Cool room breakdowns – no problem! Children go hunting at Wagiman Culture Camp

Date: Jul 13, 2020

The otherwise quiet heritage site of Sawmill on the Wagiman Aboriginal Land Trust came to life on July 13 when the annual Wagiman Culture Camp - its diverse lineup of informative and entertaining guests – kicked off.

Wagiman families welcomed guests to their Country, ensuring guests were as comfortable as possible. Families also had the time themselves to reconnect with Country and enjoy their bush heritage.

This year family groups and guests camped in different locations around Rainbow Dreaming Billabong, just past the Claravale Crossing. In Wagiman language, the area is known as Jagud.

During the weeks leading up to the camp, Wagiman Rangers constructed a bough shed, which served well as the central cooking and eating area, as well as a hub for social gatherings.

Of course there were a few modern conveniences, such as a generator for electricity and cool rooms for perishable food, but the best laid plans can be fraught with dramas – there was not one, but two cool room breakdowns!

This turned out to be a back handed blessing in disguise. How? It highlighted the Wagiman ability to adapt and to find solutions.

Instead of BBQ-ing meat over the course of the week, the bullocky that had been butchered to provide meat for the camp was cooked all at once in a big traditional earth oven. The succulent aroma of tender beef cuts from the earth oven had everyone’s mouths watering. We feasted upon this for two days, topped up with salad, vegetables and bread rolls.

After the beef was gone, we decided that we would catch our food for the rest of the week.

Turtles are a Wagiman delicacy and you have to be quick to get a feed of turtle when it is on the menu. Luckily we were able to catch enough turtle for everyone. We sourced the turtles from a few different locations on the land trust, making sure that we did not over catch in one area.

Wagiman kids and adults alike, cooked and ate on site at the fishing spots as well as back at camp. With hungry tummies taken care of, dinnertime proved to be a non-event on one evening because no one could eat another thing!

Guest speakers and entertainers provided information and entertainment throughout the week. Paul from Indigenous Land & Sea Corporation (ILSC) attended to share information and glean some Wagiman ideas on the proposed Savanna Fire Management Project. Through this proposal, ILSC were able to generously provide some funding towards the culture camp this year.

Helicopter rides allowed traditional owners and select others to view parts of the Land Trust that are now inaccessible by road, and also allowed for direct feedback regarding potential burning activities around sacred sites in the future.

Carla and Isabel, freshwater turtle experts who became affectionately known as ‘the turtle ladies’, provided children’s educational entertainment in the form of a turtle show, camera trap demonstration and a simple solar powered grasshopper fun exercise.

Wagiman families also participated in weeds discussions, croc safety talks and biosecurity chats with representatives from Territory Natural Resource Management, Croc Wise, and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

It had been an extraordinary week of events, and before we knew it, the weekend was upon us. A feeling of sadness descended upon us, as we came to accept that the camp was over for another year. Indeed, come families chose to stay on for the weekend to enjoy that special connection that only being out bush can bring!