The Nowanup Healing People, Healing Country Program has received more than $600,000 to ensure its ongoing viability and bring it a step closer to becoming an autonomous Noongar-run social enterprise.
Over the past 16 years, Nowanup — located south of Jerramungup — has become an innovative place for learning, healing and environmental restoration under the guidance of Noongar elders with support from conservation organisation Gondwana Link.
The 750ha property was purchased in 2004 and transferred to Greening Australia, and has since evolved to deliver a range of cultural and educational camps for communities, schools and universities.
They include youth at risk and justice intervention programs, eco-art projects, music festivals, corporate leadership teams, cultural and heritage assessments.
Nowanup has also partnered with Curtin University to establish a Bush University campus to provide a place to immerse students in Noongar culture, language and history.
On Friday, Nowanup was presented with a $615,000 Lotterywest grant from Albany MLA Rebecca Stephens to enable the program to expand.
Goreng-Menang elder Eugene Eades has led the program for more than 16 years and said it was about cultural restoration and caring for the land.
“We’ve been healing land, and healing people — its about cultural restoration, putting stuff back into place, maintaining what has been neglected by the governments of the past in regarding to caring for country,” he said.
“There is stuff that is in the land that belongs to us — it is sacred to the land and sacred to the Noongar people.
“We’ve got to start caring for the land, those items and those places — that’s what it’s all about.”
Mr Eades started working with Gondwana Link in 2005 through the group’s CEO chief executive Keith Bradby.
He said that Mr Bradby said seeing as they were working on Noongar land, Mr Eades should be the one to lead the way “so we could do the things we need to do make a difference for our people”.
“Seventeen years later now we see the need to do something for our family in ways of employment and training, work opportunities,” Mr Eades said.
“It hasn’t been smooth sailing, there has certainly been some tough times.
“If it hadn’t been for Gondwana — operating on the smell of an oily rag — sticking to the program of helping this family and the Noongar people of this country, working towards breaking the welfare cycle, we would never have achieved as much as we have.”
Mr Eades was full of praised for Mr Bradby who he said had worked in “miraculous ways” to help get Nowanup to this stage.
Mr Bradby said there were two big reasons his ecological program had become heavily involved with the Noongar community.
“One, basic decency — it’s their country,” he said.
“Two, we’ve learnt over the years how much we’ve still got to learn about the country and the guidance we get is pretty damn important.
“We can do lots of things to support the Noongar community, but what we’ve done here is; land, jobs, respect. They’re ready to take over and run their own show now, which is just spectacular.”
Mr Eade’s son Rocky said it was important programs such as Nowanup were put in place to preserve First Nations culture.
“We’re in a time of real urgency while we’ve got these elders left to pass on the culture — they are the key,” he said.
“We’ve lost a hell of a lot through colonisation, this is the ideal situation to get it while we’ve still got these elders with us.
“It’s quite significant that we make something happen while we’ve still got them with us.”
He said the Lotterywest grant gave them “hope, opportunity and a financial window to finally set ourselves up in sustainable way to go into the future”.
“This is going to give us this foundation to build on and to continue through, and as the old man mentioned, it’s getting away from the welfare system and the handouts” he said.