Living in Country

Article | Updated 7 years ago

Image courtesy of the Wilderness Society (from Radio National)
The Great Western Woodlands

My dad taught me what trees to use for cutting boomerang and spears – how to do it without killing the tree, and how to shape a spear by putting it on hot ashes.

Aubrey Lynch, Wongatha, 2007

My mother would get all sorts of food from trees. In good seasons we would get lollies, gum (sap, ngurturl) from the trees as well as tharrun, a round nutty fruit, kalkurla (wild pear) and seeds.

Duncan Bilson, 2007

The Eastern Goldfields region sits on the margins of the Western Desert groups of Aboriginal people. People in this area share a way of life with groups to the north and east. This includes a shared concept of the universe and its spiritual powers, and shared values and laws established during Tjukurrpa.

Before the European settlement period, people lived in small, scattered family groups for much of the year, exploiting local fauna and plants and moving between water sources as required.

Periodically, when conditions allowed, larger groups would gather for meetings where a range of social obligations were fulfilled. These included initiations, marriages, resolution of disputes, exchanges of objects and materials and the performance of rituals, both new and old. S

uch meetings were crucial in sharing and distributing knowledge and ensured the continuity of life in the desert, and many Goldfields Aboriginal people continue to participate in such cultural obligations today.

Nooda Ngulegoo - Family/Kinship

Skin groups tell us whom to marry, how we are related [to each other].

Aubrey Lynch, Wongatha, 2007

Skin groups … determined where you sat when you were at gatherings. Being a Panaka woman, I would have to sit in the sun and on the east side. Other skin groups had their own places to sit, in the shade, or on the western side.

May O’Brien 2007

Many Aboriginal peoples understand relationships through an extensive and complex kinship system. Some people refer to these as skin groups, moieties or marriage rules.

Kinship defines how people relate to each other and their roles, responsibilities and obligations in relation to each other, ceremonial business, the land and its resources.

For example there are clearly defined social rules about the behaviour of people classified as brothers and sisters or mothers and son-in-laws.