Immersive experiences educating public about Indigenous culture

CULTURAL IMMERSION: Daylesford's Will Austin has expanded his Indigenous led youth mentoring program to teaching about Indigenous ways of connecting with and caring for the environment. Photo: Dylan Burns
CULTURAL IMMERSION: Daylesford's Will Austin has expanded his Indigenous led youth mentoring program to teaching about Indigenous ways of connecting with and caring for the environment. Photo: Dylan Burns

Will Austin began educating the wider community about Indigenous culture with his Indigenous led organisation Yarn Bark, which focuses on youth mentoring and Aboriginal cultural immersion, but now, he has expanded to teaching a new practice which he hopes will be widely adopted.

Founded by his uncle, Jamie Thomas and his partner Sara Jones, the Wayapa Wuurrk course is a youth immersion practice based on Aboriginal wisdom of how to connect with the environment. 

Now that he is a practitioner, Mr Austin has been teaching Wayapa Wuurrk in association with his Yarn Bark program. 

“Through Yarn Bark, I teach authentic craft like boomerangs, clap sticks and didgeridoos as well as cultural immersion workshops in schools like traditional dance, song and sharing knowledge about the essence of Aboriginal culture with the younger generation so all people can find the connection to it,” Mr Austin said. 

“That’s where Wayapa is really helpful, it can be done in kindergartens, primary schools and aged care facilities – it can be done anywhere.”

Mr Austin, a Gunditjmara person, shares his knowledge about the fundamental aspects of Aboriginal culture, that extends further than 80,000 years. 

“So all people, no matter where they come from, can actually connect to the real and authentic aspects of Aboriginal culture and what it’s all about… the idea of how we look after the planet to traditional dance and song and how these forms pass on knowledge.”

It’s about re-connecting people to the deeper responsibility to look after the earth for future generations.

Will Austin

The practice of Wayapa Wuurrk is based on a number of elements, for example, the sun.

“We can all connect to those elements but connected to them are also sacred cultural stories. Not only of Aboriginal people from this country but from all over the world. It’s about creating that space for people to connect, share their stories and learn about the deeper contexts that are attached to each element,” he said. 

“It’s about re-connecting people to the deeper responsibility to look after the earth for future generations.”

He said Wayapa, which he likened to ‘Aboriginal yoga’, was a creative way to deliver the information.

“The philosophy of Wayapa is that if the earth isn’t well, then we can’t be well as people. Deforesting and the Adani coal mines are a clear example. Wayapa is a really immersive and engaging way to bring Aboriginal ways of doing things to the forefront to show that we do have knowledge that can be utilised in a modern context,” he said. 

“It’s not about going back to live that way, it’s about how we can adapt the concept to be mindful of our place in the environment so that we are taking care of the earth and each other.”