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Acknowledging Country Writing Course with Maya Ward

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Event description

“We cry for you because you haven’t got the meaning of this country. We have a gift we want to give you. And it’s the gift of pattern thinking. It’s the culture which is the blood of this country, of Aboriginal groups, of the ecology, of the land itself.” - David Mowaljarlai, Ngarinyin elder

This course has been designed by and is run by a settler person with the support and encouragement of Aboriginal people. It is for other settler folk who wish to respond more deeply to the work that First Nations people have asked us to do - Acknowledge Country. It seeks to share some of the emotional burden that Aboriginal people have been forced to carry, by doing the work of sitting with the discomfort of this cultural shadow. This work suggests a path for how to come into right relationship with First Nations people and with Country through honesty, care and deep listening, creating space for something new to emerge. 

This course pays the rent.

This Writing Course aims to facilitate opportunities for profound connection to place and to history with which to ground your words, enrich your understanding, and to grow your ongoing connections to Country. It will be an intimate group at CERES Community Environment Park in Brunswick East. 

The focus will be an exploration of the new Australian ritual of Acknowledging Country that for the last decade or so has taken place at the start of public gatherings. This ritual has emerged at a vital cultural moment, with the growing awareness and acceptance of Australia’s violent conquest history, and greater understanding of the ongoing impacts of colonial culture on both Aboriginal and settler cultures.

This course was first developed for the Jung Society of Melbourne, and so the thinking of Carl Jung underpins the approach. As both therapist and cultural agent Jung held space for difficult questions and saw the deeply personal as necessary for cultural and political transformation. He brought awareness of the archetypal realm (pattern thinking) and of Anima Mundi - the soulfulness and animacy of earth.

In the spirit of Jungian processes, the investigation will take a depth psychological approach to researching and creating your own Acknowledgement of Country. We will be using a tool Jung developed, Active Imagination, to sense and dialogue with Country. You will be invited to deeply, personally, and somatically engage in the practice of Acknowledging Country through invocation – speaking aloud to animate Country, and listening for words that feel true and real.

At the same time, we will respectfully engage with a range of profound and generously gifted Aboriginal cultural materials. These will help us shape a meaningful and appropriate Acknowledgement to speak aloud at relevant occasions.

Country is an Aboriginal English word meaning both the visible and invisible word around us; people, plants, animals, landforms, weather systems, the animate spirit that infuses us all, the stories and the web of relationships between us. To acknowledge Country, then, is to acknowledge an alive, sensing world. The implications of this are enormous, with the potential to disrupt the de-animated worldview that underpins the colonial paradigm. How might we fruitfully and respectfully engage with this other way of knowing, and learn the responsibilities and connections of deep belonging?

The course also covers:
  • Returning to the Roots: The European tradition: including Goethe, Jung, and the deep and hidden history of faerie, otherwise known as nature connection.
  • Re-enchantment: tradition and the power of the spoken word. Guided writing exercises and tools for engagement with body, history, soul and soil.
  • Rooting in Ancient Earth: The Aboriginal tradition. The Gift, the meaning of Country, Dreaming and Dadirri, (Deep Listening). Guided writing exercises and tools for engagement with Country.
  • Speaking your words: a whole group sharing of experiences and acknowledgements.

This work is grounded in learning from Aboriginal and Indigenous people, too many to name, but I particularly wish to thank Tyson Yunkaporta, Yin Paradies, Jack Mitchell, Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ian Hunter, Joy Murphy Wandin and Dave Wandin for inspiration and encouragement.

Workshop Details: 

Workshop Location: CERES Community Environment Park, Brunswick East. 

Day 1:  10am - 4pm: 

Day 2: 1:30pm - 4:30pm

Maya Ward lives in Wurundjeri Country, in the mountain village of Warburton, and is passionate about deepening the connections between body, ecology and culture through writing, dancing and tending the earth. 

Maya has worked as an urban designer, events co-ordinator at CERES, and as a permaculture teacher where she focused on developing intimacy between the human body and the places we dwell. Her memoir The Comfort of Water: A River Pilgrimage detailed her walk from the sea to the source of the Yarra following the length of an ancient Wurundjeri Songline. Currently her focus is on teaching courses that dive deeply into the ritual of Acknowledging Country, to explore how this call to engage properly with shame and grief could catalyse broader cultural engagement with the animate earth.

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