Dr Wayne Webb

Culture is one of our most powerful tools in fostering understanding and respect. 

That much was evident as hundreds of South West locals packed into Nala Bardip Mia (Our Story House) at The Margaret River HEART for the 3,000 Generations and the Next One presentation. As one of them, I didn’t quite realise how impactful it would be, with moments of the night coming back to me over days, weeks, and months.

Delivered by cultural custodian Dr. Wayne Webb and MRBTA Chair Stuart Hicks AO, it is the story of 60,000 years of Wadandi custodianship in the capes region, and the gifts of that culture for the whole community.

Wadandi Boodja, the place known today as the Margaret River Region, is the traditional land of the Wadandi Aboriginal people; the Saltwater People. The Wadandi have lived here through the last ice age and have adapted and survived over tens of thousands of years through an intrinsic knowledge of how to care for, and benefit from, the abundance of this island refugium.

Dr Wayne Webb and Stuart Hicks AO
Dr. Wayne Webb and Stuart Hicks AO shared their thoughts about the story of 60,000 years of Wadandi custodianship in our region to a sold out theatre. Photo: Ovis Creative.

Nala jenna-biddi wah, watto Galyarra —

we will walk this path together

As a measure, it’s difficult to comprehend that immense span of time against the generations of my own family. I perhaps know of the preceding four or five, and where they came from. But in terms of their stories and knowledge, much of that is lost in time.

I’ve lived in the Margaret River Region for just a decade, a mere speck in those tens of thousands of years. The awe of my first sight of the coastline here has never left me. I still get a jolt when I take sight of the ocean as I drop down into Prevelly and Yallingup, or take up a vantage point towards the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.

I’ve always felt that there is a comforting sense of permanence in the coastal landscape, but with the lens of time that is shown not to be the case. When the Wadandi people first experienced the region, the land mass that we know today wasn’t as it is. It was the time of the super continent of Sahul which covered modern mainland Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. Over the span of generations what we now know as Wadandi country was formed, the coast having receded by at least 40km.

The Margaret River has been a vital life source for the Wadandi people for tens of thousands of years. Photo: Ryan Murphy.

While I write about the region for national and international publications, I am always learning. The video of 3,000 Generations and the Next One is something I have and will continue to reflect on. Each time, as with the feeling that I get as I glimpse the coastline, I’m buoyed by Dr. Wayne Webb leading the audience in the Noongar language.

Nala jenna-biddi wah, watto Galyarra,” he reads, asking a willing audience to repeat. Our voices were at first shaky, mumbling as if asked to sing an unfamiliar hymn, but each time and with a little gentle chiding we grew louder, and bolder as a collective voice. Translated it means, “we will walk this path together.”

Watch the full presentation below.

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