Miliwanga comes from a family line of traditional healers and is an advocate for sharing the importance of traditional Indigenous healing modalities. She is a traditional artist and weaver, and currently works as a Cultural Advisor and language interpreter. She facilitates Cultural Awareness workshops with medical students and mainstream health providers, educating about traditional bush medicine and other traditional health therapies.
Miliwanga is a gifted public speaker and is often asked to speak about the importance of strong cultural identity, spiritual well-being and true reconciliation. [I’ll be writing more about Miliwanga later this week].
Miliwanga was visiting one of our Sharing Culture Advisors, Pip Gordon, in Katherine and they decided to Skype me. We had a long (nearly two hours) and interesting discussion and Miliwanga showed me one of her paintings and described what the different parts mean culturally. It was fascinating hearing all this.
Anyway, Miliwanga and Pip called again last week and during our conversation Miliwanga asked if I would help Indigenous peoples in Australia.
I cannot begin to convey how this request was put over, or how I felt emotionally. All I can say is that I was humbled by the request and felt very emotional as Miliwanga described what is happening to Indigenous peoples in Australia. And what will happen if remote Indigenous communities are closed by the government, as they intend to do.
I felt a strong spiritual connection with Miliwanga. I felt her pain and the pain and fear of her people. It was a ‘strange’ and very moving experience.
Miliwanga followed up our Skype conversation with a letter that I have included in this blog.
I am already trying to help Indigenous peoples with my Sharing Culture work. However, I felt a great urgency to push on harder. I want to take up Miliwanga’s request and very much hope I can help in her local area in some way. I want to make sure that as many people as possible hear what is happening with Indigenous peoples in Australia (the good and the bad). I also know that there is a lot that I can learn by listening to Indigenous peoples.
I’ve been outlining a new Sharing Culture project called Voices of the Rivers, which will involve collaborations with Miliwanga, Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann and Pip Gordon… and I am sure many others. I hope to launch some web pages about this project tomorrow.
I’ll then be visiting the region in late-May for a Cultural Connection Tour and visits to different communities in that part of the Northern Territory. More tomorrow.
30th March 2015
It is with great respect that I write to you.
I heard about your work with ‘Sharing Culture’ and I feel honoured to be able to share some of my stories and perspectives with you. I have always longed for my culture to be known to the rest of the world. I hope that in your way you might support us to allow others to hear about the lives, the culture and the many stories of Indigenous People in Australia.
In hearing and knowing what is happening in north WA in communities such as One Arm Point it breaks my heart. I feel deeply sad when I hear what is happening to the people there. As we have been told that the government now has started the removal of Indigenous People (Elders, families, men, women, children) from their communities in to small townships and cities.
My deepest concern is that this will totally destroy their spirit and I think of my Elders and the children in the homelands of my community. When Indigenous Peoples live on the homelands, which are similar to small villages, they lives in connection with the land. When they move off the homelands, they don’t have a connection with the ways of the western world and they have no means for survival.
For an Elder to leave his or her homeland is like taking away the most valuable possession of their life, that they’ve held on to and cared for since the beginning of time. For an Elder to be removed and put in a town or city will mean much fretting over their land and finally end up losing their spirit and will to live and they will surely pass away.
For the children, they will be in an environment without listening to their language being spoken and trying in every possible way to adapt to their environment, this will cause them to become sick spiritually, emotionally and physically. A lot of their wellbeing is dependent on their connection with their lands.
Thank you for feeling our pain and hearing our voice and hearing the calls of our cries.
We hope that if we work together, maybe more people will hear and understand this is a crime against humanity. This is a repeat of the traumatic history of Australia.
I am most honoured to be heard by you and feel grateful and thankful for our connection.