Archive for the Education Category

Words of Encouragement

Posted in Aboriginal, Australia, culture, Depression, Education, Health, Health & Wellbeing, Mental Health, mudha, My Beliefs, My Writings, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by marvynmc

Nhangka All,

What is on me mind…..hmmmmm

Having worked within all levels of urban, regional, and remote Aboriginal Affairs for 28 years, since I was aged 16 years old, mainly here in Port Augusta, and often at the grass root level, I have seen and done it all, well most of it anyway, as both worker and sometimes even the clientele.

I know fully that working for and with our Peoples it can become very hard and difficult job at times because it demands long hours, time away from family, no time to visit your ancient lands if you live and work away from it, and a lot of personal stress and heartache for there is often much pain and hurt out there in our community.

Such community work with our people often goes unrewarded or recognised by others, but most of us do not worry about such personal honour or glory – just a simple Thank You often suffices or the silent fruitful and postive outcomes we see and achieve later on in some of our peoples lives.

Some times you will be often knocked flat by the very People You are trying to help, by Your own Family and even white fellas – but never give up, when knocked flat to the ground, pick yourself up from the ground, dust yourself off, and go into the fray again and again.

But do not burn yourself out – always have an outlet and periods of rest and relaxation away from it all and recharge your batteries – for if you cannot look after yourself how can you ever hope to look after others…

I live away from my Ancient Lands and Waters, lucky to be descended from three or more Aboriginal Language Groups so I can claim and visit a few, rather than just one, always say to people ‘Born and Raised in Port Augusta, especially Ummeewarra Reserve when segregation was still the political vogue, But Not My Country.

So I try my hardest to make time to go back to Country – to visit my Ancient Lands, Waters and Family.

I recently made this quote up mainly for my Grandfather’s mob, Adnyamathanha Yura of the Northern Flinders Ranges, but it could also be relevant to others:

Those who lose our Mudha (general traditions) are lost in the thorny wilderness of the Utnyu (corpse, Europeans) and they must return to our Yarta (Lands), take off their shoes so that their bare feet can touch our Yarta so that the Spiritual Engery of our Yarta can once again flow through them and they can be renewed. They must wash their face in the Awi (waters) of our Yarta so that their physical self can also be cleansed.

If you live and work away from your Ancient Lands and Water then simply make similiar connections to the Lands and Waters you may live and work on, or simply sit yourself under an unshaded tree at Sunrise or early morning light, close your eyes, and listen – listen to the wind as it rustles through the leaves and feel it flow through and around you. Listen to the first sounds and calls of the birds as they awake and sing to the dawning of a new day – Let the morning rays of Yundu (the sun) energise you by turning your face upwards towards it with closed eyes – and just be be still and silent.

I do this every morning now and it refreshes and empowers me for the day ahead.

A second but still relevant thought I think….

You know every NAIDOC Day here in Port Augusta I try to always be there with my camera to capture for all time the moments and memories of the day, especially, the Award Ceremony and their Recipiants, but after I take such Award shots I then often look around the crowd for other shots to take, and what do I see?

I see many of our unsung community heros sitting and standing admidst the crowded sea of faces, especially some of our old Elders, many now in their wheel chairs or with their walking canes, who had to fight for our Aboriginal Rights at a time when it was not so politically, socially or legally acceptable to do so.

I see some of our young people sitting or standing nearby some of our Elderly unsung Heroes, and think to myself, little do they know they are nearby some of the Giants of our community – the ones who did the hard yakka and work to ensure we, they, can now sit and stand in this public place to celebrate and march down the streets where we were once not permitted to even walk, let alone march, because they knocked and tore down the physical and invisible political walls that once segregated and oppressed our Peoples.

One day some of us may become like these, our Elders, but we should always feel honoured for we will be joining a long list of many of our unsung genuine respected Aboriginal Heroes and Giants.

Before there was Ararru & Mathari there was only Ararru

Posted in Aboriginal, Adnyamathanha Yura Culture, Australia, culture, Dreaming, Dreamtime, Education, mudha, My Beliefs, My Writings, South Australia, Uncategorized, Yarta Wandatha with tags , , , , on August 13, 2009 by marvynmc


Everything I am about to say here is based purely on my own personal research, understanding and interpretation of our Ancient Stories and Beliefs, therefore, I encourage and expect you to always check what I say is true or not, for I may well be wrong and I am always prepared to be rebuked or corrected, I especially ask my Adnyamathanha Ararru Mathari Yura Ngankini to check and verify.

