At the turn of the 20th century, just north of Broome, Western Australia, the cultures of three neighbouring tribes were under threat.
The ravages of early settlement and the consequent murder, abduction, disease and enslavement of many Jukun, Numball, and Jabirr-Jabirr people had left them with few, if any young people to pass their rich body of ancient knowledge onto.
At the time, a young man from the inland Nykinya tribe-Paddy Roe – and his Karidjarri wife Pikalily were fleeing their people after facing tribal punishment.
They reached a place called Bindiyangun, 90km north from Broome. It was there that Paddy speared a stingray, it’s spirit entering into Pikalily. Soon after they met three tribal elders- Nabi, Kardilikan and Walmadan. The old woman Nabi saw that Pikalily was pregnant and perceived that the stingray spirit had entered her. Nabi told Pikaliliy that her unborn children would be the next generation of custodians for the Jukun, Numball and Jabirr-Jabirr culture.
Old man Walmadan knew that Paddy was a law-man and versed in Nykinya cultural practices. He saw that Paddy would be an ideal custodian to pass knowledge onto. Soon after this, Paddy became a dedicated scholar of that country’s cultural practices, place names, languages. He was entrusted with the task of continuing to sing the songs of that part of the Northern Songcycle that runs through the coastal country north of Broome.
Paddy called his community – Goolarabooloo – the seaside people.
He also realized that although previous relations with non-Indigenous people had often had tragic consequences, to ensure that country was kept alive caring for country must be taught to all people, and that racial harmony must be fostered.
His vision was embodied in the Lurujarri Heritage Trail, an annual 9 day walk where non-Indigenous people were invited to walk, camp, fish, hunt, collect food and feast with the Goolarabooloo people along their Sacred Songline as people had done for millennia.
Established in 1985, it is open to all people, students, Indigenous people, travellers, anyone with the desire to learn about the connection to country that exists so strongly for the Goolarabooloo.
The history of the Lurujarri Heritage Trail is told by a multitude of Goolarabooloo people, young, old, male and female.
Woven through this are accounts from non-Indigenous ‘trailers’, who speak of the transformation they have had through the trail. Many of the narrators speak of le-an, a lifeforce or sixth sense that connects them to country. Le-an is present in people who spend time in country, sleeping under the stars, becoming familiar with its rhythms and abundance, and often the ‘trail’ awakens this sense. This 9-day walk provides a narrative thread through the documentary, at night under certain constellations , the Goolarabooloo recount their stories. This audio narrative is accompanied by stop-motion and cel animation of the recounted historical events, places, people, creatures and plants.
The Goolarabooloo are currently fighting the WA government and the Gorgon Consortium over their proposed acquisition of James Price Point for a construction of a multi billion dollar LNG processing plant. This will completely sever the Songcycle and jeopardize the Lurujarri Heritage Trail
This history is one that needs telling at a time when the unbroken cultural practices essential to the maintenance of the sacred Song cycle, are once again threatened.