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Friday, 2 December 2011

Founding an Enterprise, Setting the Pace, & Taking a Leasing Lead

Bana Yarralji Cultural Enterprise is still only an idea coalescing and forming.  Bana Yarralji Cultural Enterprise is still only an idea, starting to take form, yet still to form into an actual entity with a legal identity, legal existence, and more!!

On one Saturday morning not too long ago, meeting on the middle floor of a three story tubular tower in Craiglie ( ie the offices of the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Land Trust ) the Bana Yarralji cultural entrepreneurs  (who have been working hard for more than two years to obtain formal tenure to their proposed enterprise base) . . these cultural entrepreneurs were asked an amazing and surprising question: they were asked 'who' exactly will be leasing the land?

Marilyn and Peter Wallace have long known they need formal tenure (ie a commercial lease) to thier Bana Yarralji base to obtain the necessary security (in law) to be able to truly trade as an enterprise.

After over two years of having their requests for formal tenure continously delayed and postponed by other priorities .. they were almost stunned into silent surprise when they were asked what kinds of leases they might want, and who would be the leasees!! 

It was most fortunate that, on this occasion, they had a commercial lawyer with them, representing them.  The commercial lawyer (Micheal Neal) was ready and able to immediately start discussing possible lease terms and conditions for portions of Lot 7, 873 Shiptons Flat Road, Rossville (core Nyungkalwarra country)

The Aboriginal Land Trust (Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation) had spent time the previous day with Cape York Land Council lawyers and a barrister working through all the legal technicalities and difficulties associated with an Aboriginal Land Trusts actually granting leases to communally held lands within which a native title might exist, for which there is a clause within the relevant law preventing the valid granting of exclusive leases

The Aboriginal Land Trust (Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation) had long been aware that there were legal and technical difficulties with granting to Bana Yarralji cultural entrepreneurs the kinds of leases they were after. Increasingly, over the last year or more, Bana Yarralji entrepreneurs themselves had been so often rejected that they were starting to become  suspicious of 'their' land trust's motives, where the Land Trust was effectively preventing these entrepreneurs from truly launching as a genuine enterprise  

Tensions had been building through all the rejections, refusals and delays (under circumstances where the Aboriginal Land Trust may have felt unable to grant leases, and the cultural entreprenuers may have misinterpreted this inability as being an apparent unwillingness to grant leases).  Relationships between the land trust and Bana Yarralji entrepreneurs had been rapidly deteriorating for some time (and particularly since a Nyungkalwarra forum in May 2011).

On that Saturday morning, 19 November 2011, following legal advices obtained by both parties and tensions building; suddenly everything changed!   The two, Jabalbina Yalanji directors and Bana Yarralji entrepreneurs, with the full encouragement of their respective legal advisers;

i.   decided to join forces; agree in principle to the granting of a 30 year commercial lease for Bana Yarralji enterprise and a 99 year homestead lease for the entrepreneurs to build a new home.  

ii.   passed resolutions agreeing  join forces and see if, together, they might jointly progress the needed leases and pave the way for all the other Aboriginal peoples who are lining up at Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporations doors for leases -

iii.   proposing a 'Heads of Agreement' within which Bana Yarralji leases would be progressed, effectively piloting the way .. jointly identifying and jointly seeking to overcome any and all legal and technical hurtles encountered along the way  !!

One of the first hurtles, it seems, is the need for the land in question to be subdivided.  No subdivision, no lease, it seems.   And what's involved in a subdivision .. hmmm  .. back to the
Cook Shire Council it seems .. with specialist surveys by a cadastral surveyor and more ..

.. Jabalbina Yalanji director described all these things as 'speed bumps' to drive over .. and the meeting ended with  Bana Yarralji entrepreneurs feeling some urgency in giving their enterprise a legal existence in time to take up leases.

