11-15th September 2023
Wow! It has been a busy few months, hasn't it? With very little time to take the foot off the gas, it seems like things have been moving at full speed. The 9th Gathering of Healing our Spirit Worldwide Conference in Vancouver, Canada seems like a lifetime ago. My CEO, Rachel Dunn, colleague Lorraine Webb and I were very fortunate to be supported by our board to attend.
Healing our Spirit Worldwideunceded and ancestral territory of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) People.
For someone who had never traveled internationally before, this was both an amazing opportunity and a terrifying experience. There would be no better occasion to network, learn from, share and celebrate Indigenous knowledge and cultures with First Nations brothers and sisters from all over the world than this.
There were five full days of immersive experiences, great speakers, performances, and collaboration and innovation opportunities. There were ceremonies every day that included traditional dance, songs, and even a sacred pipe ceremony. The experience has been a very rewarding one for me. I feel blessed to have witnessed and been part of it. Each day, a different first nations territory was welcomed by way of a parade of first nations and Australia was the first.
In my opinion, it was indescribably beautiful. It reminded me of the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games when each country is introduced and welcomed into the arena.Songs, ochre, skins, and traditional instruments were all part of the celebration. In that moment we were one. Our hearts are filled with pride as brothers and sisters sing together, chant together, and shout together. Our entrance into the pavilion was greeted by applause, cheers, and celebrations from the crowd. It would be an understatement to say my cultural cup was overflowing. In addition to goosebumps, there were tears (many tears).
For each nation, this occurred every day and each day was just as special as the last, with bear dancing, welcoming songs, and storylines.
Being able to listen to stories about how other nations are advancing traditional and cultural medicine into their practices was of particular interest to me as a Health Practitioner. The connections we have with the earth and our surroundings can be enormously influential on our social, emotional, spiritual and cultural well-being. In my capacity as a proud palawa woman, I would like to incorporate these modalities into my own practice. Networking and learning how we are all different, but also how many of our stories interconnect in similar but different ways.
One part that made me sad was hearing people speak fluently in their native languages and have welcome songs, dances, and traditions that have remained unchanged despite colonisation. As a result, I became aware of how much my people have lost and wondered how we might be able to regain these things. I watched youngsters as young as 2-3 years old perform traditional dances, sing in their native language, and communicate as their elders have done, which warmed my heart, but also made it hurt.
For me, as an Aboriginal Artist, it was important to take a gift to the nation I was visiting. I wanted to share my culture with the culture that welcomed us all so warmly and freely. The necklace I made is a maireener shell necklace that I want to give to someone special. When I found them, I knew the necklace would reveal who they were.
Following the sounds of singing and music as we made our way through the convention center, Lorraine and I came across a lovely group teaching dancing. Despite wanting to join in, I was hesitant. It didn't take long for the group to form a circle and a young girl motioned to me to join her. Amidst all the people there, I followed her lead. It was a wonderful experience. They taught me a dance and we laughed and clapped. I enjoyed every second of it and did not want it to end.
After the encounter, I told Lorraine I had to give the necklace to the young girl. We found her mother and asked for permission to gift it to her. She was called Chancely and she was a delight, sharing her stories and where she came from.Again, there were many tears. It was such an authentic and loving experience to learn from this encounter alone.
There were many highlights, and I could write for days about all the amazing people we met and the conversations we had. In the meantime, I'll leave you with some photos from the adventure.
It is a true honor to be able to participate in this incredible program thanks to my work place, Karadi Aboriginal Corporation.
For more photos please check out my Instagram.