As a participant in We Al-li’s* program, Dadirri, Ancient Aboriginal Mindfulness Traditions, I was listening to the introduction by lead facilitator, Judy Atkinson. A woman I greatly admire for her clear, direct, honest communication and passion for her work. She shared a pivotal moment in her story where one of the elders stood up and said, ‘Don’t just keep talking about the land and culture, go out and live it’.
In the course materials, Jade Kennedy, a Yuin man from the Illawarra and South Coast of NSW says, “When I welcome you – when our Aunties and Uncles welcome you – we are welcoming you to a place. But we’re actually welcoming you to the intimate relationship we have to that place. We’re also welcoming you to our kin. We’re welcoming you to the significant relationships we have with the people of our place. We’re welcoming you to our roles, responsibilities and obligations, that keep us connected and bound through these people, to our place.”
Country is intimate, interconnected relationships. The ‘Welcome to Country’ is a welcome to Country, kinship, culture, journey and connectedness.
Jade’s storytelling took me right where he wanted me to be. In his home, in his lounge room, kitchen, outside area…with a rich understanding of just what that means. Respect, responsibility and reciprocity.
The phrase, ‘Don’t just talk about it, live it’ came to mind as I was on my morning walk around the headlands and the story of being a guest in my local Indigenous friends’ home, being in their lounge room and the clear requests to not ‘put your feet on granny’s coffee table’ or ‘go into the ‘boys room’ or ‘you’re welcome to help yourself to the milk’.
Listening to the invitation being offered and my own questioning, how do I respond and reciprocate? Have I been a respectful guest?
Something in my blood quivered with the recognition and honour of being welcomed.
*We Al-li offers Culturally Informed Trauma Integrated Healing Approach (CITIHA) Training