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Reconciliation Week 2016: The Dreaming

Laura Peppas

National Reconciliation week commemorates two significant milestones in the history of equal rights for Australia’s first peoples.

It was 27 May when the 1967 Referendum took place and 3 June, the High Court Mabo decision. This week, take time to reflect on what this event is all about, and learn a little more about the Indigenous Australian culture. We take a closer look at The Dreaming, or “Dreamtime” as it is widely known throughout Western culture.

According to Aboriginal belief, all 
life as it is today – Human, Animal, Bird and Fish – is part of one vast unchanging network of relationships which can be traced to the great
 spirit ancestors of the Dreaming.

As Ngunnawal spokesperson Delephene Fraser explains, The Dreaming, or “Jukurrpa”, is not a fixed thing: rather, it is holistic, and a celebration of the creation of life.

“The Jukurrpa is our major religious belief, and an all-embracing concept that provides rules for living, a moral code, as well as rules for interacting with the natural environment,” says Delephene. “The philosophy behind it is holistic – the Jukurrpa provides for a total, integrated way of life.”

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Dreaming stories pass on important knowledge, cultural values and belief systems to later generations through song, dance, painting and storytelling. In most stories, the Ancestor Spirits came to the earth in human form 
and as they moved through the land, they created the animals, plants, rocks and other forms of the land that we know today. The Rainbow Serpent, in particular, features in many Dreaming stories and is usually associated with water courses, such as billabongs, rivers, creeks and lagoons.

These events of the ancient era of creation are enacted in ceremonies and danced in mime form, to the accompaniment of the didgeridoo or clap sticks. It is believed that during these ceremonies, Aboriginal people connect with the ancestral beings.

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Today, many believe there is room for Aboriginal culture to be celebrated more in Australia. “When I speak 
to non-Aboriginal people there’s this kind of view that their history is separate from Aboriginal history, and yet they live in the same country,” Delephene says.

“We need to open 
up the doors a bit more, show what is magic about our Indigenous culture. Our boomerang has been around for about 50,000 years; we had the ability to make fire; our weaponry is quite detailed and organic – and I think we need to start celebrating that. I believe if we get the education right, we can walk down this century hand in hand, and white people can be proud of Indigenous people.”

This interview originally appeared as part of our Six Degrees of Separation article in the Magazine: The Celebration Issue for Summer 2015/16. Find out more about Magazine here



Lauren Campbell


Jessica Rolfe


Nakita Robinson


Renee Pound at Meki Hair


Amy Capeda assisted by Erinn Neist


The Fitters Workshop, Kingston with special thanks to Jacqueline Tudor


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author