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Hunting, fishing and yarning at Bouchat

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A group of Indigenous men stand or sit on chairs in front of a mud flat and estuary in the background.
Wujal Wujal Men’s Group with Traditional Owners Teddy Barkly and Steven Hall at Bouchat. Photo courtesy of Wujal Wujal Justice Group.
4 Sep 2017

Last month, 27 men from different sides of Cape York came together to discuss culture, grog problems and family.

The Napranum Men’s Group from the west coast community of Napranum hosted the Wujal Wujal Men’s Group from the east coast community of Wujal Wujal. The four-day camp was organised by the Wujal Wujal Justice Group and Apunipima Cape York Health Council.

Camping on the Bouchat Cultural Grounds just north of Weipa, the men hunted, fished, made connections to Country and each other, and had time to think. The event was so successful plans are in place for another camp later this year when the Wujal Wujal Men’s Group will host the Napranum Men’s Group.

Wujal Wujal Justice Group Counsellor Joh Anthonis attended the camp. This is his account of the event.

“We just got back from the combined Wujal Wujal and Napranum Men's Group's camp. It has been an excellent trip for all of us men.

The Napranum men went all out and worked hard to make the Wujal fellas feel at home and able to make the most of this time together. Traditional Owners Steven Hall and Teddy Barkly performed a warming ceremony for us on the first day, a cultural custom to welcome strangers onto Country. He called out to the ancestors to keep the visitors safe and make them feel welcome. It was much appreciated by all.

The camp had lots of highlights; seeing the huge seagoing ships being loaded at Weipa Wharf, visiting Napranum and Pennefather Beach and catching lots of fish at different spots around Weipa. However, most of the men told me that the best thing about the camp was to just have time together on Country, yarn up and share their stories and culture.

Here are some of the things the men said about the camp:

“Back at home you don’t get a break. There’s always something going on; no time to sit down and have time to yourself. It’s good to just relax and think about things.”

“I’ve never been further up (Cape York) than Cooktown. It’s good to get out (of the community) and see different places. I can’t wait for the next trip, maybe all the way to the tip!”

“It was really good to spend time just with my boys. I’m usually busy with work, so we don’t get to spend quality time together. It’s been so good to have them around and yarn up together. I look forward to the next camp.”

“I’ve been a bit off the rails lately, too much drinking. It’s real good for me to slow down. On Country I don’t worry for grog. I should do more of these camp outs.”

“It’s good to connect to Country. It makes you remember where you come from.”

“It makes you proud to share your Country with visitors. Show them around; let them enjoy it. Makes you enjoy it more too.”

Group of Indigenous men standing on rocks next to a body of seawater and fishing with hand lines. Some are dressed in shorts and others in long pants.
Connecting to Country, yarning, making new friends and fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Photo courtesy of Wujal Wujal Justice Group

The Justice Group is really happy the men are getting out of the community on these camps, living healthy out on Country and staying away from bad influences such as alcohol. The fellas get to see new places and spend time together hunting, fishing and keeping each other and their Culture strong. There is time for Elders to pass on their knowledge to the younger generation while they are out there and plenty of time for ‘yarning up’ around the campfire.

All this strengthens their relationships and the men bring this strength back to the community. While we’re out there we have time to talk about issues close to the men’s hearts, such as domestic and family violence, drugs and alcohol, relationships and jealousy, work, family pressures in community; you name it. In my experience, most of the men come along because they want to stay away from drinking grog and do something meaningful with their time. We all really enjoy it and I think that shows by the attendance numbers for these camps, which have steadily grown over the years.

We get some really positive individual outcomes from the camps as well. As a counsellor, it gives me lots of opportunities to engage with men about their challenges. Most people are a lot more at ease when they are on Country and in my experience that makes them more receptive to counselling and they talk more freely about their issues.

Another real positive are the Justice related outcomes. For example, on this camp we had six men who are on probation/parole orders. Three of them completed their community service orders by helping out with the camp. This all makes a really positive impression on their probation and parole case workers (Department of Corrections) and improves their chances of staying out of jail and the (Criminal) Justice system.

And last but not least, a lot of fish (and mud crabs) were caught to bring back to the family at home!”

Find out more

For further information about these two stunning parts of Australia, visit Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council and Napranum Aboriginal Shire Council.

If you’ve had a rich cultural experience you want to share on www.Indigenous.gov.au, email Indigenous.gov.au@pmc.gov.auwith the story or the details.