1 August 2022

Yuin people's connection to whales celebrated at new cultural event in Bermagui

| Albert McKnight
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Pictured, Mother’s Love by Paula Campbell. Walawaani Muriyira-Waraga will be held in Bermagui on 13 August. Image: Paula Campbell.

A special event to mark the opening of the whale season will be held in Bermagui on 13 August.

According to VisitNSW, more than 40,000 whales swim along the NSW coast from May to November each year and the NSW Far South Coast is a spectacular place to bear witness.

It’s the perfect place and time for Walawaani Muriyira-Waraga, which means “safe journey whale – many” in the Dhurga language.

This new cultural event is about connecting people to place and celebrating the relationship between whales, the town’s community and the first people to inhabit the land – the Yuin nation.

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The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) says First Nations people on the coast have had a long connection with whales, with rock engravings and contemporary stories showing the strong relationship between local people, whales and The Dreaming.

Some rock engravings and paintings are believed to be over one thousand years old.

The NPWS also said the whale is an important totem for many First Nations groups.

The official opening ceremony for Walawaani Muriyira-Waraga will take place at 10 am next to the Bermagui Surf Club.

It will include a welcome to country, smoking ceremony, dance performance and talks about Yuin cultural connections to whales.

Afterwards, a community will paddle out into Horseshoe Bay at 11 am to welcome the whales as they pass Bermagui on their annual journey south to the Antarctic.

This will be followed by special talks and presentations by local whale experts and historians, while Sapphire Coastal Adventures will hold $50 whale watching tours throughout the day.

It is the first of what the tourism industry hopes will become an annual community event.

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Member of the organising committee and local Yuin man Gordon Campbell said he was looking forward to the event and sharing local Aboriginal stories with business members and the community at the opening ceremony.

“This is a great way to start the celebration of our whales travelling in Bermagui,” he said.

“I look forward to seeing the community and engaging as we share our local Aboriginal culture and language and watch the whales.”

The event is the first initiative of the Sapphire Coast Whale Trail 2022 project and was carried over after a last-minute cancellation in 2021.

Walawaani Muriyira-Waraga takes place on 13 August from 10 am. For more information and to register for the charters or paddle out visit the event website.

Walawaani Muriyira-Waraga is pronounced “Wa-la-warni Moo-ri-yira Wah-ra-ga”.

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