GUNDITJMARA youth celebrated their coming of age yesterday with an Australia Day naming ceremony at Hopkins Falls.
Led by indigenous elder Rob Lowe and Gunditjmara Health Service’s Leanne Bain, the ceremony marked a transition into adulthood for the youth taking part.
After passing through smoke, each participant planted a tree, which they will continue to water and nurture.
Gunditjmara Karrweeyn Performers cultural co-ordinator Jamie Thomas led a young group in a spear dance, as well as a cleaning of land and waking of the spirit ritual.
“It’s great to be back home, to see my countrymen here, see my family and feel the spirit of the land,” he said.
“The more we do this the healthier we and the land will get. This is a way of reconnecting with the past and going forward, putting our touch on culture.
“We could be 100 other places today — celebrating Survivor Day, celebrating Invasion Day, Australia Day — but we’re here and I love it.”
Gunditjmara Health Service midwife Kaye Netherway said the event was first held last year when the Gunditjmara people wanted to turn January 26 into a celebration.
“We picked this day to make a positive experience for these kids to grow up with, rather than the negative connotations associated with the day.
“Today they just want to plant a tree to give back to the earth.
“This will start rites of passage and progress into their cultural life.
“It’s a celebration of life and being Aboriginal.”