Listening to Wujal Wujal TOs

Wujal Wujal Tradtional Owners workshop results

In the Traditional Owners workshop, we listened to many of the stories about how people learned, what they valued and what they wanted young people to know, value and do. We  used Inspiration, a brainstorming program to gather ideas, collate them into goups and begin an analysis process.  We documented our intial reactions and also developed some slides of the data to share with the GBRMPA and the communities.

First Impressions

We found that TOs are anxious about future capacity of young people to have, respect and use cultural knowledge. They are overwhelmed about how to build capacity of young people. This intergenerational loss of cultural knowledge is a much bigger issue than this project addresses. However this project and many others currently being undertaken can continue the journey of connecting with young people.

Multiple generations have lost connection to land. Some current elders were put in dormitories away from family and it took determination to regain connection and develop cultural skills and knowledge. Often TOs learned from multiple extended family members , not always parents. For some people, they say that not many elders in a family have deep cultural knowledge. Current parents of young children often went to Boarding school or TAFE programs, losing connection to land and the value/respect/language systems. Nowdays young children between 12 and 17 are sent away to Boarding schools. There have been less and less opportunities for young people to spend time on country.

Thus connections to land/sea need to begin before children reach year 8 and holiday time is an important opportunity to be on country to keep connections alive.

Language, belonging to country and knowing the Law and Lore is dominant as the core values for Traditional owners. Being given respect and having culture respected are important to TOs and elders. Any design for activities about preserving/protecting/caring for the Great Barrier Reef will need to focus on cultural knowledge.

Being on land/sea to do activities where young people spend time together and talk, dominated. Activities in schools or in the community are not sufficient – being on country is seen as the main way for holistic
connection between land, language and culture.

Where we pursued discussion of what to do with young people on country, it was apparent to us that there was opportunity to design in some pedagogical techniques. Talking around campfires may not be enough for knowledge to pass on in the limited time people will have together.

There may need to be activities which involve young people and their parents as learners together, if elders hopes are to be realised.

Doing projects in family groups seems to be a key solution. Cultural business is within families and clans connected to particular country. People told us that culture is learned through families, and hence families were the place to start with this project.

Key groups of ideas

Language - it begins with language.

Family  - being with family and family time was a catalyst to learning.

Respect - all the little signs add up to respect.

Being on country - learning in the context of time, place and relationships means young people need to be on country to learn.

Walking the country - a way of getting to know and understand country and culture.

Lore and law - the ancient governing rules and stories which guide the learning journey, who cna learn and what is learned from whom.

Learning - was and shouuld be everywhere everyday.

Sustainability - preserving country can happen even when culture is threatened.



 “There is a responsibility for land that was set down before the dreamtime”. Handing down the laws about use of land is extremely significant and can’t be handed down until the right young people are ready. So time on country is part of the readiness process. The elders want children to go on country to see who will “step-up”.