Last week, Create NSW and Arts OutWest hosted the inaugural Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Exchange for arts workers, artists and members of community on Wiradyuri country at our very own CSU in Bathurst. I was fortunate to be a part of this gathering, along with a broad capture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from across NSW and other regional areas.
The exchange began with a Welcome to Country at the Bathurst Indigenous Student Centre, Wammarra. We were joined by Wiradyuri Elders and representatives, overseen by senior Elder, Mallyan (Uncle Brian Grant). What an appropriate way for all of us to come together and ground ourselves on country! The air filled with smoke as part of ceremony, followed by a talk from traditional owners about the spirit, land, language, peoples and history of where we stood – the place where we would do this important work on.
The two-day event was programmed as a rare opportunity for connection, reflection and visioning. Our stories and experiences were shared in a safe and meaningful way, as first-hand accounts of what is happening now. We prompted one another with the support of established facilitators, such as the humorous and out-of-the-box visionary, Djon Mundine (Bandjalung) and key negotiator and strategist, Peter White (Gamilaroi). Our recent struggles, big dreams and actions about how we might enter the next phase with strength and purpose circled the walls of CSU, then landed on laptops tapping away to document it all.
These programs are often referred to as capacity building – maybe this is because afterwards we return to our communities feeling full to the brim with inspiration, new contacts and some tools to ensure our arts and culture sector grow. I definitely experienced a great source of strength by connecting with my peers. Practically speaking, it was valuable to learn more about funding opportunities, link with others for future partnerships and to confirm our work is valued. I believe all of us as participants of the program can take pride in our contributions, which will inform an upcoming strategy for Create NSW.