Yalari Creative Writing Competition

To kick off Reconciliation Week this year we launched a painting and creative writing competition for our students and alumni. This was an opportunity for them to get away from that computer screens, dust off their paintbrushes and pencils and find something to paint, draw or write about.

We were looking for original work sharing culture, ceremony and spiritual belonging to country. The response from our students was great and we received so many amazing entries into our creative writing competition.

The Yalari Head Office staff had the difficult task of choosing our winners.
The winning writing pieces are:

To kick off Reconciliation Week this year we launched a painting and creative writing competition for our students and alumni. This was an opportunity for them to get away from that computer screens, dust off their paintbrushes and pencils and find something to paint, draw or write about.

We were looking for original work sharing culture, ceremony and spiritual belonging to country. The response from our students was great and we received so many amazing entries into our creative writing competition.

The Yalari Head Office staff had the difficult task of choosing our winners.
The winning writing pieces are:

Alumni Competition Winners:

Native Title Determination

As I woke to the morning tunes of the Yulukuku (birds) singing, the malyimalyi (breeze) flowing through the tent, all I could think about was the special day ahead.

As I lay in my swag all snuggled up with the two blankets to keep me warm, I could hear the rustles of the leaves, the snoring from my brothers and uncles and the whispers and laughter’s of the children the wind carried.

As I peeped out of the tent screen, The small children layered in jumpers and track pants Who calls each other brother and sister, aunty, and uncle Sitting on the cold Piju (riverbed) around a small lit fire from the night before laughing amongst each other. Only they knew what was funny.

As I paused to give the children some time to themselves, The sound of each tent unzipping and family members emerging one by one began. I knew it was time to move.

As I walked out, there was no time to waste. The men went to prepare the shades and the women stayed back at camp to clean up, whilst the children ran around enjoying their freedom. As I observed my surroundings, The men gathered, not to be disturbed behind a makeshift stage made of branches and leaves, preparing themselves with yarti and bartu (charcoal and red ochre), While the women and children got dressed at camp.

As I, and many others waited for the Federal Court Judge to arrive, I looked around in awe to find my grandmothers, unties, nieces and sisters sitting beside me dressed with their Yakarti in their hairs, waiting for the celebrations to begin.

As I stood, Our elders began singing ‘Yinma’ – the songs of celebrations – My grandmothers and grandfathers, aunties and uncles, brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews began dancing alongside me. The feeling was mesmerising.

As I took each stomp on the Piju, Left, right, left, left, right, right, The grains of sand beneath my feet and between my toes, I could feel the connection to my country and the presence of all my ancestors dancing beside me. I felt right at home.

As I sat to hear the words, “The High Court has granted the lands back to the rightful owners. The Nyamal people” Families came together, hugging and cheering, laughing and crying. There were photos being taken, videos being recorded, and speeches being made. It was a moment of mixed emotions of happiness and sadness for us all.

As I remember that beautiful day and how privileged I feel, I reflect on the long journey my Kundul (great- grandmother) fought to have our land returned to the Nyamal people. Sadly, she passed nine days before she could witness this significant event. I know she was with us, I could feel her in spirit and that of our ancestors – They heard, they came, they celebrated, they rest. I will always remember what she did.

That is what I call Determination!


Bangirn. The history of my kin accessed through an inhale and held at the chest: Buhng. Then sprung out into the world on an exhale: Aan. You now know my people’s language; Miyalli. All my sisters and countless ancestors have been birthed into this name and so will the fourth-generation women in my family after me, after them, and on. In a world where nothing is permanent, the sequence of four generational skin names will always remain a part of the sacred ties that lead us all back to Central Arnhem Land, 60 years from now, 600 years or another 60,000. Bangirn – two syllables with my clan group, country, language, moiety group and songlines embedded deep within in it.

Out of habit; I always introduce myself as belonging to Gureng-Gureng, Binthi Warra and Miyalli mob, but my skin name belongs to me. Eight words for each of the brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, granddaughters and grandsons, great-granddaughters and great-grandsons. I chant each of their skin names so I don’t lose the song that’s been passed down to me, I need it to be as fingers to hands, lines on the palm of my hand, as much as it can be as physically a part of me rather than something to remember. Growing up and not being able to speak Guugu Yimithirr as well as I did the years previous because believing memory alone was strong enough to carry the language of Binthi Warra people was much like willing an arm to be strong without the use of it. Every time I go home and take the time to strengthen my culture, I strengthen myself in many other ways as well. For now it’s small words and phrases but how much of ourselves is made up of seemingly small things like the lines on our palms and soles of our feet, freckles, wrinkles, scars, dimples and birthmarks? They’re usually the most loved parts.