Marilyn slowly circled the Jabalbina board room table ... giving each and every one of the 5 directors long grateful hugs  .. hoping that  she and Peter Wallace and others are now looking like they may be heading down the road (speed bumps and all) to becoming one of the first in Queensland to obtain both formal 30 year commercial and 99 year homestead leases!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Welcoming & Warming the Wallaby Creek Festival Folk

For 10 years, in about September every year, once a year, up to 3000 people or more have descended into a richly rainforested part of Nyungkalwarra country, heading up the Wallaby Creek (a tributary of the Annan River), into the late Ruby Friday (Marilyn's mum) and others estate area (known to Nyungkalwarra as Jirrandaku).    Once a year for three days, up to 3000 people have arrived to camp, sing, dance and participate in the Wallaby Creek Festival.

Over the last 3 years  Bana Yarralji cultural enterpreneurs, Marilyn Wallace and family have been working to make all of these visitors to Nyunkalwarra country aware that they are, in fact, deep within Nyungkalwarra country; surrounded by Nyungkalwarra forests; and surrounded by the spirits of generations of Nyungkalwarra 'old people'.

Over the last three years Bana Yarralji have been working to teach all who arrive that they are in Nyungkalwarra Country in need of being welcomed, warmed, and hosted by Nyungkalwarra

With the cooperation and support of the Wallaby Creek Festival organising committee Bana Yarralji have, for the last three years, collected quantities of Cooktown iron wood leaves, collected quantaties of paper bark, painted up Nyungkalwarra youth, played the digeridoo..

..and actively assumed the role of Nyungkal hosts welcoming all arrivals to the festival, calling out to the old people,  and arranging mass warming (smoking) of people introducing them to Country in accordance with Nyungkal lore and custom

This year the whole exercise was performed at about mid-morning on the Saturday, 24 September 2011, with Bana Yarralji cultural entreprenuer Marilyn Wallace supported by other Nyungalwarra elders calling out, and Bana Yarralji rangers organising the mass warming/smoking

.. and Bana Yarrlji rangers bringing Nyungkalwarra youth to the event for the occasion, painted up and performing for all

As cultural entreprenuers seeking to move increasingly into hosting whole range of activities on country; also trying to make an enterprise out of all of this; Bana Yarralji entreprenuers:

i.   have these last few years expressed an ambition to be able to organise and arrange to play an increasingly prominent role hosting this Wallaby Creek festival, and all of these 1000's of annual visitors to Nyungkalwarra Country

ii.  have already this year expressed strong interest in increasing the amount of cultural activities occuring at Wallaby Creek festivals, for which some income might be derived (with good cultural dividend) .. even imagining Bana Yarralji or other Jirrandaku families potentially bidding for the ultimate purchase of the Wallaby Creek venue (Home Rule)

This year, at the end of the Wallaby Creek festival, the organisers expressed weariness after 10 years organising these festivals; calling for others to please step up and take up the baton!   

Marilyn Wallace and Peter Wallace are not short on vision, and, who knows, they may step up and seek to play some greater part, accepting the baton, and potentially playing a much increased role hosting next years Wallaby Creek festival in the Nyunkalwarra forests  (especially if their might be some profit in it, with good cultural dividends?) ?!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Cultural Landscape, Cultural Experience, Cultural Dividends!!

One of Bana Yarralji's core objectives, in seeking to apply sustainable business principles and establish themselves as a cultural enterprise, is to see Aboriginal Lore restored to Country, and the local landscape better recognised and respected as a cultural landscape.

Back in October, then, Bana Yarralji cultural entreprenuers (Marilyn and Peter Wallace) and Bana Yarralji anthropologist (Bruce White) undertook some cultural landscape work with the Bana Yarralji rangers Working on Country plus the larger group of local Aboriginal rangers currently receiving Conservation and Land Management training on Nyungkal Country (hosted by Bana Yarralji of course!)

Bana Yarralji's hope, and Bana Yarralji's plan is that Bana Yarralji rangers will play a role into the long term future promoting awareness of the nature of the Nyungkalwarra cultural landscape that runs up, down, and around the whole Upper Annan River catchment.   Arising out of Marilyn Wallace and Peter Wallace's past efforts over many years, Bana Yarralji has been very fortunate in being able to obtain and host an on-line Nyungkalwarra Cultural Information System for this purpose, and Bana Yarralji has been very keen to see this information system used, and used effectively

