Cultural exchange for Butchulla ghundus (children)
BUTCHULLA ghundus (children) have an even stronger ancestral connection after returning from a cultural immersion program in New Zealand.
After months of fundraising, Maryborough's Kunurang Krew flew to NZ for a six-day culture exchange with our Maori neighbours - some of whom have never seen our indigenous Australians except on TV.
Maori elders embraced the ghundus by giving them authentic cultural tours that embraced spirit and connection to land, while the younger New Zealanders shared their knowledge of their culture and language.
Krew member Dianthe Tanna said it was the first time any of them had been overseas.
"The plane ride was mean - it's a word we've picked up from the Maori's which means deadly or cool," Dianthe said.
"We met and played handball.
"They told us some of the culture and the language and how long they had been there.
"The school we visited was the oldest school in the town - the first school to be built."
The Kunurang Krew also shared their cultural song and dance.
Tessa McKinley said one of her highlights was the Maraes - a sacred house built from carvings and paintings.
"The Waiteti Marae had shimmery shell eye carvings which the Maori believed would scare away attackers."
Tessa also mentioned the many amazing tours, welcoming ceremonies and a healing creek where they splashed their face in ritual.
Mietta Skuthorpe-Spearim said their culture was similar to Butchulla.
"Rotorua was the best primary school - they showed us many dances including their version of the haka and how it meant that this was their country, their land," Mietta said.
"We performed dances that held meanings of welcome and how it represented Butchulla people past, present and future.
"We have respected our elders by connecting with another country.
"We felt even stronger and powerful and even happier to be in our culture and represent where we come from by how we did it."
Butchulla parents, and an elder on the trip, said they achieved more than they bargained for.
Kunurang co-ordinator Susan Tobane said she felt the children had gained a unique worldly experience.
"I think this has given them new life skills by showcasing a different cultural perspective and the styles of learning and teachings that are taught at a young age," Susan said.
"Over there they were an audience to many beautiful creation stories and sacred practices.
"Whenever we visited a significant site, our guide acknowledged and thanked spirits for allowing us onto country.
"Seeing the kids acknowledge and participate in it was what we wanted - to instil that value for country and our individual connections."
One of the highlights they hope to see implemented is Butchulla language becoming part of the education curriculum.
"Children start school at the exact time as us but their first years are language schools," Pete Skuthorpe-Spearim said.
"So revitalisation and practices of culture start at a very young.
"The whole school is involved from the principal, teachers, tuckshop staff all the way down to the lollipop lady. Everyone has learned the concept of bilingual.
"It is something the community could really benefit here."
Another major milestone was the Krew's performance improvements.
"I noticed the ghundus' performances improved significantly over there," Susan said.
"They saw the delivery of pride and strength during each Maori performance and worked on matching it.
"From Rotorua to Karioi - they sung loud and proud and improvised throughout the tour to incorporate crowd participation.
"It was a humbling experience. This trip also served to encourage individuals about ownership of their own cultural journey. We need to remain proactive and continually draw on the teachings given by our elders."
The Kunurang Krew will share their New Zealand experience through a community presentation in July, during the NAIDOC Week celebrations.