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STRONG WOMEN FOR HEALTHY COUNTRY

Mimal Land Management Aboriginal Corporation (Mimal) is collaborating with local women and other Indigenous organisations from across the Northern Territory (NT), to help strengthen the voice, role and support structures for women working for healthy country and all it benefits for the environment and local communities.

Welcome to Country Anne Kelly SWHC

In early September, Mimal hosted the first NT region forum in over 10 years . The agenda for the forum and associated activities were informed by comprehensive pre-forum consultations with women across the Top End. These consultations highlighted the need for whole-hearted participation and sincere listening, respect for all the work that has gone before, a strong atmosphere of collaboration, collective leadership and a focus on practical solutions rather than problems.

The outcome of this forum oversees the development of strategic plans for improving work programs and conditions for women working on country. Mimal will support the establishment of the Northern Territory Strong Women for Healthy Country Network (NT-SWHCN). A first of its kind network, led-by women based on their identified needs and aspirations.

As women emerge in this field it becomes increasingly evident that land and sea management roles are only one aspect of keeping country healthy. A holistic approach is required when working with the broader issues faced by women in communities to enable sustainable long term positive impacts.

‘Gundung’

Gundung - all panels

‘Gundung’ is the name of the mural that was created at the forum and is a collective effort, built around the central theme of ‘Strong Women for Healthy Country’.

The mural consists of a series of five panels on stretched canvas. Each panel represents, an element symbolic to women - Night, Fire, Sun, Earth, Water. The panels are tied together by the feminine and masculine duality of the Rainbow Serpent.

Artists, Shantelle Miller and Karla McGrady, worked with community members and project staff to formulate a design based on the theme of the conference ‘Strong Women for Healthy Country’.

The process of creating the mural began with Mimal community members who formulated a design based on the theme of the conference ‘Strong Women for Healthy Country’ prior to the forum.

Throughout the forum all participants had the opportunity to contribute to each piece and to the design and development process.

The finished mural is a visual representation of a powerful and symbolic moment for women in the region; the coming together of over 140 Indigenous elders and local women working for healthy country and their non-Indigenous allies all unifying with a shared vision – to strengthen the voice, role and support structures for women working for healthy country in the NT.

This symbolic piece of art represents the importance of shared knowledge, deep cultural connections to country and the desire to care for country with its value to us and each other.

The mural is an example of one medium of traditional storytelling. Within its layers, sacred knowledge is being passed down from generation to generation. This mural is a symbol to be passed down to future generations.

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Gorl Gorlhk - Night


Night

Gundung panel 1 - Night

The moon tells us the time and month.

The stars are used to navigate - North, East, South and West.

The night also tells us when it is time to sleep.

At new crest moon, fire is thrown towards the moon, to give us plentiful food like fish and turtle.

The seven sisters is in the north and signifies sisterhood, women connecting and keeping strong in a group.

Milky Way, Buhwah, is the river up in the sky that tells us when it is winter (cold weather), it also tells us about our spirit rising up into the stars when we have passed / pass away.

Ngurra, Mimal - Fire

Fire

Gundung panel 2 - Fire

Fire is the main source of cooking food and keeping warm when it is cold.

Fire is used in many ways.

Fire is used to burn old groth to make way for new growth.

The brown falcon we call Kgarrganj, carries a fire stick that has flame, when the fire stick drops the fire spreads everywhere.

The smoke from the fire can be seen by the two cockatoos, which then start to give warning signs by their calling to signal danger.

Fire and smoke is also used to send signal to other clans and tribes.

The magpie geese are a staple food source and they are cooked on the fire.

The white sea eagle we call Mahgagah has a different connection to different parts of people from the Northern Territory.

Here in Bigetti the Mahgagah is a sacred totem for the Murray family.

Muta - Sun

Sun

Gundung panel 3 - Sun

The sun is the ruler of the day.

When the sun rises it tells us it is time to wake up from sleep.

Women get up to prepare food for children and family.

Women during the day go out hunting for small game, collecting yams, sugar bag, fish, berries, roots, tubers and shellfish.

They carry it with the Coolaman. Some women hunt for goanna, grubs and turtle.

Elderly women gather to support young mothers to help them raise small babies. This nurtures the baby to become healthy and strong.

This painting depicts the women of the sun.

Godgork - Earth

Earth

Gundung panel 4 - Earth

The earth is our mother (Mother Earth).

It has the source of giving life to plants, trees and animals.

In this painting there are prints of the emu, kangaroo, goanna and people.

When people are out hunting, they follow the tracks (prints) of different animals to sources of collected water and water holes.

The white gum tree is a source of witchetty grubs and sugar bag (bush honey).

When the first rain falls in Central Australia this creates the blooming season for desert flowers.

Uluru, Ayers Rock, is sacred to Indigenous people in Central Australia.

The intricate dot painting patterns depicts tracks of the emu and the desert kangaroo.

Dularh / Djulah / Julah / Wah - Water

Water

Gundung panel 5 - Water

Water is the main source of all life.

Water is used in many different ways.

Water is used to drink, bathe and cleanse, for cooking and for watering plants.

Animals, plants and us as humans rely on water to keep us alive.

There are two types of water, freshwater and saltwater.

In the saltwater we painted the dugong, saltwater turtle and barramundi.

Barramundi lives in both types of water, fresh and salt.

We painted green kelp, a source of food for saltwater animals.

In the freshwater we painted the pig-nose turtle, long neck turtle and the freshwater bream.

There are different types of water lilies. All parts of the lilies are edible from the roots to the stem and the heart of the flower.

The stem is also used as a straw to filter water when it is dirty.

The lines of the patterns below are the water dreaming for the people of North East Arnhem Land.

The pattern in the centre of the painting of the water is the dreaming from Central Australia.

The tracks of the emu are followed to different waterholes in Central Australia.

The two oval shapes and circles are depictions of rain clouds.

When rain falls people track animals to sources of water catchment to drink.

Logo

The ‘Strong Women for Healthy Country’ logo was designed by the Mimal Women Rangers for the 2019 Northern Territory Women’s Healthy Country forum.

Women played a part to gather small things like fish, water lilies, little black berries and turtle. Pandanus was a major part to make mats, skirts and baskets to carry food. In the past cultural practice for women to gather small games to feed children, if the men couldn’t gather big games. It is also done to have enough food to feed everybody. Women had a role to look after kids from 0-13 years of age. They played some parts in making decisions as well as men, some decisions were to move from one place to another in search of food.

Women today still have the knowledge on how to connect to the land and understand the knowledge that was passed down from the women elders. Educated women today are becoming strong to pass knowledge on to young people to gain leadership in cultural practice and mainstream education.

Logo Elements

Muta - Sun: When the sun rises it’s the beginning of a new day.

Daiyarrh - Pandanus: Daiyarrh is the main plant we use for weaving mats carry bags , fish nets and clothing.

Jupi - Bush current: Collected in the bush during the wet and just before cold weather. Jupi helps absorbed iron in the body and give vitamins and mineral.

Wamurra - Long-neck turtle: Wamurra are collected by swimming (Watjawan) in the billabongs and swamps by hand.

Julah - Water: The main source that brings life to the land. We use water for almost everything.

Boerrn-darrnga - Black-bream: The most tasty fish, these bream are common on every stream and channel through the river of ever water way.

Datdam - Waterlillie: Mostly found in billabongs and swamps, we can eat the seed that’s at the bottom of the root.

Niparrhows - Wedge tail Eagle: signs to show that there are a lot of animals in the area. Niparr is also a traditional bird in this area.