In October, Bana Yarralji finally found formal opportunity, in association with CALM training,  to discuss, explore, and help improve each Aboriginal ranger's capacity to use the Nyungkal cultural information system, with an eye to making good use of Queensland's Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act plus regulations to see places of most significance (eg Yrrmbal - sacred places)  recorded, databased, registered, and protected in Lore and Law

Bana Yarralji, Bana Yarralji Rangers Working on Country, plus TAFE Conservation and Land Management students all went out into the Nyungkal cultural landscape together to formally record, database and potentially register places that, on first glance, may not look particularly significant but, on further investigation have had long associations and hold plenty of significance in local Nyungkalwarra Lore

At each place visited Marilyn Walllace 'revealed' unexpected significances such as the otherwise 'hidden' location of Aboriginal rock art known within local mythology and stories telling of the non-Aboriginal invasion of Nyungkalwarra Country; or the almost sacred, local religious value of rocks laid in a trail along the ground a long time ago, by the Nyungkalwarra's rainbow serpent (at the junction of three rivers - Bangalnarran)

Photos were taken, global postioning system (gps) location reading were taken, forms were completed to be uploaded into the Nyungkalwarra system, and much interest generated in the rangers themsevles seeing these places databased, possibly registered, managed, and protected into the long term future, including some potentially significant visitor management arrangments to be implemented around the Bangalnarran sites

As an emerging cultural enterprise Bana Yarralji wishes to obtain cultural dividends of the above kind; Bana Yarralji is keen to see interpretative signs and full ranger involvement in providing a very immediate and real cultural experience to identified areas (teaching respect for Lore to future visitors); and Bana Yarralji needs to be able to work out how to generate some income out of all of this,  possibly in the form of some kind of user pays visitor permitting system or guide service   .. all to be further explored in an effort to see sustainable business practices applied to achieving desired cultural dividends.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Hosting Planners, Land Use Planning, and Securing Role within Land Use Plans

Bana Yarralji has just this week co-authored a proposed article for the Queensland Planner (December edition) entitled "On the Ground - Planning on Eastern Kuku Yalanji Country" in which Nyungkalwarra Country (in the northern most portion of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area) was described as follows:
[It].. is a rich bioculturally diverse landscape interwoven with extensive networks of Aboriginal 'highways' that were once heavily used (MacCracken 1989), filled with large numbers of living areas that were once densely occupied (Horsfall & Hall 1990). 
A rough map of this Nyungkalwarra country (courtesy of CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences) at the core of which the Bana Yarralji ranger base sits, within which Bana Yarralji wishes to host whole range of activites bringing work, employment, and cultural dividends to Nyungkalwarra families  is copied below (ie gives general sense of how busy the landscape is with Aboriginal estates, plus sense of proportion of extent of proposed Aboriginal freehold - pink, extent of proposed Aboriginal nature refuge - yellow, and proposed new National Park - lighter green):

The Queensland Planner article in which Nyungkalwarra Country is described as a cultural landscape arises out of cultural entreprenuer (Marilyn Wallace) and Bana Yarralji's efforts to:

i.   partner with James Cook University's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences to encourage the Australian Institute of Planning to certify a proposed remote indigenous community planning course for up and coming town planners, and

ii.  partner with James Cook University's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences to see up and comming town planners undertake indigenous community field work in Nyungkalwarra Country, hosted by Bana Yarralji (of course!)

Marilyn Wallace was a sole Aboriginal voice addressing a workshop of the Planning Institute of Australia, in Cairns, on Friday, 19 August 2011 and, while the Planning Institute of Australia itself may not have been ready to see emerging planners undertaking coursework in the field working with Aboriginal groups like Bana Yarralji, the editor of the Queensland Planner was sufficiently inspired as to produce an edition of the Queensland Planner all about the whole field, and strong social justice need for indigenous community planning expertise and training.

In the meantime:

i.   Over the September 10 & 11 2011 weekend, Bana Yarralji Working on Country provided some assistance hosting a meeting of Nyungkalwarra Elders up on Country plus CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences  Dr Ro Hill, to complete drafting of a Caring for Kuku Nyungkal Country Indigenous Protected Area Plan for future management of nature refuges and new National Parks which will very soon encircle the Bana Yarralji ranger/ cultural enterprise base

ii.  Also next weekend (Saturday 19 November 2011) Bana Yarralji has assembled legal representation from P&E law, additional legal support (probono) from Norton Rose, plus policy advice from the Cape York Institute and Balkanu Caring for Country Unit   .. [quite an effort!!] ... to meet with the Aboriginal land trust (Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation) plus Cape York Land Council legal representatives and barristers ..