Like I always say that within our Peoples there are People who are both younger and older than me who know much more than I will ever hope to learn in my lifetime.

Mandya and Urdlu Wilpena Pound © 2008 Walha Udi Marvyn McKenzie Snr

In the ancient of days, before there were two opposite moiety totem groups of Ararru Vukurra Milana (Northwind Mob) and Mathari Varpa Milana (Southwind Mob) there was only one – and it was Ararru Vukurra Milana.

Now some of my Mathari Yura Ngankini may well disagree me about this belief and may say “How do you know it was not firstly only Mathari?”

Thus, I beg you to bear with me for a little while as I try to explain this personal and cultural belief.

This one totem wind group can be clearly seen in some of our Ancient stories, our Yarta Wandatha (the telling and teaching of stories that connects a person to our Ancestral Land) of our Ancient Nguthuna.

Nguthuna is the Yura Ngawarla (lit Earth Language) term and name we use for the period when many of our Ancestral Creation Spirit Beings who either travelled over or settled upon the land.

The Nguthuna is known by the Utnyu (corpse, White People) as the ‘Dreamtime or Dreaming’ but these Utnyu terms and concepts are still not sufficient enought to truly explain what we Aboriginal People mean we when talk and recall this Ancient period of time and events.

Each Aboriginal Language Groups have their own Ancient words for this period of time and event: for example the Pitjantjatjara people use the term Tjukurpa, the Arrernte refer to it as Aldjerinya.

Whilst the Yura Ngawarla word Nguthuna is the word for what I often refer to the Ancient of Days, we Adnyamathanha Ararru Mathari Yura also have an additional word we use for the past, present and future events and it is called Mudha (our laws, customs and traditions, kinship and marriage system lanuage, dance, stories, songs etc).

Got sidetracked there a bit but that is because it is important to explain the above cultural information and words not only to Yura but also to other people so they may at least get some knowledge and understanding of these two connected but very different and cultural concepts and belief systems of Nguthuna and Mudha.

So where was I…ahh..yes..This one totem wind group can be clearly seen in some of our Ancient stories, our Yarta Wandatha of our Ancient Nguthuna….

Take for example one of our most well known story, well least by our Mob, the Ancient Nguthuna story of Mandya and Urdlu, which is the main story we have of the creation of the Flinders Ranges. In English the Mandya (sounds like mundja) is called Euro or Common Wallaroo and Urdlu (sounds like Oodloo) is the Red Kangaroo and before they became two different species of animals they were once of the same species.

This same species belief can be seen in their Utnyu scientific Latin names for them. Mandya is called Macropus robustus and Urdlu is called Macropus rufus – thus both are descended from a common ancestor which for the purpose of this story we shall call Macropus.

Wardu (a long time ago),

Mandya and Urdlu Macropus were Brothers, of the same species and both were Ararru, who lived together and hunted together, always sharing with each other what they each found seperately or together. They use to travel around together in the same flat, featureless country looking for their favourite food Ngarndi Wari (the root of the Native Pear, Bush Banana) and sharing the food with each other when either one or the other found some or did not find some.

One day when Urdlu and Mandya were looking for Ngarndi Wari in separate locations Urdlu found a good area where there was a lot of Ngarndi Wari, whilst Mandya was searching in places where he could find only a little, if any at all.

At first Urdlu shared the Ngarndi Wari he had found with Mandya but as time went on he felt Mandya was not pulling his own weight in finding his own Ngarndi Wari and therefore not really contributing at all. So Urdlu decided to no longer share the Ngarndi Wari with Mandya anymore and decided to keep his food source a secret from Mandya.

After a while poor Mandya was getting thinner and thinner because he could not find any Ngarndi Wari at all when he went out. Each evening Mandya would look over to his friend Urdlu and notice that he was getting fatter and fatter.

One day, after nearing the point of starvation, Mandya went to Urdlu and asked his friend to give him some Ngarndi Wari as he was very, very hungry. Mandya said ‘Please Vurlka (old man), give me some Mai (non-meat food in general as opposed to Vaarlu – meat in general) as I am very hungry and weak.

Urdlu felt sorry for Mandya and said to him ‘OK! There is some Ngarndi Wari in my bag over there. Help yourself, you can have that.’

