside Bila Galari whilst collecting reeds, grasses and matt-rush.
A riverside meander led by Aunty Helen Worsley from the Orange Fibre Artists Group, identified different types of sedges, rushes, grasses, vines, reeds and appropriate harvesting techniques which have been used in cultural practice for centuries.
The women’s yarning circle sat under giant casuarina trees to prepare the gathered plants for weaving. Buckets of water kept the materials wet and flexible as the woven string grew. When the string is long enough the weaving begins; culminating in the weaving circle becoming a yarning circle where techniques are shared and the stories flow.
This event builds on the success of regional weaving and yarning circles “where we look after each other both physically and mentally through the sharing and revival of culture” said Aunty Helen Worsley. Aunty Helen and Claudette have also been assisting DPIE environmental water managers connect with Aboriginal communities along the Lachlan to explore how environmental water can also support cultural values and practices, where appropriate to do so. “What we have been doing with the weaving is reconnecting cultural
or traditional weaving and dying practices with the land and the river system to both inform management and revive culture” continued Aunty Helen.
Aunty Helen and Claudette from Orange Fibre Artists organised the event with Cowrabased environmental water manager – Jo Lenehan from Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and project manager – Phoebe Cowdery from the CORRIDOR project.
The weaving weekend was partly funded through the Bundaburrah Creek Dabu Yarra Muran Project, the proud recipient of the inaugural Aboriginal Fishing Trust Fund. The Project is a partnership between LachLandcare, the Forbes Aboriginal and Community Working Group, the NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment (DPIE) and Commonwealth’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Research (MER) Project, Orange Fibre Artists Group Inc., Wiradyuri Dreaming Centre, Lake Cowal Foundation, Sharing and Learning, and the CORRIDOR Project. Support for the boomerang bags – Inspiring Australia.
In the words of Wiradjuri Elder Pastor Cecil Grant’s instruction to “look after the land and the rivers, then the land and the rivers will look after you!”
The cultural package can be purchased at https://sharingandlearning.com.au/shop/
Image: Women weaving. Photo: Helen Carpenter / AOW Media Associate.