Stories and songs promote cultural diversity

Published 18 September 2008

A unique event aimed at promoting cultural strength and diversity through the music and art of Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians will be held at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus on Friday, September 26.

Stories and Songs of the People is an initiative of the Native American organisation, Rediscovering the Seventh Direction, and is being supported by Southern Cross University’s Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples.

A major focus of the day’s events will be a forum looking at the cultural aspects of ‘Lore and Law’. Speakers will include Glenn Woods, head of School - Indigenous studies at SCU, and Johnnie Aseron (Brown Wolf), director of Rediscovering the Seventh Direction.

Johnnie, who comes from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe reservation in South Dakota in the United States, said his organisation aimed to foster social and economic development through recognising and promoting the traditional cultural strengths and values of native peoples.

“It’s about education through oral traditions, dance and traditional music performances,” Johnnie said.

“The day will involve all levels of the community. We want to create a space that allows for interaction and discussion.”

Johnnie, who has been in Australia for several months working closely with Indigenous groups, says there are similar challenges facing the Indigenous populations in the United States and Australia.

“Many American students studying abroad know little about their own backyard but they sure are interested in studying the treatment of Australian Aboriginals. We have people living right around our reservation and they don’t know anything about us. Conversely, Australian students often know very little about their own culture and history.

“We have to find ways to discuss it and create a space where we can exchange ideas and common concerns for both native and non-native community members.

“Now there has been an apology what do we do? How do we continue to bridge the gaps?”

The day’s events will be free and will include an Aboriginal Art Exhibition, featuring works from Janet Nakamarra Long, from the central desert Warlpiri people, Bundjalung artist Digby Moran, and local Gumbaynggirr artist Tony Hart. Activities will begin with an opening ceremony and welcoming at 11am.

An evening performance of Aboriginal Australian and Native American music and storytelling will feature Aboriginal band Monkey and Fish; Kerry Neil and Native American elder Julia BrownWolf. Tickets for the evening will cost $20 for adults and $15 children/students. It will begin at 7pm in the D Block theatre.

Tickets are available at the Coffs Harbour Students’ Association, Coffs Music Centre (Palm Centre) and Galambila Aboriginal Health Service or at the door. For more information visit www.storiesandsongs.org

Photo: Johnnie Aseron.

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager, 02 66593006 or 0439 680 748.