Aunty Brenda McBride is making johnny cakes with golden syrup for Moorambilla MAXed OUT kids. It’s a special recipe she likes to share with them around a campfire. “I tell them stories from our culture and what I used to do with my aunties as a child. They get really into it,” she says.
Aunty Brenda is our Elder and knowledge-holder from the Kamilaroi (Gamilaroi) and Yuwaalaaray (Euahlayi) language groups in north-western NSW (Brewarrina, Walgett and Lightning Ridge). She’s been coming to Moorambilla for three years – bringing the kids in from Lightning Ridge, Walgett, Brewarrina and Coonamble.
Moorambilla brings Indigenous stories alive in dance, visual arts and music. Aunty Brenda thought the final dance sequence performed by the Moorambilla Voices girls, based on the Pallah-Pallah story, was beautiful. She is one of the keepers of that story – and enjoyed seeing it manifest in movement. She admired Frank Wright’s Seven Emu Sisters painting and thought it was a powerful representation of the story.
“I learnt from my aunties about bush food and bush medicine – I used to go fishing and walking in the scrub with my aunties and they would tell me stories. That’s what I like to do with the kids here at Moorambilla. We talk about what animals do and what they represent and whose totem is what. For example, Frank Wright and my totems are emus –that means we can’t eat one another.”
“A lot of kids don’t know about their own culture or their own region’s stories – even though our story line has been passed down over 40-50,000 years . They don’t know who they are or where they come from. It’s vital to understand the long trail of history behind you, to find out who you are.
“Kids now are starting to find their culture and do more for themselves. That’s my job here – to help them understand. A lot of the kids are learning their own history for the first time at Moorambilla, like the Seven Emu Sisters story and the Emu in the Sky story.”
“I also help out if they are mucking up,” says Aunty Brenda. “Michelle will send them to me and we’ll have a talk and then they can re-engage. I tell them they have to take advantage of this opportunity at Moorambilla – they’ve been given a gift. I tell them to use it. Don’t sit back.”
“Having these workshops and sharing each other’s culture, that’s what Moorambilla is about. I teach the kids respect in our culture and respect here at Moorambilla – respect your elders, respect yourself and respect others.”
Text and photography: Lliane Clarke