Three generations of women from one family were awarded the Dungala-Kaeila Writing Prizes for their poems, in a ceremony held at the Mooroopna Library.
It is the first time that three generations of women from the same family have been recognized.
The women, Elsie Anderson, who is Tanya Thomas ‘grandmother, and Nevaeh Wroe, who is Ms. Thomas’ daughter and Ms. Anderson’s great-granddaughter, are from the Wemba Wemba, Boonwurung and Barapa Barapa nations.
Nevaeh said her award-winning writing was “horrible,” although her family is proud of her for overcoming the challenge of her ADHD and autism to create a powerful poem titled We all struggle together.
His poem sums up the importance of solidarity among the many diverse indigenous nations across Australia.
We all struggle together by Nevaeh Wroe
We are above and beyond to adapt to this world,
Our culture has flourished for thousands of years,
We always stay together
We stand together big and free,
Our culture for all to see,
We all fight together
We like to share our culture everywhere,
From north to west and south to east,
We are all fighting together.
She was inspired by the objects of the First Nations around their house, such as a didgeridoo that says “release the flag”.
Nevaeh’s mother, Tanya, was similarly inspired in her poem.
Our earth is about as authentic as it gets.
It’s a raw expression of Ms. Thomas’ intense feeling and earned her a commendation in the Open section.
Our earth by Tanya Thomas
Our land is a traditional land that has never been for sale,
Captain Cook landed and everything changed,
Our traditional landowners have become his slaves,
Sold, traded and our children stolen,
Our country was no longer ours,
Our ancestors treated so badly,
Introduced to alcohol, tobacco and much more,
Our wives were traded to the white man for such things,
They were proud that their children were mixed race,
Rejected from the family, terrible things happened and horrible behavior followed,
Such shameful things have happened,
Everything for the white man who was so superficial,
Our people never deserved what we saw,
Our land and our people have become very hollow,
Our land is our country that we love and cherish,
Only to be stolen is such a shame,
We have never been the same
Apologies have been made to our people,
But nothing has changed, everything has remained the same,
Our land is traditional and it’s up to us to keep,
It was never for sale but stolen,
Our people have suffered more than most,
It has to stop for us to heal,
We are important, we always have been,
Look at our history and you will see,
We were doing well before all of this was necessary.
Ms Thomas was inspired by ‘taking the flag’, referring to WAM Clothing, a company founded by non-Indigenous couple Ben Wooster and Semele Moore, who obtained the exclusive rights to use the Indigenous flag in 2018.
“I didn’t even think about it, I just took the pen and the paper and just wrote,” she said.
“It touches me because we were here first, we were the first nation, and yet we are not recognized. “
When Nevaeh saw her great-grandmother Elsie Anderson arrive at the library for the awards, she rushed outside to meet her.
Ms. Anderson – a compassionate soul who lives on “eight hugs a day” – hugged everyone as she arrived.
She has 67 or 68 direct descendants, “without in-laws or outlaws”, and she is proud of each of them.
Ms Anderson, 93, won the Elder section for her poem COVID 19, which she wrote during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
It’s hard for her to write because she has Parkinson’s disease, so her great-granddaughter Maxine Thomas, Tanya’s daughter, helped her write the poem.
But she still has a beautiful smile and the aura of kindness that emanates from it puts everyone at ease.
COVID 19 by Elsie Anderson
If someone near you is in trouble
And alone in the face of life’s problems – COVID-19.
What seems huge to them
Like grains of sand, and their faith
Hope and courage together are gone.
Reach them in their hour of need,
And offer a “helping hand”,
Light up their darkness
With a beam of your light,
Called goodness –
it will guide them
And lead them –
And encourage them –
Especially if they are weak, out of discouragement
You will help them with love to rise up.
If someone near you is hungry and cold,
Please try to feed and warm them today.
If someone near you is tired and old,
Left alone at home every day.
Talk to them softly,
Sing them a song
Help to lift their “burdens of life”,
With soft and strong hands,
Will make a “big difference” today.
Family or neighbors?
Look up and see, and you might be surprised who they are
By pressing all the hands,
The sad ones,
It might be our neighbor
With whom we can befriend,
To whom consolation and help can we lend,
Through this very serious confinement
We are suffering today.
Commonly known as COVID 19;
I call it coroner’s disease
Because “he” always has the last word.
So dear ones, take care,
Because the “time” passes so quickly,
Soon everything may be gone.
Soon our “Season of Service” will be over,
Soon our day will be over.
Someone near you,
Now needs a kind word.
Someone near you
Now need a helping hand you can afford,
In the name of Our Lord.
The Dungala-Kaiela Writing Awards were inaugurated in 2012 to provide an opportunity to write and speak in local First Nations communities.
First Nations culture has a rich tradition of passing on history and knowledge to future generations through storytelling and spinning.
These prizes have enabled writing and expression to perpetuate this tradition of transmitting cultural heritage.
Awards coordinator Joyce Doyle said Elders in the community were interested in telling their stories.
It all started with four or five people sitting around a table in a library in 2012, and almost a decade later, many in the community, from elders to school children, were brought in to tell their stories.
Because the community is so tight-knit, it’s hard to find a judge who doesn’t know one of the participants personally.
Thus, each entry is judged without knowing the identity of the author.
Nominations are judged on the authenticity of their cultural connection to the region, the intensity of their writing and the message they try to convey.
“I would say 90% of the stories that pass are culture-related,” Ms. Doyle said.
“How young people see (culture), how our Elders tell a story of traveling through the ages of how they faced, connecting to culture. “
The awards are sponsored by community members and local organizations like Rumbalara and Rumbalara Netball and Football club.
Dungala-Kaeila Writing Prize Winners
Story / Thread / Article / Game
Open winner: Larissa Falla
Recommended open: Sharonlee Post
Youth winner: Mazz Post
Junior winner: Munyari Johnson (Echuca East PS)
Recommended Junior: Xar Minion (Guthrie PS), Chloe Hoare (Guthrie PS), Orlayah Lines (St Mary’s), Djarhyn Ferguson (St Mary’s), Rylie Atkinson (St Mary’s)
Indigenous languages of this region in whatever form
Open winner: Melissa Cowan
Youth winner: Jett Ribbins
Junior winner: Colt Cowan
Recommended Junior: Banyan Short
Poem / Word / Rap
Senior winner: Elsie Anderson
Open winner: Lisa Charles
Recommended open: Tanya Thomas
Youth winner: Nerrissa Leitch
Junior winner: Nevaeh Wroe
Recommended Junior: Dustin Herd-Fletcher