Music, dance and food mark survival

A welcome to country and smoke ceremony. 177157_08 Picture: DEREK SCHLENNSTEDT

By Derek Schlennstedt

While thousands of Victorians marked Australia Day as a day of celebration, hundreds of Hills residents came together on Friday 26 January at Belgrave’s Brothwick Park to instead commemorate a day of survival.
Showcasing a blend of Aboriginal music, dance, food and stories, the 11th annual Belgrave Survival Day once again celebrated Indigenous culture and the survival of Australia’s First Nations People – as well as reminding residents why it has become such an enduring event of the Dandenong Ranges.
A cast of hundreds came to show their respect and solidarity with Lyster Ward Councillor Mike Clarke opening the event.
Speaking to the Mail, Councillor Clarke said he felt very strongly about ‘restoring Aboriginal rights and entitlement to land,’ and commented on the success of the Belgrave Survival Day event,
“I’m just so proud of this community which gets behind it and shows their interest in aboriginal history and concern for the lack of support, and the lack of recognition,” Cr Clarke said.
“This to me is an important event for recognition and to see a community turn out like this means we need to do something about it.”
Tim Kanoa, who was MC said in its eleventh year, the event continues to attract more and more people and spoke of the day’s significance.
“It’s in its eleventh year now and ultimately just by the numbers of people turning up, the kids running around, families sitting on the trees, it’s relaxed atmosphere  – people are enjoying it, it’s great.”
“I don’t talk on behalf of the committee, but ultimately the day is about celebrating Aboriginal culture – the first peoples culture, in particular the culture of the Wurundjeri people, because this is their country, but also all the other mobs who have fought hard to maintain a strong culture of existence here in Australia against what we would call adversity.”
Today is about making sure we are at the forefront on an important day for the country and that our culture is alive and our heritage is strong.”
That strong culture and heritage was certainly shown with various indigenous musical performances taking place throughout the day.
Though, music was just one part of the afternoon event – a Welcome to Country and traditional smoking ceremony was also conducted by Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Bill Nicholson, followed by traditional dances.
To end the day it was Gawurra Gaykamangu a Yolngu artist hailing from Milingimbi (Yurrwi), North East Arnhem Land, whose songs performed in his own language of Gupapuyngu pointed to the spirit and nature of his island home and made a poignant reminder of the significance of what ‘home’ means.