Indigenous celebration returns

Norm Stanley during NAIDOC Week in 2017. (Rebecca Hosking) 170288_06

By Luke Voogt

Kurnai and Wotjobaluk man Norm Stanley is proud to continue a tradition that “two fellas sat down 13 years ago and decided to create” – Reconciliation in the Park.

One of those founders, the late Uncle David Tournier, was a mentor of Stanley’s since he was 11 and played “a huge part” in his life.

“You can kind of get, through that, the depth of meaning for us to be able to carry it on,” 43-year-old from Norlane said.

Stanley will play didgeridoo throughout the day when the free event returns on July 11, after being postponed due to recent COVID-19 lockdowns.

Stanley’s Indigenous heritage stems from western Victoria and Gippsland, although he was born and raised on Wadawurrung land here in Geelong.

“My mum was actually a member of the stolen generation and she was placed in a home on the Barwon River, Kardinia Children’s Home, as a child,” he said.

“It was the third home that she had been placed in with her sisters. She was nine-years-old. When she left the home she chose Geelong as a place to stay.

“She certainly told us many stories, good and bad, of growing up in a children’s home.”

Now living in Toowoomba, his mum shared his ancestral connections with him as he grew up.

“She’s grateful that she was able to stay in contact with our family and give us a direct connection to our family line,” Stanley said.

As a child he discovered a natural inclination towards the musical part of that heritage when he tried playing a makeshift didgeridoo.

“I found what I thought was the next closest thing, a plastic vacuum cleaner pipe that my mum had,” he said.

“I got a real one my next birthday and spent the rest of that time working on it and learning from others, and creating my own unique style.

“The hardest part is all about your breathing. Certainly, you need to have some rhythm and beat to be able to control it, but your breathing is the most important aspect of playing the didgeridoo.”

Stanley will play solo and with other performers in the event at Johnstone Park from 10am to 3pm next Sunday.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for those that would like to learn more about our Aboriginal culture to come along and enjoy a family-friendly day,” Stanley said.

“It’s about having the wider community come along and join in with us to celebrate our beautiful culture.”

The event features a Welcome to Country, local dancers and performers, dilly bag making, kids activities, native food plants, a free barbeque and interactive display’s by Wildlife Xposure.

“We are excited to see Reconliation in the Park back in Johnstone Park this year after the uncertainty of 2020, leading to a virtual event,” said Stanley’s partner and event programmer Nikki McKenzie said.

“This year we have some new activities along with familiar ones from previous years.”