I spent Australia Day in beautiful Belgrave, a small town nestled in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, 45 kms from the Melbourne CBD. I went there as a volunteer photographer/ blogger to cover Survival Day, a festival which presents an entirely different perspective on what should be celebrated on this famous public holiday.
|My 'media' lanyard|
On 26 January every year for the last ten, locals and visitors from further afield have come together under the glorious canopy of cypresses and redwoods in Borthwick Park Belgrave to 'celebrate Indigenous culture and the survival of Australia's First Nations people through 228 years of white settlement'. I wanted to be part of it. And I had no idea in advance just how much fun that would prove to be.
There were some terrific performances:
|Mullum Mullum Indigenous Hip Hop Troupe|
|The Deans of Soul|
The standout for me was the Didge Meditation by Gnarnayarrahe Waitiarie (Uncle Joey), who is an elder from the Indjibundji nation in Roeburne, WA. Uncle Joey encouraged us to lie back on the grass and let the digeridoo bring the animals of the bush to us.
I was delighted to accept his invitation. And as I lay on my back with my visor covering my face I had no trouble hearing the frogs and the bell-birds that the music evoked. But I kid you not - as the meditation reached its conclusion several kookuburras in the trees above our heads actually joined in the harmonies!
There were also some great speakers.
|Tallara, a Gudang woman from Cape York|
Tallara is an activist from Seed, the Indigenous Youth Climate Network, which is building a movement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people for climate justice.
|Uncle Bill Nicholson (in possum cloak) with Tim Kanoa, the MC (in hat with feather)|
Uncle Bill, a Wurundjeri elder, is a passionate speaker with a deep knowledge of Wurundjeri history. Uncle Bill suggested that Australian Indigenous culture represents 'the best balance between humans and the environment that has been seen on this planet,' and for that reason alone the rest of us have heaps to learn from our Indigenous fellow citizens.
This was the first, but it will certainly not be the last, time I attend Survival Day. The atmosphere was just so warm and caring. I felt part of a real community, where Tim Kanoa, our MC, treated us - even though we were in excess of 4,000 participants - like one big family, or perhaps I should say one big mob.
There were regular reminders to keep hydrated. At the end of their performance the Mullum Mullum Choir made a point of
saying to any young people in the audience, who wanted to talk to an
Elder, that they were always available. People temporarily losing possessions or a child were reminded to take care. When a dog went missing, Uncle Joey quipped that that would present no problem as there were undoubtedly plenty of trackers on site! And as I learned early on, performers and volunteers, of which I was one, were treated brilliantly. There was a space reserved for us - the Green room - to rest or rehearse, with the most gorgeous free food and drinks prepared fresh for us all day long.
You can see why I am determined to go again next year. The Belgrave Survival Day is a truly 'deadly' event.
|Mullum Mullum Choir rehearsing in Green Room|