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The Kamilaroi is a short educational documentary featuring prominent members of the Kamilaroi First Nation sharing their cultural, historical and spiritual stories.
One of Australia's largest and most significant Aboriginal First Nations, the Kamilaroi's enduring connection with the land and their deep understanding of the natural environment is explored through the examination of important archaeological sites, the demonstration of cultural knowledge and the retelling of cultural stories.
Each story is rich with cultural meaning, highlighting Kamilaroi knowledge, ingenuity, and sustainable living practices. The 'Emu in the Sky' story, centred around a great emu visible in the milky way, holds untold generations of cultural knowledge. Throughout their history the Kamilaroi have read the night sky. The emu's movement through the seasons help them determine the time of many natural events, including when emu eggs could and could not be harvested. Similarly, the inspection of an old & 'scar tree', where a slab of bark has been removed to make a canoe, reveals innate knowledge about where the strongest bark could be taken without harming the tree.
The sustainability theme is reinforced with the explanation of the Kamilaroi totemic social structure whereby individuals within tribal groups were assigned a relationship with and responsibility for specific animals such as emus or kangaroos. The Kamilaroi connection to country is highlighted by the sourcing of bush medicine from the quinine tree and the cooking of a yellow belly fish covered in mud over an open fire. That connection is lost when, in the case of a large ancient groove stone, an important cultural artefact is removed from its original location and deposited on the edge of a town park.
The documentary culminates in a visit to a well-known local landmark, controversially named Gin's Leap. The conflicting stories about how Gin's Leap acquired its name, and the derogatory nature of the label, underscore how history and identity have been appropriated and how far there is still to travel on the path to reconciliation.
The Kamilaroi serves as an important tool for passing on Kamilaroi cultural knowledge for future generations and sharing it with a broad Australian audience. At a time of heightened debate about Aboriginal constitutional recognition, the documentary finishes with a hopeful message that Aboriginal people can maintain connection with each other and to country. It also provides an important message about sustainability and embracing Aboriginal culture as an integral part of Australian cultural identity.
Running time: 20 min
The Kamilaroi is also available to purchase as a Lifetime Access download here.
The Kamilaroi study guide is available here.