Guy Cameron

PhD, Bbiomedsci(hons), Bmedsci

Celebrating Culture and Community at the Rising from the Embers Festival

In celebration of National Reconciliation Week 2024, I had the privilege of participating in the Rising from the Embers Festival, an engagement event with a strong focus on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school students. Held at the University of Newcastle and organised by the Wollotuka Institute, this unique festival was proudly sponsored by Hunter Local Land Service.

May 24, 2024

Our aim with this festival was to increase community access and knowledge of local land and water management best practices. By providing a platform for these interest groups, we hoped to promote awareness of the ongoing environmental impacts in our region and bring together like-minded individuals and organisations who share a passion for environmental sustainability, land and water management, and celebrating culture and community.

The day began with a warm Welcome to Country by Uncle Gavi Duncan, setting a respectful and inclusive tone for the events that followed. The festival was a vibrant showcase of our rich cultural heritage, featuring dance performances, talks on connecting with culture and country, and workshops on fire and culture led by Local Land Services.

One of the standout sessions was the Women’s Dance Workshop hosted by the Rainbow Crow Cultural Collective, where participants had the opportunity to learn traditional dance in an empowering and supportive environment. Simultaneously, a Yidaki (often referred to as didgeridoo) workshop led by Liam Begnell provided an immersive cultural experience for the men, teaching them the art and significance of playing this iconic instrument.

The festival also included practical activities such as a free BBQ sponsored by the University of Newcastle Students’ Association (UNSA), fostering community spirit and camaraderie among attendees. Throughout the day, Uncle Gavi Duncan and Lily Hodgson held multiple sessions on connecting with culture and country, sharing invaluable insights and fostering a deeper understanding of our land and heritage.

As the day progressed, the Fire and Culture talks with Local Land Services highlighted the critical relationship between traditional fire management practices and contemporary environmental stewardship. These discussions underscored the importance of integrating Indigenous knowledge into modern land management strategies.

The day culminated in a community corroboree, a powerful celebration of culture, dance, and unity that brought everyone together in a shared space of respect and joy. It was a poignant reminder of the strength and resilience of our communities, and the importance of coming together to celebrate and preserve our cultural heritage.

Reflecting on the festival, I am filled with a sense of accomplishment and hope. The enthusiastic participation and positive feedback from students and community members alike reinforced the significance of such initiatives. They not only provide a platform for learning and discovery but also play a critical role in encouraging Indigenous students to envision themselves as future leaders in science, environmental sustainability, and cultural preservation.

As I continue my work and advocacy for broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in these fields, I am reminded of the potential that such engagement holds in shaping a sustainable and inclusive future. The Rising from the Embers Festival was more than just an event; it was a celebration of our identity, a reaffirmation of our cultural heritage, and a step forward in our journey towards reconciliation and environmental stewardship.


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