Far and Wide

by John posted April 30, 2014 category Art / Design, Culture, Koorie, Travel, Wood Carving, Work


I live in an amazing land and recently my son Tiriki (age 4) and I were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to explore some more of it. On Friday 18 April, Tiriki and I set out from the outskirts of Melbourne where we live for “a big adventure”. A great opportunity for my first born and I to bond, and to have a great time seeing some parts of the country we’ve previously visited, as well as an opportunity to venture to new terrain.

Our trip began before the crack of dawn and we headed northward. We ventured up the freeway through Victoria and via our ancestral country (Yorta Yorta) and to the Murray River at Albury. There we stopped for a break before proceeding onward through the lower half of New South Wales, passing through Wiradjuri country at Wagga Wagga, where I had attended university, and then onto the Blue Mountains, arriving just on 4pm, settling in at my folks house for the kick-off of the week’s Rabbitohs NRL game, Go Souths!

With that important stuff out of the way, it was a chance then to catch up with family, which also included my brother’s twins, giving Tiriki a chance to reconnect with his slightly older cousins.

On the road again early in the morning, we then set out for the Northern Rivers region of the far north coast of New South Wales, and the city of Grafton, my home town. In Grafton I delivered two days worth of cultural workshops to local Goorie men, hosted by the Grafton Regional Art Gallery. There I taught wood carving, how traditional twine and fishing line was made, and I also gave a presentation on various art, tool and weapon forms found in Bundjalung and Gumbaingirr country.

The cultural workshops were held on the back of an invitation by the gallery to carve two traditional war clubs, as replicas of two that appear in a photograph in the Charles Lindt folios of images which were shot during the 1870’s. The folios feature studio images of Goorie men, women and children in staged recreations of “traditional” tribal life, holding various artifacts and in traditional dress. The clubs I created are now held at the gallery as part of their collection.

Visiting Grafton was also a great opportunity to catch-up with family. I spent time with my Aunt and cousins, and Tiriki played with his little cousins whilst I delivered the workshops. It’s great having family almost anywhere and everywhere I go.

Back on the road a few days later and we headed west to Outback New South Wales. Leaving the rainforests and bushland of the Northern Rivers behind, we visited places like Bourke, Cobar and Broken Hill, smack dab in the middle of the desert. Whilst these were all beautiful places, they were also serving as a stop over for the main attraction. We continued heading west, over the border again and into the northern half of South Australia. We had a few days to explore a bit of the Flinders Ranges and Outback South Australia before heading home.

Some highlights of the 6,018km road trip included:

  • The fish traps on the Barwon River at Brewarrina NSW. These are estimated at being over 17,000 years old, and are still being used to catch fish today.
  • A day on the beach at McPherson’s Crossing, which is a sandy stretch of the Orara River near Grafton NSW.
  • ANZAC Day service at Broken Hill NSW.
  • The ochre pits I visited in SA, NSW and VIC.
  • Driving out to Baryulgil, to film part of an upcoming cultural video project.
  • Sleeping in a swag out under the stars, camped at various rest stops with Tiriki snug and warm in bed in the car.
  • The high school students who came in to learn about some of their culture at the workshops I ran, despite it being during their school holidays!
  • The king brown snake who was as startled as I was, when I found him behind a chunk of ochre out in the desert.
  • The bearded dragon, who despite my best efforts wouldn’t leave the middle of the road, after I had passed him and walked back to take a photo.




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