A space to yarn on Gurrumbilbarra country

Members of the Wulgurukaba people on Gurrumbilbarra country have officially opened a yarning circle at RAAF Base Townsville with a smoking ceremony.

The ceremony brought together local  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Townsville Defence communities.

Guests were greeted to this special place with a welcome to country, a traditional dance by the Wulgurukaba Walkabouts and song performed by descendants of members of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion.

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CAPTIONChief of Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman (centre of back row) and Warrant Officer – Air Force Warrant Officer Ralph Clifton (left) with local RAAF and Indigenous members from the Wulgurukaba Traditional Custodian Group.

In attendance was Chief of Air Force Air Marshall Robert Chipman, Warrant Officer – Air Force Warrant Officer Ralph Clifton, senior ADF officer Wing Commander Naomi Gill, Air Force Indigenous Liaison Officer Corporal Shay Butler, senior enlisted ADF members and invited guests.

Corporal Butler said the yarning circle was an important place for the entire community.

“The yarning circle is a culturally appropriate place where Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the Australian Defence Force and wider defence community can safely meet and hold ceremonies,” Corporal Butler said.

“It also acknowledges our connection to country, and is one way for us to learn more about the land the base is located on.

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CAPTIONSquadron Leader Lisa Casey participates in the smoking ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Yarning Circle at RAAF Base Townsville.

“It is a special place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders People at Townsville to come and meet and reflect and tell their stories and is available for people of all cultures to do the same.”

Almost all materials used to create the culturally safe space were repurposed and sourced on base.

“Instead of using external contractors for the build, we engaged Indigenous aviators and employees who work on base,” Corporal Butler said.

“We wanted to ensure that the entire base had a sense of responsibility and ownership of the yarning circle, with people from all backgrounds and cultures involved in bringing the site to life.”

The Wulgurukaba Traditional Custodian group, elders and respected leaders from neighbouring communities were involved throughout all stages of  the project.

5th Aviation Regiment Leading Aircraftman Chris Morganson, who had worked on the project since its inception, unveiled the plaque during the ceremony alongside Wulgurukaba elder Aunty Virginia Wyles.

For Wing Commander Gill, the ceremony and opening of the yarning circle was special.

“It brought First Nation Australians from Wulgurukaba, Bindal and Torres Strait communities together, along with aviators, soldiers, public sector personnel, contractors and supporting agencies from RAAF Base Townsville,” Wing Commander Gill said.

“Seeing it come to fruition makes me very happy.”

Corporal Butler said the space around the yarning circle would continue to develop and grow.

“There are plans for traditional artwork, as well as the planting of native species localised to Gurrumbilbarra country,” she said.






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