The event
14 June 2003

(back to intro.)

Smoking Ceremony




Welcome Ceremony



Welcome to the Centre



Elders discuss symbolism



Welcome dance

Wurundjeri gift

Land Connection Ceremony

to the Karen People of Burma

‘Custodian Welcome’ – 14 June 2003

Description of the event by Project Manager, Reg Blow.

The Aboriginal people who were invited to participate included an Elder and members of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, Members of the local Aboriginal community, Ms Colleen Marian and family, Gnarnayarrahe Waitarie, noted Aboriginal cultural presenter & performer. Also members of the Blow family and Daphne Milward of Mandala Consulting Services.

Friday pm, 13 June pm.
Daphne and I went shopping for the food, all the associated items for the meal plastic plates knives, forks, spoons, foil chicken wire etc for the underground cooking.

Saturday 14 June
6.30am. I picked up Gnarnayarrahe at his home and went to the Living Museum. Peter was there to meet us. We then went to the area to do our Kuppmurri (underground cooking). Unfortunately the pit was not dug out so we had to dig it up. Peter had all the wood we would need stacked nearby so we gathered up the wood and build the fire in the hole we had dug out. It was great that Peter had prepared the wood.

When the fire was well under way outside, we went into the centre’s kitchen and prepared the food by cutting up the vegies into pieces and wrapping them in foil. We also did this with the meat, ie kangaroo pieces and sausages plus other meats.

When the fire had burnt down to coals we levelled it all off and placed our food wrapped in foil on the coals. We then covered the food with gum leaves and calico that I had brought and then covered everything with dirt making a tight seal.

It was not long after the food was prepared, that people started to arrive at the centre. When all the main people had arrived we started the day program.

Smoking Ceremony
All the Karen people were asked to gather at a point where they would have to walk through the smoke given out by a small open fire we had made to burn the gum leaves.

During this walk through the smoke, Gnarnayarrahe and I played our didjeridoos. When everyone had completed this ritual, the Karen people were gathered into a circle on a clearing close by.

Welcome Ceremony
Vicki Nichols, wearing a traditional cloak made of possum skins that represented her ancestors and badge of office, formerly welcomed the Karen people to the land of her people, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional owners of this land on which this ceremony was being conducted.

Connection Ceremony
Vicki then presented a clap stick to an Elder of the Karen to pass around the circle after she had clicked that clap stick with the clap stick she was holding. This ceremony is a part of the Karen people connecting with a representative of the ancestors and traditional owners of the land. During the clap stick journey around the circle both Ngarnayarrahe and I played the digjeridoo.

After the ceremony we all went into the centre for the next session of the program, the Welcome to the Centre by the Director and a representative and leader of the local Aboriginal community who are not Wurundjeri, but Aboriginal people whom originate from other countries and now live in the Western Suburbs.

Welcome to the Centre Ceremony

Mr Peter Haffenden, Director of the Centre and Ms Colleen Marian individually the welcome to the Karen to the Centre and the community.
After the welcomes, I provided a history of Aboriginal Australia supported by Daphne and Colleen. The Karen chose not to speak of the past but to talk about their aspirations for the future which was great to hear as it coincided with our own aspirations to be accepted for who we are, support for our culture differences and to raise our children to follow the right path.

Cultural exchange

Gnarnayarrahe told stories of Aboriginal people, performed the Kangaroo and Emu dances, played the didgeridoo and provided a great mediation piece of a journey through a number of bird calls which reflected Aboriginal traditional life. I supported Gnarnayarrahe where I could by playing the didgeridoo.
During the Kangaroo and Emu dances all the children were invited to participate and many of them took up the offer, which added an important aspect to the activity. The active participation in an Aboriginal event presents a lot more then just looking. I believe that the children will have good memories of themselves doing these dances.

I believe that we had lunch at this point. The Karen had brought their food and we all went down to the pit where our food was, to pull it all out of the ground. There is always a general apprehension about underground cooking because when the food goes in and everything is covered up for cooking, there is no way one can tell if every thing is cooked right. I am pleased to report that the food was well and truly cooked well.
There was plenty for everyone and everyone were eating all the different food available to us on the day. It was a great meal and time for sharing, talking and looking at all the Aboriginal and Karen Art work on display in the Centre.

Karen Welcome Dance
After the meal we all went outside for the Karen people’s cultural display which included a welcome dance by the women and later the bamboo community dance which was presented by the young girls in their native dress. The majority of the Karen people had their traditional clothes on which certainly added cultural value to the day and their cultural presentation.
Later we all went into the centre for the exchange of gifts between our people.

Gift Exchange Ceremony

The Karen people’s gift was their flag which they said was the highest gift that they could give to us. The Elder spoke of the meaning behind the symbols on the flag. Although we had already prepared a gift, we responded with a gift of our Aboriginal flag to match their gift, which we took to be a sharing of their identity with us.

The flag had to be borrowed for the ceremony but was a means to justify the end. It worked well but meant that we now had to buy a flag. Our original gift was a painting half completed. The painting needed the handprints of people who were present on the day for it to be complete. This was a very interesting exercise that required the involvement of Wurundjeri, Local Aboriginal and Karen people plus the hand print of the Director of the Centre whose support of the program enabled it to be conducted at the Living Museum of the West.

Land Connection Ceremony
After the exchange of gifts everyone gathered to escort a bamboo plant to an area of land which had been reserved for the Karen people so that they may plant the bamboo plant, which symbolizes their country and culture. The bamboo is used in many ways by the Karen, as a building material, entertainment (dance ) and I believe the bamboo shoots are eaten also.
In the escorting of the plant to the place of its planting, clap sticks were clapped along the way to its place and when the plant was placed in the earth speakers spoke about the significance of the day and what the ceremony meant to everyone there.

Artifact display
Immediately after the above ceremony we all went to a clearing nearby for a Bundee, Spear and Boomerang throwing display. After the display everyone was invited to have a throw. The majority of the participants were young people and it proved to be a most popular activity.The display was the last item in the program. After this event everyone was thanked for their support and participation on this very significant and spiritually important event.

I believe that the Karen people were very pleased with the program, the welcome and connection to the land through the planting of their bamboo plant in a special area reserved for them.

There are addition plans to involve the Karen people with the Aboriginal community after the one day Program: an invite to the Western NAIDOC Ball, Other Aboriginal activities during NAIDOC Week and hopefully a trip to a country venue to meet Aboriginal people and maybe do some cultural activities like fishing and hunting. The connection is made, there need ongoing activities to consolidate this arrangement to make it work.

Reg Blow

58 Management services Pty Ltd