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Round 2: Photo Competition Results

First Place: Lynne Thomas


PKOLS (Mount Douglas) Canada British Columbia.


From One Song Line To Another


Judge's Comment:


I find this reflection moving. The student has looked deeply into his/her own traditions to make the connection with another culture – how learning and teaching, cultural beliefs, tradition, respect for the land crosses cultures with a long tradition linked to the land. The beautiful image is a visual expression of the written reflection.


The opportunity for me to resume my studies at Western Sydney University Bachelor of Education in primary school teaching has strengthened the importance of my cultural teachings handed down by my parents who were strong believers in education and protection of sacred places important to the first peoples of Australia’s ancient culture. My parents were influenced by the initiated elders of the past both women and men.


As a young boy all my father learnt in school was how to look after a garden using horse manure, how to sew with a needle and cotton, and how to cook Johnny cakes until the tribal elders took him away to teach him the lore of the land and his Aboriginal culture. My mother learnt from her father who was a returned soldier from the First World War by fetching the local newspaper for her dad and sitting by a dim candle light each night at the kitchen table taught herself how to read. My mother was such a good reader that by the time she got to school she was reading for the class because the teacher couldn’t read.


Education to learning from parents and their journey in life of the past is vital in realising the present time in which we are constantly developing an awareness of social dimensions around us and from within our own developmental experiences as a child, youth, adult and eventually an elderly person, if we are lucky.


A story told by a wise Aboriginal elder who lived to the age of at least 100 had always proclaimed that:


“ We are all one brother, same eyes, same ears, I have arms and legs…. the same blood that runs through you runs through me, we are all one brother, when I die I’m going back to mother earth…. And when you die, your coming too, we are all going down there back to mother earth… so we need to respect the mother earth”

                                                                                                Guboo Ted Thomas Yuin Tribal Elder, 1909-2007


Listening to our indigenous Canadian guide as he spoke of the Dreaming stories surrounding the look out of Mount Douglas I found myself overwhelmed as he reconstructs the creation stories in the distant so closely similar to our connectedness to the physical cultural and spiritual landscape. Realising these creating stories not only were so very similar to our creation stories here in Australia but it also highlighted the long cultural process of connection to country through the ancient word-of mouth system handed down by the witnessing of an account in time. This process is very similar to Australian cultural beliefs, which take in the lore’s of the land. The story the guide retells is about the flood and how the First peoples survived the flooding many years ago, again it is similar from where I live in Australia and coincidently our sacred mountain has a shape just like theirs in Canada, and it too has a dreaming story of the flood and how the First peoples we warned to seek safety on Gulaga (mother) mountain. Today that mountain sits on the south east coast of New South Wales, which now is apart of a National Park and protected from Forestry logging and wood chipping. Gulaga means “mother” and it too has an island close by that is connected to its dreaming story by a fresh water spring or lava canal 80 fathoms below the surface. The same mountain in Canada, as told by the guide also talks about the elder that at one stage, through the people out into the sea where they were created and turned into small islands who are apart of the storyline and connection to the teachings of country.       


In Wollongong (Wadi Wadi) we have the making of the five Islands where the elder through the girls out into the sea near the shore line, today they are the five islands and are apart of our dreaming story and connection to the marine life and related connections with the whales travelling by. (Dreaming story of the Whale and the starfish). In Eden there is a place called Twofold bay where my ancestors had lived with the killer whales. The European whalers who had worked in the bay extracted the blubber from the whales to sell and use. The whalers worked out in their boats sometimes in heavy seas where they would spear the whales with harpoons and waiting for the whale to submerge back to the surface ” Old Tom” the killer whale would drag them into shore pulling the rope he had held tightly between his teeth. There has always been a relationship between “Old Tom” and the Aboriginal people long before colonisation that lasted for many years. Today if you ever go to Eden you will see “Old Tom’s skeletal remains in the museum showing where his teeth has been warn out due to tugging of the rope.  


It is this picture that reminds me of home especially in relation to their cultural stories that exist in this beautiful country that is also so different. It reminds me of the balance in life between cultural beliefs from different perspectives but also a similarity to consecutiveness to country.    It also reminds me that although we may live in the opposite conditions we really are ancient brothers and sisters of the earth and that animals and stories connect us all.


“This mountain is located in Wsanech territory and on the boarder of Lekwungen Territory. This has been, and remains, an important meeting place for many nations. The reclamation of Pkols to replace the colonial name Mount Douglas recognises the nation-to-nation agreements negotiated here and supports efforts of Indigenous First peoples and settlers hoping to restore a balanced relationships to the lands they call home” This message stands on the top off the look out on Mount Douglas.  

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