Johnny Charlie- Dingaal Traditional Owner on country - Jiigurru

Earlier in the week I met Elaine McGreen, a Traditional Owner for the area, while on board for the day sails. She was sharing some Guugu Yimithirr language with me but when she had an issue with some of the spelling she told me to talk to Johnny Charlie. He had not been directly involved with the camp before but this year he was camping with family. The next day Garry and I met him during a meeting about broadening the TOs involvement in the planning and scope of the project. As soon as I sat beside him I asked him about an archaeological project that Elaine had told me about. Researchers are currently studying shards of pottery found on Lizard Island that speak of a connection to the Solomon Islands over 3100 years ago. We also spoke about linking our trip to Lizard with his desire to tell his story to the young people at the camp. We planned to travel on Thursday with a group to Lizard.


We had been concerned it may be too rough but a window to travel was found if we left early on Thursday morning and got back to camp by 4pm when the big winds were due to come in. Karl, pictured above, soldiered through the day even though he was slightly feverish. I am happy to say he sweated it out and was a lot better the next day.


On the way over, young Patrick Hart caught a big mackerel that ended up feeding us all for lunch.


Johnny Charlie, Des Bowen and Lawrence Deeral looking out at Jiigurru


These two small islands feature in the story Johnny Charlie told about the place and represent the two sisters.


Arriving into Watsons Bay


The rain clouds were looming as we got off Pelican and walked along to the beginning of the National Park.


Camelia Burns, Shaunica Lee-Cheu, Selina Burns, Tenielle Frank, Amanda Baru and Charissa Naylor.


Johnny Charle, Amanda Baru and Derek Jacko.


Johnny Charlie sharing the story for Lizard (see story here- http://www.youtube.com/user/Pelican1see?feature=mhum ) at a very important site. The water hole. Here the Emu turned into thaaramuli (thunderstorm) and broke the lore. I cannot share the whole story here but it was so wonderful to hear Johnny Charlie tell it on country and feel the deep appreciation of the listeners. He told us that Dingaal means 'broken piece' but that listening to the story will keep the people as one.


Walking over country.


Would love to find the name of this low growing tree.


Des Bowen on the walking track. Soon after this photo the skies opened up and we were all drenched to the skin. Later on the beach I heard Des call it a "shower of blessings"


Rodenta Burns. The rain just felt good.


Getting back on board Pelican after the walk.


The fish that Patrick caught managed to feed all 33 of us.


After lunch, everyone sat together to listen to some of the older people speak. First Johnny Charlie talked about sharing stories and knowledge. He also talked about windows of opportunity for the young people to walk through and to take ownership and pride in their culture and land. He talked about traumas and hurts and the need for people to stop fighting about land, particularly land that they are not connected too. He linked the present day fighting with the meaning in the ancient story he had shared with them on the island today. He also talked about his involvement in the archaeological dig and the interesting light it was shedding on their shared history with the Pacific. Des Bowen spoke up too. He spoke about how when people are in pain they often hurt those nearest to them. He spoke about healing, caring for country and that he felt it was the young people who will find a balance between the old ways and the new ways. He said they (young people) need to take advantage of their education but also not to forget the old ways and to feel strong in their culture. He also talked about the journey of Pelican and how she travels a month up the coast to be with the Guugu Yimithirr annually.
Laurie Deeral also rallied the young people to feel strong and not to feel shame about who they are. He talked about their need to be connected to family and country. He wanted the TOs to build a better connection to the Island as they have no housing or place where they can go to there. He spoke about the opportunities in tourism.
Clarence Bowen spoke up to and told everyone about Johnny Charlie's father and how he was such a wonderful storyteller. He shared two of his stories. Derek Jacko shared another story too.
Phylamena Naylor spoke up about the project and how good it was and that the community can do more together to ensure that it happens again. And finally Shaunica Lee-Cheu (13) added her thoughts to the group. She movingly described the plight of some of the young people in Hope Vale, how lost they were, wandering the streets all night. She talked about her experiences on the project, talked about the bright spark it created and hope that things could be much better for people. She emphasised how much she enjoyed learning about the turtles during the tagging and that she wanted to do more things like that. She wanted the young people to stop fighting each other, look after each other and listen to the Elders.
The speech left everyone speechless and profoundly moved.

And it was time to go as the boat needed to sail, so that the conditions would not be too hard on the way home.


It was back to fishing with gusto. On the trip home there were 7 fish hauled out of the sea. All in a place you would not normally easily catch them.


Lawrence Deeral and Carmen Pearson with their kids.


Phylamena Naylor with Shaunica.


And the fish kept jumping onto the lines. I think this was the Stripey Tuna though most of the fish caught were Mackerel.


Karl trying to fit the huge mackerel in the fish bin.


Rodenta and Aurora watching the fishing action.


There was more than fish caught on this trip today!


The seas did get pretty rough on the way home. The men watching from inside the Pelican saloon. A few of the younger kids suffered a bit from sea sickness on the way home.


Aurora and Rodenta looking up sting rays.


And the sea outside.

AuthorMichelle Quach