Belonging in the sense of who I belong to and what belongs to me becomes an easy way to feel lost and alone. have studied, lived and worked in places that are far from my family, country and people; although there is a word that I will forever be tethered to and creates a space for me to call home anywhere I find myself; sis. No matter how much stress distance and time puts on the connection I have from my born family, country and people, there’s a shared sacredness of sister and brotherhood among mob from everywhere; the anchors of my sense of belonging is forever expanding as I continue to meet more brothers and sisters in my life. I’m Bangirn in the context of my family; removed from them – I’m a lone person with a skin name but I’m sis in every clan group across the country and as are all my other Black brothers and sisters in that same respect. That way – belonging becomes less about a fixed matter of who or what serves the parameters of my identity but an ever-expanding sense of being seen, understood, uplifted and nourished. In a world where nothing is permanent, being a sister (or brother) to one another is a constant, sacred state of being. It’s mostly been the heart of everything I do or, at times, an actual headache but always the strength of what I’ve needed to be the best I can be.

My History, My Saviour

Indigenous Australians, we are unique and resilient;
A strong-willed culture, passed through each descendent.

My little mob, a snippet of this culture so great;
Let’s take a walk with my family, through the Torres Strait.

Where the soil isn’t as red and the surroundings aren’t dry;
White sand and salt water is in high supply.

With a vast number of Islands, off the tip of Queensland;
In white man’s courts, Eddie Mabo fought for it, to be free land.

The Torres Strait was robust and prosperous;
Trading and exchanging items of beauty, nothing would conquer us.

We survived European settlement, that tried to burn our culture to the ground;
Little did they know, they would not keep us bound.

We survived an influx of foreigners that took all they could;
With injustice and wrongdoing but our spirits withstood.

The missionaries forced us into submission,
Adapting Christianity practices was a long transition.

World War II touched our shores and our people were in jeopardy,
Strong, abled warriors, stepped up and volunteered instantly.

Forged from hardship, tribes were each other’s companion,
The Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion.

Through hard times and misfortune, they could have run bare;
My ancestors prospered and now make me aware.

The significance of our flags colours, black, white, green and blue;
Is an aspect of our culture that I embrace right through.

There are many types of art passed down through generations;
Paintings, statues, dhari’s and masks are just some of those creations.

We have music and dance, an expression of each tribe;
Each lyric, each dance move performed with purpose and pride.

Each tribe has a totem, highly respected within their circle;
I’m proud to say my tribe from Erub, ours is a sea turtle.

It’s safe to say, that history was not in our favour;
But my ancestors wouldn’t submit, they are my saviour.

Student Competition Winners:

Maayu murrun yaadha “We Live on” (In my traditional Gamilaraay Language)

There is enough self-doubt, lost identity and despair in the average black fulla
That not everyone knows who they are, where they come from or
Who their mob is

Everyone lost their land
Everyone lost their language
Everyone lost their lore

They took the trees
They took the soil
They took the shores
They brought diseases, that killed us

We should be grateful
Grateful for the houses they built
As though we had no way to find shelter
Grateful for the fences they built
As though we had no boundaries
Grateful for their ideas
As though we had none of our own
But most of all they brought a new hatred, one we had not earned
A hatred for simply being something they were not

Not understanding the value of the land
They displaced us and tried to destroy it
Not understanding the wisdom of our speech
They put us on missions and reserves to silence us
Not understanding our inextricable connection to our culture
They stole our children and forbid the practices of our old people

They tried.

They tried to silence us
But our voices were too strong
They tried to separate our people
But could never break our kinship bonds
They tried to destroy our culture
But those ancient spirits live on

There is enough determination, courage and strength in the average black fulla
To rise above the silence
And find their voice

Our feet still walk this land
Our tongues still speak
Our hearts still follow lore

We will plant new trees
We will nourish the soil
We will dance along the shores the deserts, the hills, the plains

And so today we stand tall in defiance
As the proud descendants of those who would not be silenced.

