Last weekend Redfern was lit. Our aim was to awaken the spirit; a spirit that has been laying dormant for two centuries since colonisation. An invasion that has left many of our people’s across the country, dispossessed, fractured and buried in trauma for many, many generations.
It started with a group of concerned mothers coming to me asking for guidance. Their young people were tip-toeing on a path of destruction which has seen a devastating effect through many of our young people living in communities.
Concerned mothers and community members have seen a lot of positive work I've been doing in communities right across the country and asked me for guidance on getting, not only the young people on path, but ways to lead all people to a better place.
I knew what the answer was for me; it’s the same answer I share in community every day when I am asked to share. It's one of empowerment, strength and guidance. Something much bigger than me, it's from the ‘old people’, our ancestors.
I have spoken countless times about what has been my biggest healer. A progressive healing, that has been used for thousands of years —in one word, culture. Culture has been my biggest healer —it has taught me to live with the most important values I, and anyone can utilise.
I knew this community, Redfern. The spiritual home for a lot of First Nations people along the east coast of Australia on Gadigal Country.
I bought along to the meeting, the senior men who reconnected me to this practice and way of life. In sharing we, the concerned community members, were all agreed that a traditional Corroboree would take place, to awaken the spirits, to give a taste of what has been taken from our inner city brothers and sisters. To heal them, to heal country and to wake the old people, who have been dormant for some two centuries.
It was agreed that we wouldn’t chase funding, no one would get paid. This was about self empowerment and healing, and this was our responsibility to share with our brothers and sisters, in the very way our ancestors had done so for thousands of years.
Date set, venue set with an open invitation to come and share nothing but love, respect, humility, care and compassion.
The ladies on the ground helped to organise beds for traveling dancers, sand for a bora ground to dance, food and drink to feed community and those in attendance.
With around 120 men, women and kids painted in traditional designs, the stage/sand was set. Although the dancing wasn’t about performance, corroboree and traditional dance was and always has been about dancing for three things —Mother Earth, creator father sky, Biame and the old people; our ancestors who forged a path for us to follow.
I recount the moment we began to ‘mob in’ and raise the energy. With calls to the old people, stomping our feet into Mother Earth —it was truely electric. As we zoned into connecting our own spirit, I looked up to see the couple hundred people in attendance, reacting to the noise as they could feel the energy lift, and some even running with cameras to take photos and videos.
As we made our way into the dance ring, footage has surfaced showing lightning-like flashes, sparking the middle of the dance ring. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t believe it.
We danced for hours, calling on the old people to be with us, paying respect and honouring our animal spirit ancestors. A magical experience.
Speaking with uncle Shane Phillips post event, he too saw the flashes of lightning and couldn’t explain it. I asked how it made him feel,
"When I stomped and mobbed in with the group, it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life," He told me.
"You could feel the old people with us."
Speaking with senior figure of community and staunch activist, Aunty Jenny Munro;
"Nephew, this is beautiful. Our old people have been doing this for thousands of years, this is how we heal."
It warms my heart to know that our culture is alive and well, healing the spirit of people, healing communities.
As the event wasn’t funded, we are thankful to have a few necessities donated, and ultimately, this was driven by community, for community. No dancer received a single dollar —in fact, some dancers funded their own flights all the way from Queensland. It's because it is our responsibility to share and heal as people; help those who need.
‘Nupitji Nupitji’; if we all share, we all receive.
So often we are led to believe we need to rely on government funding and programs that dictate how we need to behave to better ourselves, when I have found that the answer has been here for thousands of years. The answer's are deeply embedded within our DNA. Connect to it, live it and love it. We are the oldest continual culture in the planet.
In closing I will quote,
Government won’t solve our problems, self empowerment will. We will.
Joe Williams is a Wiradjuri man, a former NRL player, professional boxer, author, motivational speaker and influencer. His book 'The Enemy Within' is a personal account of his struggles with mental illness, attempted suicide and being diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder. Follow him @joewilliams_tew
Photography by Jodie Choolburra and Tyrone Gordon.
This article was originally published with permission on JoeWilliams.com, with minor edits by NITV. To read the original article, go here.