Yawuru women’s gathering celebrates inclusivity in honour of NAIDOC

Jane MurphyBroome Advertiser
Yawuru rangers Shazney Sahanna and Gaydar Lawford took the day off their duties to attend the gathering.
Camera IconYawuru rangers Shazney Sahanna and Gaydar Lawford took the day off their duties to attend the gathering. Credit: Broome Advertiser/Jane Murphy

Against the backdrop of Roebuck Bay’s turquoise water, more than 50 women gathered together in honour of this year’s NAIDOC Week.

Known as Yagarrmabulanyji Jarnduni in the Yawuru language, Women Coming Together was held amid the ochre dust and crystal water of Gabunyanya (Crab Creek) and welcomed Indigenous and non-Indigenous women together to celebrate Yawuru culture, stories and traditional activities.

Philomena Lands, Cable Beach Primary School’s school-based attendance officer, arrived at the event with a collection of red, black, yellow, blue, green and white spray paints along with hundreds of NAIDOC-themed tote bags.

Throughout the day, women and children were invited to paint their own bag using eucalyptus leaves as stencils and their hands as the signature.

In an coincidental mark of inclusivity, the activity left the colours of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags smudged across the women’s hands for the remainder of the day.

“It’s really important, especially for the little ones,” said Ms Lands. “It gets them recognising the different colours of the Torres Strait and Aboriginal peoples.”

The bags decorated the event, spotted among the groups of women as they sat together, talking and laughing.

A circle formed with Mary Tarran at its centre, teaching the art of Balu (grooming stick) making — the sanding down of sticks with points at each end.

“Women aren’t allowed to touch — it’s the black fella way. It’s a way of allowing them to touch. They get together, laughing together and groom each other,” said Ms Tarran.

The group then drifted down to the water, where the women learned to fish and collect cockles.

Salmon was cooked, damper was baked and cockles were boiled on an open fire, the smell drifting to where Traditional Owners gathered.

Yawuru Traditional Owner Dianne Appleby organised the Women Coming Together event with the intention of bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and children together to celebrate NAIDOC 2022.

“Women Coming Together — Yagarrmabulanyji Jarndunil — means coming together to celebrate NAIDOC,” she said. “We want to make sure that all women, not only Yawuru, not only the other language groups, but all women are here to celebrate NAIDOC. We just want them to feel the spirit of giving and the sharing of our culture.”

NAIDOC Week celebrations were held from June 24 until July 10 and centred around the theme, Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! aimed at brining about systemic change and equity for all.

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