Reg Blow
The event - 14 June 2003

Conclusion by Reg Blow

Daphne Milward

Vicki Nicholson leads the welcoming ceremony.


Elders of the Karen Community

to the Karen People of Burma

In June 2003 a group of Aboriginal people from Melbourne welcomed a group of newly arrived migrants, the Karen people of Burma, to ‘the land’ at Pipemakers Park in the City of Maribyrnong.

Aboriginal cultural consultants, Reg Blow and Daphne Milward worked closely with the Karen people to develop an appropriate ceremony for the two cultural traditions to engage spiritually.

The welcome was led by Vicki Nicholson of the Wurundjeri, custodians of the land in the Melbourne area. The Wurundjeri are part of the Kulin nation. The Karen describe themselves as the indigenous people of Burma.

The Karen people of Burma are cleansed by the smoke of burning gum leaves at Pipemakers Park at the start of a day of communion, ceremony and welcome by the local Aboriginal community.

The idea for such a project was developed in discussion among members of the Living Museum, the Aboriginal community, the Inner West Migrant Resource Centre and Maribyrnong City Council.

The project aimed to address the more subtle issues of ‘settlement’ for new migrants with a sense of place, a sense of land and a sharing of spiritual values between the local Aboriginal community and representatives of a newly arrived group of migrants. The project also aimed to introduce new migrants to an awareness of the original inhabitants of the land as early as possible in their settlement.

The implications of the idea of direct spiritual welcome to new migrant groups by the local custodians led those developing the idea to see this as a pilot project that could evolve in a number of ways and be adapted to the different needs of different groups.

The project was generously funded by the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

Aboriginal cultural consultants, Reg Blow and Daphne Milward were employed to put the plan into action. Reg Blow had already been approached by the Karen people with similar ideas in mind. It was a good place to start.

The following pages describe the ‘welcome’ part of the project. The day of engagement between the Aboriginal Community and the Karen people of Burma. What cannot be described are a number of meetings between elders of the two groups to establish trust and understanding for such an occasion to be held.

Before the event Reg Blow said , ‘The Karen people hold the Aboriginal people of this land in the highest regard. I believe that the Karen want the approval of the Aboriginal people for the Karen to live on Aboriginal land.

This would be a normal type of protocol between Indigenous people of the world. To acknowledge the traditional owners by paying their people’s respects to the people of the land, in this case the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.

Something that the Australian community is starting to embrace and action now, particularly through their local governments, many of which have a policy of acknowledgement and respect for traditional people of the land which their council/shire occupies.