Jida Gulpilil, a Dja Dja Wurrung community leader, looks forward to Welcoming all people to Dja Dja Wurrung Country for the opening of the Esoteric Festival in March. The Welcome will also include a Smoking Ceremony – “It’s important for us to carry out these type of smoking, cleansing ceremonies because it’ll protect our spirit” (Jida Gulpilil) – where thick, fragrant smoke from a pile of burning gum leaves will cleanse our spirits and let the Ancestors know we are here. Jida will also play the didgeridoo as participants are invited to walk through the smoke to cleanse their spirits.

Jida manages an eco-tour company Gulpilil’s Australia that offers Indigenous educational tours of the Lake Boort. The program features boomerang and spear throwing and lessons in the history, customs and beliefs of the Dja Dja Wurrung and Yang Balug people of the Loddon Plains.

Womin-dji-ka (Welcome)

Words, as respectful and honest as these ones are, can only express a small tribute to the awe, inspiration, empathy and empowerment we feel today for what they experienced to ensure our survival.

The pain, sadness, confusion and unjust hardships they endured and overcame are testaments to the residual present-day health and wellbeing of our Country and our people, their descendants.

What happened during colonisation and the following attempts at genocide challenged and tested our resilience and resistance to the degradation of our land, our culture and our people. We are proud of and honoured by the innovative ways in which they upheld the integrity of our once silenced lifeways, traditions and belief systems.

In a time when their voice was not heard and their stories are forbidden to be shared they persevered and now we have arrived to a new day where the opportunity exists to unveil storied untold.

The strength, and wisdom of our ancestors has enabled us to walk in their footsteps towards our own healing, and walk the path of healing our Country. For this we thank you, our Martiinga Kuli Murrup (Ancestral spirits).

Today we walk our Culture knowing that when we strive for the balance of Bunjil’s creations, for us and for the future generations, you walk with us.

Rebecca Phillips descendant of Caroline Malcolm.