From mother to daughter:
My mum Doreen was born under a tree in Badjaling. There was no hospital, no nurses - no help. Back in those days babies were born in the bush.
Being able to share her lifestyle and her birth place is so important because it is so completely different to mine and my daughters as it will be to their children. At the end of the day, continuing culture is essential so the next generation has the knowledge to pass it on, for their kids to know about culture, country and elders.
"That’s what we do as Aboriginal people, we pass stories down our generation, and that’s what keeps our culture strong."
For me that’s where I get my strength from - my nan, who passed it on to my mum. I never got the chance to meet my nana, so it’s only through my mum’s stories from back in the 60’s where I can feel the connection to her land and of course to her.
My mum told me that one of the reasons we don’t know our language is because back in the day, people scared Aboriginals by telling them not to speak their language out loud otherwise they’d be in trouble. So a lot of that language wasn’t passed down and that’s really affected our culture.
This is why her stories and her mother’s stories have been passed down to my children. That’s what we do as Aboriginal people, we pass stories down our generation, and that’s what keeps our culture strong. Times change in terms of how we live now in houses and have cars, clearly society has evolved, but we will never forget how it was for our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers because they paved the way for what we have today. If it wasn’t for them, we’d have nothing.
It’s not just about passing down Indigenous Australian knowledge, but also continuing to learn more about culture. The only way to gain a deeper understanding is to go back to country, sit around with family and listen to stories and just leave behind our western world to learn about our heritage because that’s part of our blood.
Things like dreamtime stories of creations are passed down through storytelling, paintings, song and dance, so this makes it easy for our children to learn at a young age, and then continue to teach their children. For my kids they’re favourite is the Waugal creation story from York and from the Badjaling people - whereby the Waugal is the giant rainbow serpent who came out of the rocks and made waterways such as the swan river in Perth.
"Learning about the history of your mob, going back to your roots to replenish your soul and visiting where you come from - to feel that connection again is important."
If my kids didn’t learn about their culture they would lack complete identity. We need to know who we are and where we come from – a part of us is missing if we don’t know this. Everything of us is from who we are and where we come from, its part of our soul. Learning about that, not necessarily living on country, but learning about the history of who your mob is and going back to our roots to replenish your soul and visit where we come from to feel that connection again is important.
Thinking about the trip to Badjaling with my kids (as shown in Family Rules Ep.3) made me feel very humble to get that opportunity. Being bush makes it even more real and to be a part of that - storytelling on your country, where your nana was born and where your mum was born - it does something to you. It takes you back in time and makes the story feel that much more real. And there’s your connection!
From Daughter to child:
For eldest daughter Angela, she was lucky enough to receive guidance from both her parents in regards to their Indigenous heritage. She says that from their teachings it has helped her become the young woman she is today and she aims on teaching her new baby daughter the exact same dreamtime stories, women’s business and going out bush to reconnect with country, just like she did.
“Growing up with an Indigenous heritage was always something we were taught to be proud of. My mother and father would always talk about their mob and share stories about their culture and traditions. Being the eldest sibling I’m so lucky to have a recollection of tales from both mum and dad. It saddens me that my younger sisters didn’t get to know their dad as well as I did, they never got to hear his passion for culture but I did and I aim on sharing that with everyone who is connected to me.
As a man who was proud of his culture, my father strongly believed that it's through younger generation that our culture is kept alive. Growing up, he would instil this through teaching us dances and through sharing his stories shown on paintings. As a performing artist, he would often take me and my sisters along to watch him dance. Through his performance, I found the stories would come alive and this strengthened the value of culture to me. That’s where I believe I got the confidence to follow in his footsteps and also become a performer. Our identity is formed by our past, hearing the stories of my ancestors and their ancestors makes me able to understand more about who I am.
Now as a new mother to a young daughter, the importance to passing culture on is incredibly important to me. I see now exactly the same way my Father would have felt. I know I will tell Chloe the stories that were told to me by my father, who heard them from his grandfather and able to carry on some of my Father's traditions.”
NITV's TV series 'Family Rules' follows the lives of a modern Indigenous family trying to keep true to their culture - you can check it out at SBS On Demand