Mandya then went to the bag and began to eat the Ngarndi Wari that he found in it. As Mandya was eating the Ngarndi Wari he looked over to Urdlu and said ‘Hmmm! This is really good tasting Ngarndi Wari. Where did you find it? Urdlu with a wave of his said ‘Oh, I found it over there somewhere.’

Urdlu did not want to tell Mandya where his source of Ngarndi Wari was and Mandya realised that his friend Urdlu was keeping his source a secret from him. So Mandya decided that he would try to find the source of the Urdlu’s Ngarndi Wari himself.

That night the two went to sleep dreaming and scheming. Urdlu dreamt of how he could prevent Mandya from finding his secret source of Ngarndi Wari. Mandya dreamt of how he could find Urdlu’s secret source of Ngarndi Wari.

The next morning Urdlu was the first to wake up and like most other mornings he was feeling a bit thirsty so he went to look for some Awi (water) to drink. Mandya was also secretly awake, waiting to see what Urdlu would do and which direction he would go. Mandya realised that Urdlu was not going to his secret source of Ngarndi Wari but was instead searching for Awi as he usually did in the mornings. This then was his best opportunity to find Urdlu secret source of Ngarndi Wari as he knew that Urdlu would be busy looking for Awi.

Mandya began to walk around the campsite looking for Urdlu incoming tracks to the camp and while there were many, Mandya soon found one that was well worn and frequently used.

Mandya soon followed Urdlu tracks, slowly and steadily, as he noted that at times Urdlu tried to disguise or hide his tracks.

Eventually Mandya did indeed find Urdlu’s secret source of Ngarndi Wari.

He begun to dig out a big heap of the Ngarndi Wari and began to eat and feast on them. He stayed there digging and digging without looking up. Back at the campsite, Urdlu returned back from looking for Awi and noticed that Mandya was no longer in the camp. Urdlu then notice the tracks of Mandya has they circled the camp and realised that Mandya has set off to find his secret source of Ngarndi Wari.

When Urdlu arrived at his secret source of Ngarndi Wari he saw that Mandya notice that had dug up a lot of his Ngarndi Wari. Mandya was still so busy digging and eating the Ngarndi Wari that he did not notice the arrival of Urdlu.

Urdlu was very angry at Mandya and said to him ‘Why did you come to my hole and dig up all my Ngarndi Wari? Mandya replied ‘Because I am starving and you were very mean in not sharing this plentiful source of Ngarndi Wari with me.’ Mandya then just went back to digging and eating the Ngarndi Wari.

This made Urdlu very, very angry and next minute he attacked Mandya and they began to have a big fight with each other. During the fight Mandya grabbed Urdlu’s arms and began to pull and stretch them out. He then grabs his fingers and legs also and stretched them out as well, until they go very long.

This made Urdlu very angry so Urdlu pressed Mandya’s fingers and his legs making them short. He then pressed Mandya’s back and chest. Urdlu then thrashed him and they then separated, going in different directions to tend their wounds.

Mandya went off and up to a place called Vadaardlanha (Paralana Hot Springs) and settled down to tend his wounds. Mandya can still been seen sitting there today as he became a mountain peak that we now called Thudupinha (Thudu being an old word for the Mandya).

When Mandya settled down to sleep for the night he noticed an uncomfortable hurt at his hip. Mandya got up and saw that he had a sore that he had missed out on cleaning and that in the sore was a little stone. Mandya took out the little stone and he blew on it. In a flash he saw hills come up from the plains, so he blew on it again and more hills began to rise up from the plains.

Meanwhile, Urdlu had gone off and down to a placed called Varaarta to tend to his wounds and as he travelled he moved the flat plains that contained his Ngarndi Wari with him.

Urdlu was lying at the flat when he looked up and saw all the hills rising up from the plain and moving down towards him. Urdlu said to himself, ‘Hey! What going on here? What is that Vurlka up to now? Why is he making all these hills, if he keeps it up I will have no place to live at all and I will lose all my Ngarndi Wari.

Urdlu then rose up and with a big sweep of his new long tail he pushed the hills back to where they remain today. You can see where this happened at a place called Vardna-wartathinha (Prism Hill) and near by there is a big flat where no grass ever grows and it is called Urdlurunha-vitana (lit translation ‘kangaroo’s flat’) and it is now called Moro Flat.

At this time Urdlu also made Munda (Lake Frome) so that he would have a permanent supply of Awi. He made this fresh water Awi so would no longer needed to waste any time looking for Awi anymore, have more time to look for Ngarndi Wari and to keep an eye on Mandya.

