Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Walking Together – Cultural Literacy

Posted on 11 September, 2023 by Ivan

Please enjoy this wonderful article from our friends and project partners at Nalderun. The article was written by Floria Maschek, an ally and member of Friends of Nalderun (FoN). Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “all together”.

Walking together – cultural literacy

I gaze across the historic Monster Meeting site by Forest Creek in Chewton, the view to the creek unbroken. Now a bumpy, grassy landscape, I imagine what was once likely a forest, once likely sheep trodden paddocks, and once a tortured ‘honeycombed’ ‘moonscape’. New plantings are growing along the water’s edge where it curves away. Many know this area as ‘upside down country’, a reference to the gold diggings. A digger’s flag flaps noisily in rainy gusts, marking a place and time, an important rebellion that shaped Australian democracy, a triumph …but this place speaks about more…

Here is a merging of histories, futures, the present; those of the First Peoples, the squatters, the digger’s, those after, here now and to come. Standing between the mountains I know as Liyanganuk Banyul, Dharrang Gauwa, Lalkambuk, Gurutjang, I’m conscious of a teaching as ancient as local volcanic rumblings. Country is always connected to all points of time. I wander and wonder in Djaara Country – Djandak.

A sign drew me here – wood, metal, laminate. ‘Womin-dji-ka’ is written in large, friendly lettering. Commonly interpreted as ‘welcome’, a more literal translation is ‘to come – (an instruction of) I am asking you to come – purpose’. Included are further words in Dja Dja Wurrung (‘Wurrung’ – speaking/language/ tongue). The new sign, with its old pictures and ancient words, is a sign of living culture and change. A QR code links me to a video of a traditional Welcome to Country.

This continent is home to more than 250 Traditional First Nations languages and about 800 dialects. Indigenous languages were banned, lost through many violent and systemic acts of colonisation. Increasingly traditional languages, knowledge and culture are embraced. First People are rediscovering and sharing their heritage. There are nuances to the term ‘literacy’. Cultural literacy means that we better understand beautiful and complex traditional systems, empowered by orality.

From story, song, local seasons, life cycles, soil, fire practices, to kinship, art, the reading of the stars and the spaces between…Everything can be read with diverse ways of knowing.

Ngunnawal, Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi artist and activist Lynnice Church says

‘Language is part of our songlines, stories, spirituality, law, culture, identity and connection. Language transfers important knowledge passed down from our Ancestors and Elders that guides us.’

Indigenous Literacy Day is on September 6th. When I first considered literacy as a topic, I felt uncomfortable for reasons not yet entirely clear to me. Discomfort had something to tell me. As I listened, it slowly dissolved.

I once heard Aunty Julie McHale give a teaching. Not just a story – as was made very clear by this much respected Elder. It had survived since little Lalkambuk was a fiery active volcano. Importantly, I learnt that teachings are told in a way that is relational to the listener. Everything I’ve learned about First Nations cultures shows they are deeply adaptive and relational. It is not without reason that they are the oldest continuous cultures on earth.

The QR code is a modern portal for sharing cultural traditions. New technologies are often embraced with ingenuity by First Peoples as they share in their cultural ways. I am learning about the complexities of language sharing at an interesting time.

First Nations communities can more freely explore and restore language and culture now, but this process of restoration is a sensitive, gradual one. Respect means we honour these processes by embracing First Peoples agency, listening carefully, particularly to local Elders. As respect grows, so too will our cultural literacy. As we better read and look after Country, it is better able to sustain all who walk here.

I am learning from First Nations educators, importantly Djaara. Special mention to Harley Dunnoly-Lee, Djaara Elders and non First Nations people living locally – Lynne Kelly and Vic Say.

To learn more:

Djaara – learn more about Dja Dja Wurrung, the Djaara and Djandak: Click Here

Boorp Boorp Boondyil

A permanent, award winning, interactive exhibition produced by Djaara Elder Uncle Rick Nelson continuing the legacy of his late father Elder Uncle Brien Nelson. Mount Alexander Shire Council, and SharingStories Foundation, Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation and St. Peters Primary School were essential partners. Castlemaine Visitor Centre.

Floria Maschek is an ally and member of Friends of Nalderun (FoN). FoN members are guided by Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation and are diverse individuals and representatives of many local community networks, supporting Nalderuns visions and work. Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation supports the Aboriginal Community and is led by Aboriginal people while providing many learning and cultural opportunities to the broader community. Nalderun is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning “all together”.

More information can be found at


One response to “Walking Together – Cultural Literacy”

  1. Sue Boekel says:

    Thank you Floria. We will learn by reading and speaking about more of these important ‘articles’.

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