...where  it is hoped everyone will finally start digging, together, through that complex quagmire of Aboriginal Lore and Australian Law to jointly reveal viable Aboriginal land leasing options, with which to secure Bana Yarralji's assets, place, and role on country .. plus enable Bana Yarralji Cultural Enterprise to obtain tenure sufficient to raise funds and conduct business (ie a cultural enterprise running from Country, being a cultural enterprise hoping to generate cultural divendends for all Nyungkalwarra wishing to live and make a living on Country)

Bana Yarralji Ranger Base 'Opened' for Business

The Bana Yarralji cultural enterprise continues to plough ahead.  The Bana Yarralji cultural entreprenuers, Marilyn and Peter Wallace plus families have not rested in their ceaseless pursuit of cultural dividends for family and friends wishing to live and work on country.   It is only the record of Bana Yarralji's endeavours. within this blog, that has dropped off.

Back in September, for instance (it's now November!) the Bana Yarralji entreprenuers suceeded in recruiting the assistance of local Cooktown event manager and Bana Yarralji partner, Vanessa Gillen; together with project managers, Centre for Appropriate Technolgy to put out press releases, cut many many sandwitches, put up a marquee

.. and on the Friday afternoon (streching into the evening), 9 September 2011, somehow everything came together for Bana Yarralji to give thanks, celebrate, and open the brand new Bana Yarralji ablutions block (Cape York's most expensive loo), office block, caravan, shipping container, phone, power and water   ..opening the whole Bana Yarralji ranger base for business.

The Koori Mail was there (see top portion of the article below), many of the the Nyungkalwarra Elders were there;  engineering firm Aurecon (represented by Aurecons' Trevor Sharrock) was there, CSIRO Tropical Sustainable Ecosystems Ro Hill  was there, Invasive Animals CRC research Kana Koitchi was there, Glamorgan University students, Balkanu Caring for Country Business Manager was there, Department of Environment and Resource Management was there,!!   There were lots of people there to finally have a look at plus try out long envisioned facilities, listen to some speeches, and  celebrate Bana Yarralji achievements to date.

Bana Yarralji's cultural entrepreurs Marilyn Wallace and Peter Wallace took the oppotunity;

-  to welcome everyone including particularly Nyungkalwarra elders to make use of the new facilities; 
-  to eleborate on their vision as a hopeful vision of a healthier people taking up more healthy and rewarding living working on country;
-  to seek the blessing of everyone including particularly the Nyungkalwarra elders to continue to push ahead and show the way for Nyungkalwarra to return to live and make a living on country, and 
-  to ask for their support to obtain a commercial lease needed to secure control over the assetts, obtain possible business loans, and run their enterprise as an enterprise.

Altogether a postive and uplifting occasion for all who participated, but didn't seem the Nyungalwarra elders themselves quite understood just what kind of life energy and effort these basic facilities and ranger base represented; nor did they really seem to know how any one of them might go about supporting plus promoting commercial leases nor any kind of leases for anyone on Country (there are none!), let along supporting Bana Yarralji to get the leases they want.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

A Wonderful Opportunity to Host Year 3/4 Students

Bana Yarralji would seem to be moving faster and faster towards forming itself into a particular kind of business ie a cultural enterprise - but, one might ask, how is it really possible for two cultural entreprenuers (no matter how determined) to estalblish a cultural enterprise of this kind and seek to launch this enterprise in the way being recorded in this blog??

Very little would have been SO possible and everything would have been moving much more slowly: all prospect of a cultural enterprise even being formed would be much much more difficult ...  if it weren't for the existence of  a Commowealth Aboriginal employment program (ie 'Working on Country')  matching the existence of a tight knit group of long termed unemployed people from Wujal Wujal and Cooktown who'd been trained in Conservation and Land Management (CALM) and were ready plus prepared to work on country, caring for that country (ie the Bana Yarralji rangers).

