Tasmanian palawa Aboriginal Elder, Clyde Mansell, has had a variety of positions across government and the private sector and is the current Chair of the Aboriginal Elders Council of Tasmania. Clyde is also the key proponent of wukalina walk – a three night, four day experience in the spectacular Bay of Fires in north eastern Tasmania. After ten years of working on the project, it’s become Tasmania’s (and possibly the country’s) first Aboriginal owned and operated guided walk and is generating a lot of interest locally and from around the world.
wukalina walk has just entered its second season so we caught up with Clyde to find out more.
1. What is wukalina walk?
wukalina walk is a four day experience that aims to deepen guests’ understanding of palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) people – our culture and community history. It’s an opportunity for the Aboriginal community take non-Aboriginal people onto country and spend time sharing and expressing our cultural connections. I think it’s what true reconciliation is all about – connection with each other and the environment.
2. Why did you come up with this location and project?
wukalina (Mt William) is our cultural homeland. We are connected to this place and it gives us a magnificent natural surroundings to share our story. Our traditional people were removed from here a long time ago but this gives us a chance now to reconnect with our land and express our cultural reconnection with it and share with others.
We made the walk four days to ensure there was time to develop the connection between guests and the story and that things are not rushed. The two days at krakani lumi (resting place) allows time for the guests to settle, relax and explore the area around the camp with our guides, including a visit to a midden which dates back at least 30 thousand years.
We then walk 17 kilometres along the beach of larapuna (Bay of Fires) which brings people forward to the contemporary Aboriginal community. We stay in the Lighthouse Keepers Cottage there and through this change in location you can see the footprints of both Aboriginal and European peoples.
wukalina walk is good for the guides who get to express their culture and good for the guests who absorb it.
3. What’s the most surprising thing guests discover?
That their first night in the krakani lumi is the best night’s sleep they’ve ever had! The domes were designed specifically to provide shelter but maintain a deep sense of being part of the landscape.
4. What’s been the reaction to the walks so far?
The response has been very good and we’ve also welcomed more local Tasmanians to date than we originally thought which is also pleasing. Our guides say people are very willing to learn and discuss they are discovering. We make sure everyone is put at ease from the outset and feels comfortable – we say “there are no stupid questions”.
5. Are you seeing an increased interest in Tasmanian palawa history and culture?
Yes, more people across the board are showing an curiosity. We did a survey and there was broad interest including a keen response from Tasmania. Because we were separated more than 12,000 years ago, there are distinct differences between our culture and that of mainland Aboriginals, something which is surprising many.
People also now want to sit down and listen to palawa people tell their personal story and wukalina walk is a logical and strong way to connect with each other – in person and on country.
A bit more about wukalina walk
For more on the walk and to book, see www.wukalinawalk.com.au
Image courtsey Rob Burnett