Indigenous women’s voices loud and clear at festival

Melissa Lucashenko with Aunty Delta Kay and tara June Winch at Byron Writers Festival 2016. Photo: SCU / Natalie Foord
Melissa Lucashenko with Aunty Delta Kay and Tara June Winch at Byron Writers Festival 2016. Photo: SCU / Natalie Foord





‘Indigenous women are strong,’ said Melissa Lucashenko, as she introduced a session on indigenous life through a women’s perspective.

As well as Lucashenko, author of Mullumbimby, the session featured Delta Kay and Tara June Winch.

Aunty Delta Kay is an Arkwal Bumberbin and Bundjalung woman who grew up close to the Festival site.

‘It’s chilling to be so close to home. And I’ll always be home here. It’s my belonging place,’ she said.

While the landscape has changed, it is still her country and she said that her ancestors still welcome her back.

She recounted her childhood growing up next to the Bilambil Creek and how her parents would use nets in the creek to fish for food.

‘We would wake up in the morning and there’d be huge mudcrabs, and eels flopping around on the tiled floor and pipis in water in a pot,’ she reminisced.

But she wasn’t able to share her wonderful childhood adventures to anyone else at school.

She said that her upbringing was a cause of shame and she would be bullied and teased for practicing her culture.

She shared stories about her mother and grandmother who were both victims of the Stolen Generation.

Her grandmother and grandfather were both taken away from their parents and raised in missions before they met.

They returned to Bundjalung country to create their family.

But once her grandmother died, her grandfather was threatened that his children would be taken away from him if he didn’t relocate to the Cabbage Tree Island mission on the Richmond River near Evans Head.

His eldest daughter obeyed the order and took her 12 siblings to the island.

But Delta’s mother and another older sister ran away from the settlement and walked the whole way to return home to her father.

They were then forced to live hidden in the bush.

Delta credits her ancestors’ strength as the reason her grandmother and mother were able to persevere through so much adversity.

She believes that strength has been passed down to her and her own children.

‘Strong these Bundjalung people,’ she said.

Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch has recently released an anthology of short stories called After The Carnage.

Winch is currently living in France, and which means she is displaced her from her country.

‘[Living away] has an incredible sense of loss of home, and loss of belonging,’ she said.

Winch said that coming back to Australia means that she sees all of the problems plaguing Indigenous people with ‘fresh eyes’.

‘We’re entering a dark time. A very dark time,’ she said, clearly upset.

However Aunty Delta said that she likes to see the positives.

She has recently created a new local Indigenous dance troupe, which performed at 2016’s Splendour In The Grass and is going from ‘strengths to strengths’.

‘Things are only going to get better,’ Aunty Delta said.

Report compiled by Jacqueline Munro, a Bachelor of Media student at Southern Cross University.

Southern Cross University Reporters