It was a spectacular thing when Marilyn and Peter Wallace, with their vision, happened upon the Commonwealth's 'Working on Country' program (back in 2009)  specifically aimed at:

i.  picking up unemployed Aboriginal peoples from places like Wujal Wujal and Cooktown  ... and

ii. see such unemployed people working full time establishing a self-sustaining natural and cultural resource management service on country.

Most recently, within the last couple of weeks, Marilyn and Peter Wallace were expected to be in one place (ie in Cairns helping celebrate and recall 20 years of Cape York regional organisations working to improve the position of Aboriginal peoples in Cape York); while the Bana Yarralji enterprise was needed in another place  (ie back 'home' taking up opportunity to host 70 year 3/4 students from Cooktown - promoting Nyungkal lore in Nyungkal country)

On Tuesday August 23 2011, then, as part of the Bana Yarralji Working on Country project fulfilling Bana Yarralji Working on Country contracted outcomes:

i.   Marilyn and Peter Wallace revisted and reignited long established relationships at 'Kicking the Dust' celebrations in Cairns,

ii.  Bana Yarralji Working on Country rangers, at the same time, took up Bana Yarralji's wonderful hosting opportunity - warming (smoking) approx 70 year 3/4 students from Cooktown on Nyungkalwarra country & - introducing 70 year 3/4 students to Nyungkalwarra lore on Nyungkalwarra country.

Marilyn and Peter Wallace succeeded in re-establishing some potentially important connections with some senior Aboriginal politicians, and some senior Eastern Yalanji elders - in their wish to lay more secure foundations for their cultural enterprise, in pursuit of a vision of seeing Nyungkal people more permanently living and making a living on country.

The coordinator of South Cape York Catchments (Jason Carroll) who co-hosted the whole school excursion into the bioculturally rich rainforests reported Bana Yarralji Working on Country rangers (Ruby Winkle and Horace Friday) did a great job and the whole exercise involving so many young students on country at once  "went very well indeed".

Friday, 2 September 2011

Being Good Hosts Can Be Very Demanding!!

It seems Bana Yarralji's key cultural entreprenuers, Marilyn & Peter Wallace, have been building relationships, welcoming people into their lives, and working towards their vision for their whole lives!!  

If anyone asks when they first started working towards their vision, it goes back, back before the decision to set up on country; back before the early Balkanu Cape York Development efforts in the early 2000's to assist people move on to country; back before Peter Wallace was chairperson of Wujal Wujal Council; back before Marilyn's Mum so contantly urged them back 'home'.

The vision, it seems, has been growing for a long, long time, with a lot of life energy being expended building relationships, building partnerships, inviting people into their lives, constantly hosting people en route to becoming what they are now striving to be ie good Aboriginal hosts on country, using 'hosting' as a means to achieve a vision.

Most admirably, though, in a life full of extended family, poverty, racism, chronic health problems, and serious wellbeing issues and stresss .. it is a tribute to the strength of these entrepreneurs faith, that they continue to be able to constantly smile, give warm welcome, and generally host whole range of peoples at whole range of times, at whole range of hours.

It is most admirable Bana Yarralji's key entrepreneurs continue to be committed and able to be good Aboriginal hosts providing genuine experience of Aboriginal lore, generously sharing knowledge and recruiting people to their vision.   It is admirable and, as a business, it is a risk!!

To seek to build an enterprise and a build a future around being good hosts is hard work.  It is hard, demanding work, and at this stage, now, of the journey into forming a cultural entreprise (against the odds?)  ..  Marilyn and Peter Wallace may be feeling some of the accumulating stresses and strains of constantly striving to be good on country hosts.

Over the last couple of weeks, recognizing the increasing risk, Bana Yarralji has started looking around (with some positive sounding prospects) to secure some very purpose designed 'cultural hosting' training and experience up on country early in the new calander year - enabling whole range of other Nyungkal family members to also practice and trial hosting, catering, providing cultural experience .. and help pick up some of the load, towards a clear, positive, shared vision for the future!!

About Bana Yarralji

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Cultural entreprenuers moving onto country, building a base on country, working on country; caring for country, and hosting guests on country