Women Working on Country, Warburton

The Ngaanyatjarra Lands cover over 250,000 square kilometres, representing approximately 3% of mainland Australia. The Lands are recognised for their strong cultural and natural values. The Ngaanyatjarra people (Yarnangu) have cared for their country for thousands of years, and their social and cultural activities continue unbroken to the present day.

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Ngaanyatjarra Council’s Land and Culture unit supports the handing down of traditional ecological knowledge and the traditional ways of land management throughout the Lands. In 2012, a ‘Women Working on Country’ (WWOC) unit was created to give local women greater opportunities to participate in land management issues.

ICV was approached to help mentor and train female Indigenous Land Management Officers in both video production and documentation. The aim was for the women to learn camera skills and participate in the making of a video to highlight land management activities. They wanted to illustrate the particular issues faced by female Land Management Officers and the knowledge exchange with Elders on cultural heritage protection trips.

ICV volunteer Maureen travelled to Warburton to work with two sisters, Janelle and Sharna, who had no previous camera experience. They were keen to have the opportunity to learn while still conducting their work ‘on Country’.

Maureen’s first trip should have entailed a week out bush: camping in remote areas, documenting plants and animals and visiting significant cultural sites. Maureen was well prepared and up for the task. Unfortunately unpredicted vehicle issues arose, so the bulk of it was conducted in the community. Such is life in remote communities!

The second phase of the project took place five months later. Maureen worked extensively with Sharna and Janelle, continuing to develop their camera skills and spending more time in the preparation and planning of the story telling process.

After completing these projects with ICV, the Land and Culture unit secured funds to employ two film makers to work with the WWOC team. Through their experience with ICV, Sharna, Janelle and the rest of the team developed the confidence and skills to contribute to and direct the documentation process – ‘telling our story our way’.