On Thursday Indigenous students came from across the region to attend the 2018 Central Victorian Indigenous Careers Expo.

Gathering in the sun-dappled courtyard of the BSSC Conference Room, Jida Gulpilil led the group in a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony. The greenery of Rosalind Park and the morning chorus of galahs, magpies and crows heightened the sense of a wider connection.

“This smoking ceremony,” Jida said, “is a welcome wherever you come from. It does not discriminate…and on behalf of the Dja Dja Wurrung we want to welcome you to our Country.”

Jida also explained that the Smoking Ceremony was an opportunity “to cleanse our spirits; to think and feel and understand who we are and to connect us to Country.”

There are more than 2000 Dja Dja Wurrung people and the future of this area, and opportunities for Indigenous people to participate in the management of it, are increasing.

“With regards to the management of the local landscape, responsibility is increasingly returning to Traditional Owners. These students are going to bring their cultural and scientific learning to roles that are collaborative partnerships so that the balance—and therefore long-term sustainability of this Country—is re-established.”

Students and staff then took part in a Wayapa session lead by Lowell Hunter from Wan-Yaari Aboriginal Consultancy Service in Geelong. Wayapa is a form of Aboriginal meditation using traditional movement and the power of the mind to connect to the earth, our spirit and ourselves.

The day continued at Bendigo TAFE in the afternoon with guest speakers covering areas such as health, employment and further study.

“There were amazing messages delivered right across the whole day… I hope many of them resonate into your futures,” says Jida Gulpilil – Aboriginal Community leader.

“Any of you can do anything you want to if you work hard. As Aboriginal people we have a responsibility to try,” was the message from Tashara Roberts – Indigenous Engagement, Bendigo TAFE.