Indigenous Writes

In this moment, I hear the birds chatter and whispers of our Ancestors voices, as soft as the trees dancing with the wind. The trees and wind in a perfect duet singing us songs as we sit on the bank, with our reels in hand, the fish and yabbies ready to dodge our hooks and pots. Our family around the fire telling stories and laughing. While cooking dinner a warm, comforting hug from the fire enwraps us and the well anticipated smell of dinner teasing me. Laying beneath the stars in our swags, beautiful twinkling lights covering the night sky in every direction, sleeping to the soothing sounds of the bush. Then waking in the morning to the gossip of the birds like an alarm they are right on time, resting high in the paperbark trees. These great trees concealing the beautiful oasis with shade and protection. When I look upon my country, Waanyi land. An oasis amongst the desert country, you can see Boodjamulla. The rainbow serpent who formed the great river and gave sustenance to the surrounding vegetation and animals. This country is sacred to many people, for me it adds to my cultural identity and internal feeling of connection to land. It is part of who I am, both my past and future. This is my country, my home.

Moving to the city was like waking up from a dream, looking through my window I see many lights, it’s not the lights I remember, I strain my head to find the beautiful twinkling lights from my home, finally realizing they aren’t stars. They are buildings and houses. No star in sight. The trees still dance in the wind but not to the voices of my Ancestors. They move to the breeze of cars and trains. The internal feeling of disconnection and isolation bubbling inside of me. This was a choice I made, and I was determined from grade 7 to see it through. There were many challenges and doubts faced that made me question myself and my ability. However, through the endless support from my family I overcame these struggles. This might not look like that beautiful river, have as many stars or sing the sweet melodies of the bush. But I am surrounded by family, I have gained so many more stories and laughs from this new place. It has filled me with hope and curiosity, wherever life takes me I have the knowledge of both places to guide and strengthen me in my future endeavours.

My Definition of Love

I don’t fully understand the meaning of hate or love yet. I do know if I could I’d turn everyone’s hate into love and make it as if hate was never in our human vocabulary. Because in the end love always overpowers hate. My definition of love is my life I’ve been given, it’s the beautiful place I live in, it’s the feeling of being able to run bear foot through my soft garden grass. It’s the sight of our sunrises and sunsets I’m lucky enough to see every single day. Most of all it’s being able to come home to a family that gives unconditional love and support. I know not many people have that and I have to remind myself every now and then that I’m one of the few people that are lucky enough to have a family. Love is one thing that I can always rely on. It has taught me and given me most of my good qualities and without it I wouldn’t be me. Without my family I wouldn’t be able to experience specific things. I wouldn’t be able to live on a beautiful property that’s traditional Bundjalung Country on my Mother’s side. I wouldn’t be able to travel and experience different places. One thing I’m especially grateful for is having the chance to cleanse myself every January at our smoking ceremony, experiencing this every year while growing up has taught me many things. It has taught me to appreciate everything I have before it’s gone. It has taught me to value every single person that’s apart of my life. Most importantly it’s reminded me of my worth. It pushed me to try out for this scholarship, it pushed me to try my best and feel good about it. It has pushed me to finally believe in myself. Every year at the smoking ceremony I acknowledge my mistakes and acknowledge what I’ve overcome in the past and what’s also defeated me in the past and then I let go of all of it. I let the smoke drag away all negativity so it can replenish me with positivity, and when the ceremony ends I try to look at everything through a different perspective and look for positive outlooks. Doing this has helped me grow as a person and I believe it will continue doing so. This turns all my unpleasant energy into love leaving me with nothing but happiness. I believe One day it will last me for the rest of my life. I know not many people get to experience the feeling of having a new mindset every year but I am blessed enough to be able to. Without my Aboriginal culture I wouldn’t be able to do such things. It is all such a big part of my life and without any of it I’d be a completely different person. My culture is something I’m extremely proud of and grateful for. It has given me various opportunities including being able to get the best education for myself, even if there is sacrifices to be made. Everyone’s definition of love is different but this is mine and it’s why my love always overpowers the hate.



Yalari respects our Elders, past and present, and acknowledges that our office is on Kombumerri country within the lands of the Yugambeh language group

(07) 5665 8688
[email protected]
4 Helensvale Road, Helensvale QLD 4212