Maintaining Tjukurpa Law and Culture

Byron Bay Film Festival

Film Festival Campaign

Conversation at Pukitja

So often people go into Aboriginal communities to talk, not to listen. Most fly in, fly out, usually within a couple of hours. But when representatives from South Australian unions along with John Hartley as cultural intermediary and film-maker David Salomon sat down with senior people at Pukatja in the APY Lands in 2009, they were there to listen. That's unusual. You hear people referred to as "pina pati", that means, blocked ears, implying that they're either deaf or won't listen. 

On our arrival, Murray George and senior people had consulted broadly. They had a well formulated plan to discuss and were puzzled why people hadn't shown interest earlier. The model for administering their country was arrived at Anangu way, with important decisions held over until consensus had been reached.

Conditions on APY Lands had been deteriorating for 30 years. That's not to say that nothing good had happened, but resources to uphold and maintain law and culture were very limited. In a sad reflection of the days of the Aboriginal protector, recent amendments to the APY Lands legislation gave all final decisions to the minister. 

We approached various unions, organisations and individual philanthropists to support a documentary which would highlight that Tjukurpa is still alive in Australia. The APY lands is one of few remaining places where the full body of Tjukurpa is a continuing way of life. The documentary would not be a political debate, but a demonstration to the world that Tjukurpa is alive and on going. Stories from senior men and women would be recorded for future generations. Donations enabled Murray, John and David to travel to communities and call for a cultural response to troubles in communities everywhere. Murray was well known and we got a warm reception. Where he wasn't, people soon overcame their suspicion that we might be spying for the government and offered their support.

 Our sponsors were fantastic. We visited Kuku Yalanji Bubu, John's Family country in Far North Queensland, and kinfolk he hadn't met before. When everything came together at the Laura Dance Festival we met the last remaining fluent speaker of the Kuku Thaypan language, Dr Tommy George Senior. The old man's vision for culture and traditional world-view be maintained for future generations gave birth to the festival over 30 years ago. Anangu Pitjantjatjara presented him a painting and inma (song/dance) called Manta Nganampa during the opening of the Festival, "This, our country, is reverberating with life force. Colours and patterns are moving in excitement." Rainbow Serpent, Wanampi or Kurriyala brings life and the spirit of regeneration to the whole country.

 Now we are preparing to distribute the film as widely as we can. The South Australian Film Corporation In partnership with Australian International Documentary Conference are sponsoring a screening during DocWeek. It will make its World Premiere at Byron Bay International Film Festival around the same time. 
 This could not happen without the generosity of our supporters. We want to thank you sincerely. You have helped us begin something of great value, and we put out a call for everyone to join with Anangu tjuta, Yalanji bama and all Australians in supporting this social enterprise to keep the world's oldest culture standing up alive.

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