Mandya saw Urdlu make Munda and he was very jealous so one night he went down to Munda when Urdlu was asleep and salted the whole of Munda. This is why today Urdlu can no longer drink from Munda today and explains why Munda is now a permanent salt lake.

After Mandya went back into the newly created hills and Urdlu stayed on the big plain that he moved along with him. Each now live separately from each other and look differently from each other as a result of the big fight. Where once they were brothers and hunted together they now keep to themselves and remain in their own countries that they made for themselves.

Mandya turned himself into a spirit and is now called Thudupinha. You can still see him today sitting up their near Vadaardlanha. Below him the ground is all red because it was here that he had bled and tended his wounds after his big fight with Urdlu. This place is called Mandya Arti (which means ‘Mandya’s Blood’) and is today known as Mount Freeling.

Because Mandya settled in the North he remained Ararru and therefore is a totem animal for all Ararru.

Because Urdlu settled in the South he changed into Mathari and therefore is the totem animal for all Mathari.

Now some of you may say to me:

You have still not explained or answered why you think that there was once only one totem before there was two, and why you believe that it was the Ararru Mob that was the first totem and not the Mathari Mob? Where in this story does this even say this?

Reread the story and answer for yourself the following two simple questions:

When Mandya and Urdlu fought each other, for this was when the division occurred: Who was the first one to be changed through their fighting – Mandya or Urdlu?

Who was the one who first made creative changes to the flat featureless landscape – Mandya or Urdlu?

There are other important lessons and secrets contained within this story and I will reveal some of them on another day as I think I said enough for you to think about and reflect on.

How the Moon got into the Sky

Posted in Aboriginal, Adnyamathanha Yura Culture, Australia, culture, Dreaming, Dreamtime, Education, mudha, My Beliefs, My Writings, South Australia, Yarta Wandatha with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2009 by marvynmc

How the Moon Got into the Sky

© 2008 Walha Udi Marvyn McKenzie snr

This digital photo art depicts the Adnyamathanha Yura people story of how the Moon got into the sky and how the marriage rule was established whereby nephews could marry their mother brother’s (uncles) wives who were a generation above them but younger than the nephews.

This photo is made up from a number of different photos that I have joined together to tell the story.

In my lifetime I will only be issuing for public sale a limited edition of only ten copies of this digital photo art.

In the Adnyamathanha Yura Ngawarla language the Moon is known as Vira Vurlka and the Sky is called Ngairri.

Wardu Mudha,

Long ago there lived an old man named Vira Vurlka who had two young wives and he was the Ngamarna (Mother’s Brother) of two Yarkarla-apas (Nephews).

Within Adnyamathanha Yura people culture it is the role and responsibility of your Ngamarna to teach their Yarkarla-apas about the Mudha (customs, laws, history) of their people e.g. responsible for teaching them what food they could and couldn’t eat, kinship rules, marriage, discipline etc

Vira Vurlka’s two Yarkarla-apas were getting sick and tired of him telling them what they couldn’t eat especially when it seemed to them that he would always keep all the best food for himself and they began to fall in love with their Ngamarna wives and wanted them for their own wives, so they decided to do something about their Ngamarna once and for all.

One day the five were out hunting along a gum creek looking for Mai (non-meat food, food in general) and Vaarlu (meat in general) and they came to a large gum tree full of witchetty grubs.

The two Yarkarla-apas said to Vira Vurlka,

‘Look Ngamarna, there are lots of witchetty grubs high up in that tree but it is too high and dangerous for us to climb. Can you climb up there and get some for us?’

‘Okay, okay, Yarkarla-apa’, Vira Vurlka said, ‘I will climb up and get them for you both’.

Vira Vurlka then cut some steps into the tree to make it easier for him to climb up. Then when he was up high enough he then began to climb along a high branch, pulling out the witchetty grubs as he went and throwing them down below to his two Yarkarla-apas who began to eat them.

Now then, every time that the Yarkarla-apa sucked the witchetty grubs they drew in a deep breath of air and they would then aim at the gum tree and blow the air out of their mouth up towards it. This blowing of air made the gum tree grow higher and higher into the sky.

Has the two Yarkarla-apas blew the air out of their mouths they made a loud ‘Foo-foo’ sound and Vira Vurlka heard them and looking down towards them he asked,

‘Hey what are you two up to?’

The two Yarkarla-apas replied

‘We doing nothing Ngamarna. We are just sucking out the juice of the witchetty grub. Get us some more because we are still hungry.’

