Cultural Tour

Student Cultural Tour with Worn Gundidj

Published 2 February 2022

Student Cultural Tour with Worn Gundidj

6-10 December 2021

Daily journal written by Rebecca McLean, Skillinvest Business Trainer and Indigenous Mentor.

In December, 12 Skillinvest student trainees, took part in a Cultural Tour of Gunditjmara Country with Worn Gundidj Cultural tour guide and Cultural Leader Uncle Pauly Wright and his daughter and trainee Lena Wright. The student trainees are hosted by Victoria Police through the ongoing School Based Apprenticeship & Traineeship program.

Also helping guide and nurture the students on this journey was Clint Miller, youth worker and BDM business development officer for Worn Gundidj.

The 12 Students, ACLO’s Selina Grizos and Eric Egan, PALO’s Gordon Exner and Matthew Heaviside and I were treated to an immersive and unforgettable experience across a selection of sacred and special sites including Tower hill, Budj Bim and Halls Gap.

While staying at Port Fairy we were treated to an absolutely deadly feed each night cooked by Jay Britton, Worn Gundidj chef, who could certainly incorporate the ancient taste of native foods with modern and much-loved recipes.

We travelled to Tower hill where we took part in a smoking ceremony and heard about the landscape that had once been destroyed by cattle farming and cleared completely.
Uncle Pauly then explained how, by using a painting found of the land before it was cleared, the land had been restored. Although the ancient trees could not be replaced, the land is now a thriving bush tucker garden and landscape and Uncle was there to show us what plants could be eaten, used for medicine and for tools.
Tower hill is a beautiful landscape that is a credit to Worn Gundidj.

We travelled to a most ancient and world heritage listed site, Budj Bim.
This site is not only spectacular and well preserved, but also Sacred and the energy it emits could be felt by all in attendance.
Braydon Sanders our tour guide for the day, showed us some beautiful and rich landscapes. He spoke of his Ancestors, the original inhabitants of the area, their industrious nature and the permanence of their existence in this area, dispelling the myth that Aboriginal people were nomadic hunters and gatherers.
We went and viewed the lake where the eels were kept and then travelled to Halls Gap. This was an incredible drive with stunning views of an ancient and special landscape.
Uncle Pauly was able to explain the significance of this area as a trade centre and we witnessed some landmarks on the way that we will all remember.
That afternoon Uncle Pauly showed us how to throw returning boomerangs and spears.

We were joined by Max and Abbey from PALO’s in Stawell. We hiked up an original pathway to Venus Baths.
Many of the students noted that when we were quiet and reflected on our connection to the land, we could hear the voices of the old people and the giggling of the children who would once have swum there. The water holds memories, and this place was very sacred and special.
Uncle Pauly then took us on another bush food walk, testing our learned knowledge and sharing with us the history of the area as well as showing us the Cultural Centre.
That afternoon we drove to the lookout and saw a view of the valley where we were staying and on our return to the YHA we separated into groups for men’s and women’s business.
The women learning traditional weaving and macrame while the Men did their own business.

We were taken to Bunjils Cave, another time for quiet reflection. This place commanded respect and after leading us to and showing us the cave painting of Bunjil and his helpers, Uncle Pauly sent us all off to reflect on what we had learned and what we could take away from the experience.

The Cultural Tour experience gave everyone involved a sense of pride and belonging, connection and understanding and was extremely inclusive for all…. Sacred and Deadly.