A celebration of Aboriginal culture

Taelor PeluseyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Undalup Association's John Kocsis, Rachelle Cousins, Iszaac Webb, Cassandra Atkinson and Nadine Dymock.
Camera IconUndalup Association's John Kocsis, Rachelle Cousins, Iszaac Webb, Cassandra Atkinson and Nadine Dymock. Credit: Augusta-Margaret River Times

The Undalup Association’s Birak Festival brought together thousands of people from different backgrounds last week for Busselton’s biggest celebration of Aboriginal culture.

The main festival is named for one of the six seasons on the Noongar calendar and involved workshops, demonstrations and performances at the foreshore on Saturday.

Sharnae Watson, 16, Katrina Proctor, and Gwenda Chapman.
Camera IconSharnae Watson, 16, Katrina Proctor, and Gwenda Chapman. Credit: Augusta-Margaret River Times

It was preceded by cultural dance workshops and indigenous film screenings on Thursday and Friday.

Undalup vice-chairwoman Rachelle Cousins said the event was an amazing success, with an estimated 2000 people attending the festivities across the three days.

During the festival, Undalup chairman Iszaac Webb told the crowd the event was about bringing the community together.

“You can’t have the word community without unity,” he said.

Tanaha and Shayla Wilkes, 4, with Eva Thorne.
Camera IconTanaha and Shayla Wilkes, 4, with Eva Thorne. Credit: Augusta-Margaret River Times

Mr Webb spoke of traditional Aboriginal methods of tool construction, particularly the use of the grass tree and kangaroo faeces to form one of the earliest resins, and traditional weather-tracking methods.

He said Wadandi people knew birak was near when the balga started to flower and blue groper and dhufish began migrating along the coast.

“The Wadandi are the saltwater people of this area ... so we look to the water,” Mr Webb said.

Ms Cousins told the Times the festival was an amazing success and positive feedback was streaming in support of the Act-Belong-Commit message, which promotes mentally healthy activities.

Emily Bell, Shayla Wilkes, 4, Evett Thorne and Erica Dimer with Deidre, 4, and Joyce George, 2, in front.
Camera IconEmily Bell, Shayla Wilkes, 4, Evett Thorne and Erica Dimer with Deidre, 4, and Joyce George, 2, in front. Credit: Augusta-Margaret River Times, Taelor Pelusey

The festival, aimed at promoting a message of cultural awareness and diversity, builds on the success of Tribal Mix, – a multi-cultural event which formed part of the Festival of Busselton until 2012.

Ms Cousins said Undalup Association Inc. formed shortly after the last Tribal Mix, with the board made up of mostly Aboriginal people.

“The Undalup Association is about giving ownership of the events to the Aboriginal people on the committee who want to showcase the local culture to the community, visitors and tourist to the region,” she said.

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