Vira Vurlka shook his head and began to get more of the witchetty grubs for his Yarkarla-apas unaware that his two Yarkarla-apas were blowing the tree higher and higher until the tree touched the sky.

Far below the two Yarkarla-apas cried out,

‘Ngamarna, look, the tree is touching the sky. Why don’t you reach out and grab the sky before you fall.’

Vira Vurlka then looked and saw how high up he was into the sky and he said ‘Nimba Varpardla Warndaku’, that is, ‘Look how high my head is up here.’

Vira Vurlka began to get giddy from being so high up. Vira Vurlka then reached out to touch the sky for support and has he did so his two Yarkarla-apas then pulled the gum tree down until it was quite small, leaving Vira Vurlka hanging way up high with only the sky to support him getting angrier and angrier by the moment.

Vira Vurlka called down to his two Yarkarla-apas to help him get down but they replied,

‘Ngamarna, we will not help you get down instead you must climb up further into the sky and to forever stay up there to shine. Then you must gradually die and become smaller. After that you will be reborn again and complete the cycle of dying again.’

‘Nimba Varpardla Warndaku’ is all that Vira Vurlka said as he angrily climbed up further into the sky.

‘Nimba Varpardla Warndaku’ is now what Vira Vurlka always says when he is reborn as the full moon.

ViraVurlka two Yarkarla-apas then married his two wives who were younger than they.

Transcontinental News Story Published 29 July 2009 – ‘Shamed’ by in-fighting

Posted in Aboriginal, Australia, culture, Education, Health, Health & Wellbeing, My Beliefs, politics, South Australia, Stories about Me with tags , , , , , , , on August 8, 2009 by marvynmc
Here is the New Article Story I and the Editor of the Trans worked on:
Walha Udi & his Son (nephew) Josh Coulthard-Wayehill at NAIDOC Week – Mr McKenzie said Elders must set an example for young people
An Aboriginal man said he is ashamed by the frequency and severity of fights between young Aboriginal People in Port Augusta.

Marvyn McKenzie Snr made the call after a fight between two of his nephews, resulting in one being hospitalised.

Mr McKenzie said this sort of behaviour set back past achievements of the Region’s Elders and gave Aboriginal People a bad name among the greater community.

‘Sometimes I am ashamed to call myself Aboriginal, especially at times when I hear of Aboriginal People and Families fighting other Aboriginal Families, especially some of youth and some of our elders who sohuld know better’ he said.

‘What are they doing (by fighting) is dividing us as a Community, as a People, and making it hard for us to achieve our social goals, political goals and health goals.

‘The (Aboriginal) Flag should be the one that unites us; respect our differences, but we have got to recognise the ones that unites us.’

Mr McKenzie said the behaviour ‘undid’ the work of Aboriginal Elders from various language groups in the 1960s, negotiating peace with one another in Port Augusta.

‘Many people in Port Augusta have forgotten that when the migration of Aboriginal people from far flung Aboriginal missions and reserves began to occur our Elder Lawmen got together firstly to make it culturally right to enter onto the lands and waters of Port Augusta and to establish rules of conduct, relationships and behaviour towards one another,’ he said.

‘Most of the Elder Lawmen have now passed on but that does not mean that the unwritten sacred agreements and laws they made for us all have, these old laws and agreements must still apply to us all today, otherwise we dishonour them and ourselves.’

He also expressed concern over “gang” behaviour where people held on to arguements they were not directly involved in.

‘My message is this: don’t gang up. If someone does something to them or says something to them, it is not to you. So its their problem, not yours,’ he said.

‘Otherwise the problem just grows and gets bigger and bigger…and it becomes generational, when really we should be working togetherlike our Elders did.’

According to Mr McKenzie, Elders also need to teach younger generations about their past, including the peace treaty and traditiona laws regarding fights.

‘If our kids are fighting or arguing, we Elders should not get involved other than to say, ‘If you going to fight each other then let it be a fair and square fight and once the fight is over, that’s it, end of story and the fight or argument is not to be brought up again,’ he said.

According to Mr McKenzie, under traditional law, fights had to be kept clean and fair and should end with the last punch.

‘If they are the ground, you don’t kick them – that was our traditional way, our culture,’ he said.

‘If you did kick them while they were on the ground, you had broken our law and were punished severly.’

‘If the person kicked (should have been knocked) me down – fairly – I’d buy them a beer and the fight was finished and never brought up again.’