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Journey West: Buwarrala Aryah (ATOM Study Guide)

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Aboriginal Elders lead their young people on a traditional walk across country to re-connect them with their country and their culture.

The Buwarrala-Journey is a traditional walk for the Garrwa, Yanyuwa, Mara and Gurdanji peoples of the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia. The walk has been practiced for generations as an important rite for young people. In recent decades the cultural importance of the Buwarrala-Journey has come under threat. Like many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Yanyuwa and neighboring Elders are struggling in the face of foreign influences to maintain traditional cultural practices that are essential for their communities’ self-determination.

Elders of the Yanyuwa and neighbouring countries are deeply concerned that the younger generations are not learning their traditional ways. The influence of non-traditional government school education, the growing influence of pop media culture and the constant problem of drugs and alcohol mean that traditional learning and culture is often losing out. If the traditional ways of knowledge of the Yanyuwa and neighboring peoples are not passed on to the next generation their traditional cultures may well be lost.

The Buwarrala-Journey was last performed in 1988. The walk was documented in the film Buwarrala Agarriya - Journey East. Yanyuwa man Gadrian Jarwijalmar Hoosan was twelve years old back then. He was one of four boys (or Daru) who were prepared for their initiation ceremony. As an adult Gadrian has become a community leader, a musician and a filmmaker. In late 2017 Gadrian and other community leaders organise over one hundred community members (children, their families, teachers and volunteers) to revive tradition and set off on the walk again.

This journey is documented in this film: Journey West: Buwarrala Aryah.

Over seven days of the journey the group visit numerous important sites, learning stories and of the country, transmitting knowledge through song and dance, learning keys for survival and ancient traditional practices. Elders share their strong feelings of connection to country with the young people. They teach hunting techniques and traditional dancing, which often involves humour and historical storytelling. They tell of their grave concerns about the incursion of mining and other industries into their country and the damage this is doing to their land and waterways.

As they pass through light scrub dotted with anthills, sit beside billabongs and water lilies, walk across a vast dry plain blackened by fire, this group of children, youth and Elders embrace their cultural heritage and strengthen themselves for the challenges of the future...

Curriculum Links:

Journey West: Buwarrala Aryah can be linked to the following subject areas within the Australian Curriculum:

  • Modern History
  • Languages
  • Civic and Citizenship
  • English
  • Geography
  • Media Studies
  • History

In the following learning areas:

  • Modern History (Year 11)
  • Media Arts (Years 7–10)
  • English (Year 8)
  • History (Year 7)
  • Geography (Years 7 & 9)




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