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Rochester builds Indigenous connection
More than six months after Rochester Fire Brigade hosted CFA’s first Smoking Ceremony focusing on safe passage through the fire season, the brigade’s members continue to increase their knowledge of local Indigenous culture.
Several members recently attended an Aboriginal cultural awareness workshop in Echuca alongside members of other local businesses and community organisations. The workshop covered local Indigenous protocols, lore and customs; kinship and language groups; the changes caused by colonisation and the implications of past government policies, and discussed Indigenous connection to Country.
The November 2016 Smoking Ceremony was performed by Aboriginal elder Kerri Douglas from the local Dja Dja Wurrung clan, the cultural custodians for a substantial part of country in District 20.
“This is one of the most significant and timeless ceremonies performed by our people,” Kerri said at the time, “and I’m proud to share this with CFA on behalf of my community.”
Smoking ceremonies have great meaning for Aboriginal people. As Kerri Douglas lit the leaves of local Cherry Ballarat, Wattle and Gum, she spoke about how the rich aromatic smoke cleanses the air and wards off bad spirits. She then invited guests to enter the smoke as a sign of good intentions and respect.
Local firefighters walked through the cleansing smoke, and the brigade’s Aboriginal flag, raised on culturally significant days, was also passed through the smoke. The flag flying shows all local Indigenous people that they are welcome at the fire station and within the wider CFA.
Captain Luke Warren performed the Acknowledgement of Country that day, paying his respects to the Dja Dja Wurrung people and their elders past and present on behalf of everyone present. He also attended the recent workshop
“We are privileged to host the event,” said Luke last November. “It’s a unique way for us to learn about each other and bring our communities closer together. Our aim as a brigade is to get more informed about Indigenous culture and keep the ball rolling.”
Rochester has the firm backing of District 20 Operations Manager Peter Taylor. He walked through the cleansing smoke at the ceremony last November, and viewed the event as “all about building partnerships based on cultural exchange and knowledge sharing.
“District 20 is committed to the CFA Koori Inclusion Action Plan. Aboriginal culture is the oldest living culture on earth. We share a culture of fire and CFA and the broader community stand to gain a lot should we take the time to learn more about the traditional use of fire in managing our risk.”
Thanks to Deb Salvagno for the original article about the November 2016 Smoking Ceremony.