Sunday (December 1) marked Australia’s largest and most powerful healing corroboree in living history.
Nation Dance called First Nations people together to dance at 1:00 pm, wherever they were across this wide continent. “Over 60 organised events took place across Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria and North America. Any Indigenous Australians in prisons across the nation were also permitted to dance at 1pm” organiser Ashleigh McGuire tells me.
For the Yuin Nation, the largest gathering of tribespeople in 150 years took place at the foot of Gulaga Mountain (Mount Dromedary), within view of Najanuga (Little Dromedary). Allies and non-indigenous family members were invited to come, to observe and show their support.
Well over a thousand people assembled at the Tilba Sports Ground to witness this historic event, known as a ‘bunaan’ in the local language. The atmosphere was emotional, exciting, insightful, as we were welcomed by Wallaga Elder Warren Foster. Everyone learned something about our Indigenous brothers and sisters, the culture, we made new friends. We clapped and stomped, feeling the energy as one in support and solidarity.
Yuin Country extends the length of the coast from Sydney to Mallacoota. Earlier in the week, Yuin Elder Warren Foster told About Regional that “Mother Gulaga is calling all her children home to stomp the ground where the Yuin creation story began”.
Hundreds of Yuin men, women and children brought clap sticks, didgeridoos, painted and decorated themselves, and danced and sang throughout the afternoon. The Emu, The Black Duck, The Wallaby, The Black Cockatoo, “these are all the family dances, they’re for everyone, not the real secret dances,” a young dancer explained.
People from Nowra, Narooma, Tasmania, New Zealand, Eden and Wallaga Lake all expressed excitement and pride at being able to attend such a gathering. Many called out “we are hungry for home, we’ll always come back home” and many stressed “this must happen every year.”
One woman told me “there is no living memory of this happening, we are so excited for our elders and our young people.” Many expressed their joy that instead of gathering together for ‘sorry business’ they were gathered here to celebrate and create unity.
The Nation Dance call-out asked First Nations people across Australia to “dance for our old people, our homelands, the rivers, our children, our justice, our healing. Mother Gulaga, Father Sky, grandmother moon and grandfather sun. Simply dance wherever you are and be a part of this collective energy.”
A hashtag #nationdance search on Monday morning revealed awe-inspiring footage of gatherings that took place during Sunday afternoon, including others on Yuin Country, many in Sydney suburbs, on the beach at Yamba, in Cowra, many in West Australia, Adelaide, Canberra, Dubbo … it seems the whole country was dancing.
“For the first time in history, First Nations People and their Nations across the continent were encouraged to dance on country as one in time. With the modern-day usage of technology, we have had the opportunity to connect with each other from all over in an instant. We can reach the 400 plus Nations, and 200 languages spoken. The digital platform allows us to share and create unity,” announced the Dance Nation organisers on Facebook.
For centuries Aboriginal people have danced on this land for all kinds of purposes and in sacred ceremonies. “This unique web that spans the continent has many songs and dances that tell stories of who we are and where we come from. It gives us our identity.” says Nation Dance.
“Dancing on country is to honour your people and the nation from which you come. It’s the culture of dancing that glorifies our ancestors and our creation stories. It provides the spiritual healing of self and your environment. Aboriginal people always have maintained belonging to the land and not land belonging to us.”
Towards the end of this incredible session of dancing, singing and chanting, Elder Aunty Shirley Foster was brought into the centre of the circle and Djaadjawan woman Sharon Mason called all the Aunties in to participate.
Under the watch of Gulaga, there was then a chant for the Elders, and the bare emotion on Aunty Shirley’s face was affecting. The final dances within this sand-drawn circle were a stomping chant for the organisers and a chant for rain. Sharon Mason again called out to remind all those gathered, “it is our responsibility to look after the land,” a sentiment many non-indigenous took away with them.
Afterwards, an exhilarated Warren Ngaerre Foster said he was “absolutely overwhelmed with the response” and said this will be a yearly event. Co-organiser Ashleigh McGuire of Ripe Mentoring said “many people here today felt completely empowered, that they had seen happen what hadn’t been seen. I could see everyone’s faces, the audience, clapping and stamping, all feeling we can walk as one into the future.”
Everyone left the Tilba Sports Ground knowing they had been privy to something rare, momentous. People described feeling ‘up-lifted’, connected to their own ancestors, that there had been a ‘healing together’.
And then the rain came …
Click through our photo gallery…
All photos by Lisa Herbert, Lisa would like to thank Warren Foster and Ashleigh McGuire and all, for allowing her to take photos of the Yuin Dance and asks that anyone wanting her to remove photos, or to correct and add names to feel free to do so by contacting – [email protected]