Julinbah Yowarl Revisited

Some of you might remember a post I wrote about half a year ago (when I was still attempting to fit a novel into a blog-post) about a very special event called Rainbow Corroboree, or Julinbah Yowarl in the native tongue of the Bunjalung people.

Now where did that image go?

Every aboriginal ceremonial dance that I have seen so far, starts with a cleansing dance. Using branches with fresh leaves for “brooms” and lots of smoke, the cleansing dance is a way to clear away any bad spirits before the corroborree.

The Julinbah Yowarl Rainbow Corroborree is held twice a year on every equinox . Instigated by the Bunjalung steward and holder of the local songlines, Lewis Walker, the event is a colorful celebration of Aboriginal culture and a way of building bridges between white and black Australia.

History is a sensitive concept in this country. Prior to the European settlement (read; occupation) Australia’s history was only oral. Without a written language and with a very different perception of reality (ie. notions of time and space) the Aboriginal history was close to incomprehensible for the few rational (read; one-eyed) English scholars and historians who tried to fit the Aboriginal history into a Western framework.

Now where did that image go?

This is Benny Zable, or Benny Banner as he likes to introduce himself. Benny is one of the region’s most famous painters and activists, but his most widely seen work has got to be the banners which he makes and sets up at just about any event or protest in the Northern Rivers area. Here he is in front of the main stage at the Rainbow Corroborree, waving his beautiful banners.

What’s more, the clash of cultures is so recent that the average “white” Australian still haven’t got a clue about the Aboriginal way of life and its more than 40.000 year old evolution. Granted, “songlines” and “dreamtime” are hard concepts to grasp for someone who grew up with a linear concept of time and a preference for all things logic, but in my personal opinion the divide between blacks and whites in Australia is more a question of a lack of exposure rather than Westerner’s inability to think beyond their culture.

Thing is, it was only in 1967 that the Australian administration began to include Aboriginals in the population census of Australia, and with Aboriginal children being forced away from their parents by the authorities (read; self-proclaimed rulers) as recently as in the 1970’s, Australia still has a long way to go in terms of reconciliation between the naticve population and the settlers and their decendants.

Now where did that image go?

This is my precious little friend Padi on her favourite swing. When she grows up she wants to be the president of Australia and I can assure you that the world will be a better place when it happens.

On this basis, the Julinbah Yowarl is an event that strives to facilitate that reconciliation and create a space where white folks can learn about Aboriginal culture and meet Aboriginal people rather than watching them from a safe distance. Don’t get me wrong, Australia’s official policies have finally more or less caught up with the modern values of Human Rights and equality, and it is very much PC (politically correct) to feel a bit guilty if you are a non-Aboriginal Australian, but guilt and good will doesn’t go nearly as far as community and working together if you ask me.

Even so, at the Rainbow Corroboree it actually isn’t all that easy to get talking to the members of the local Aboriginal community. Despite the set-up and the spirit of bridge-building, I still found it hard to connect with most of them, and from the looks of things, I wasn’t the only one. I reckon that on both sides there are still a lot of residual misconception and apprehension.

On part of the Aboriginals, it is hard to ignore the fact that anybody who isn’t aboriginal is either a descendant of the English settlers who decimated the Aboriginal population with brute force (believe me, there were more massacres in the past 200 years than you would care to know about) or a more recent immigrant who has been invited and supported by a discriminating system based on the power-hungry Commonwealth’s colonization. On the other hand, the white folks (myself included) often feel vaguely responsible for the awful history of modern Australia and a subsequent awkwardness in approaching the Aboriginal.

Now where did that image go?

I am rarely happier than when I can play a good guitar and relax under one of Benny’s Banners in the Rainbow Chaitent at the Julinbah Yowarl.

That said, this event is no doubt a pioneering effort which is much needed for creating a culture of understanding and cultural exchange. It’s also a damn good festival where everybody is relaxed and happy and nothing much happens except for a bit of soft live music and the occasional swim in the Rocky River. As far as festivals go, I definitely rate this one on my personal top 5.

I really hope that this type of gathering will spread throughout Australia and make white/black cultural interactions a regular activity rather than a novelty to the average Australian. If you’re ever in the Northern Rivers area around equinox, I would certanly recommend that you go to Tabulam for this rare and heart-warming event.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. jack
    Jul 22, 2013 @ 15:13:39

    A FRESH LOOK AT AUSTRALIAN HISTORY:–‘the present traces of the past.’
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    About the Book
    (ISBN:—978-0-9871596-4-9, pages-430, Dewey No: , Libraries Australia) (Published—Australia and New Delhi, India.– Publisher—Prestige Books Int. in association with Vedanta Books)
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    Jack Singh, BA, BSc, MEL (Master Env.Law) ACIS, ACIM
    Tel:0297642854 or 0297641941, Mobile 0409912694
    Email:jjsingh@optusnet.com.au:— Web: http:// members.optusnet.com.au/jjsingh or
    Also Web–_www.historyofaus.com
    About the Author
    Jack Singh was born in Fiji and later moved to London, where he lived for a number of years before migrating to Australia. He is a graduate of Murdoch University, Western Australia, attaining BA in History and BSc, majoring in Sustainable Development. He also has a MEL (Master of Env.Law) from Sydney University and a couple of professional certificates. Jack has extensive work experience in UK and Australia, including working as an Officer of the Supreme Court of Judicature at the Law Courts, Strand London, UK; Secretary/Administrator of Height of Buildings Act in the former State Planning Authority of NSW, Sydney, Australia; Managing Director of small companies involved in mining, manufacturing, eco-tourism; farming and commercial activities. For the past 30 years Jack has been in his own private practice in Environmental Law; Land and Planning Development; Environmental Economics and Sustainable Development. He is married to Jeanette and has three Australian lawyer sons, who are married to professional partners.
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    (Jack as an Author)
    Jack’s book ‘Sustainable Development and Environmental Issues’ was published in 2011.
    Apart from ‘History of Australia–Revisited, published in 2013, Jack is currently working on a book ‘Brief with Honour,’–a spicy tale of love, passion and intriguing novel in a willing suspension of disbelief and a convincing fictitious world.


    Book cover of ‘History of Australia—Revisited’
    (Painting by W.E. Read—1882—Owners- Jack & Jeanette Singh))

    The above book is on the market for Aust.$65 per copy, via internet and other electronic media. However, I am able to purchase the book at author’s discount rate of Aust. $40 per copy, plus postage (in NSW–$5; other States in Australia $9; and for overseas add $22), and I would be delighted to place an order to buy and post the book to you promptly. A much better price can be negotiated for schools or institutions requiring larger quantities. Email me at jjsingh@optusnet.com.au with details of your order.


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