The Traditional Owners of Thamarrurr country in the Northern Territory believe in the importance of being on country for spiritual, cultural, social, economic and environmental reasons.
However, lack of transport, poor road conditions, family and social problems and the need for access to work and important services centralised in Wadeye prevent people accessing their country.
There can be negative consequences to this separation including loss of belonging and purpose and the loss of knowledge and skills associated with country and culture. It leads to the loss of respect and enthusiasm by younger generations for culture and traditions, with a focus on ‘town life’.
In early 2015, the Thamarrurr Rangers and Wadeye Health Clinic discussed the importance of supporting people to be on country. One initiative discussed was a “Walk on Country”.
In August 2015, the first “Walk on Country” took place from Yarra to Ngurde to Nganthuk. Following the success of this walk and further funding to support access to country, the Thamarrurr Rangers staged another walk in 2016, over two days.
The 27 participants included Traditional Owners, rangers, youth group and health professionals who took the opportunity to discuss common ground. Several children participated and they, with the rest, enjoyed the first day travelling from Yederr Outstation along the coastline.
The trail to the campsite at Kuy Outstation incorporated spectacular cliffs, cultural sites, stone fish traps, a mudflat and a small creek crossing. Day two saw the group take in the beauties from Kuy Outstation, around the peninsula to a turtle nesting area, stone arrangements and other cultural sites.
The objectives of the 24 kilometre walk were to acknowledge and support people’s fundamental connection and access to country, to promote cultural heritage and intergenerational transfer of knowledge, and to promote healthy lifestyle choices.
Melissa Bentivoglio from Thamarrurr Rangers said the walk was a huge success with the outcomes matching the objectives.
“Indigenous leaders and participants, both young and old, were clearly proud to share a part of their country and culture with interested visitors,” Melissa said.
“For some of the elders, the walk brought back memories of the old days where they were fit and healthy from walking right through their countries for bush-tucker, ceremony and other socio-economic needs.”
The walk enabled coordination within the Ranger team and with other community organisations, including use of radio communications and satellite phones.
A turtle survey at Kuy peninsula was carried out and marine debris was removed along the Yederr – Kuy coastline.
The walk engendered a willingness to continue working together for the purpose of Healthy People and Healthy Country and created an enthusiasm for a 2017 walk from Perederr to Tjindi.