An idea to provide an indigenous ‘Welcome to Country’ to theatre patrons has evolved into a five-part series of videos looking at different aspects of indigenous culture.
Peter Harris is the man behind the project, winning the trust of local indigenous leaders and working with Dolly Jerome on the documentaries.
With Tenterfield’s unique position on the intersection of three indigenous tribes, Mr Harris credits the local indigenous community with taking on the role of looking after these border lands.
“The culture farther west has been more-or-less wiped out, because it was good sheep country,” he said.
Efforts are now being put into retracing language and aboriginal history, and into documenting that history for future generations.
Mr Harris said local elders are happy with the content of the series, keen to preserve the information they contain and to get their story out.
The first in the series is the ‘marking tree’, with other episodes looking at weaving, use of ochre, smoke signalling and a local bora ring.
Such documentaries are important to Mr Harris who has forged a reputation for supporting young people to record the stories of their elders (indigenous or otherwise) before that history is lost. Working with some young indigenous students to that end has sparked interest in the series, but he is keen to continue encouraging and supporting young people to create their own material.
The very knowledgeable Ms Jerome continues to be a great asset in documenting local indigenous history, not least of all thanks to her connections with local schools, arts and crafts communities and her outgoing personality which comes across well on film.
Mr Harris has received encouragement from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to continue on this path and in his work with schools, and he sees the series as another component of a burgeoning indigenous tourism industry.
"Europeans, particularly Germans, are very interseted in our culture,” he said.
“It’s a fresh way of looking at indigenous culture, and they’re prepared to pay big money for its art. They see the aboriginal community as incredibly interesting on many fronts.”
Guests of Kevin and Jenny Santin of Tenterfield Tours are already enjoying their exposure to indigenous culture during their stays in Tenterfield, including viewings of Mr Harris’s series.
The rest of us can catch a viewing before a movie at the Tenterfield Cinema. Return trips might be on the cards as Mr Harris promised there are more stories to come.
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