Healing by rediscovering traditional crafts
“The women are exposed to all the community stresses that are a direct result of alcohol and drug abuse. When they walk into the shed, they have a safe place where they can release their stresses with the other women. The repetition of weaving or stitching as they do traditional crafts is a meditation for them,” said Lauren Jarrett a Bundjalung, Gumbayngaree and Dunghutti woman who is a drug and alcohol counsellor with The Buttery’s INTRA outreach program.
Lauren is talking about the Indigenous women in The Wake Up Time group. For nine years they’ve been meeting in a shed in the Oaks Housing Estate in Casino to learn traditional crafts and make beautiful artefacts. Yet Wake Up Time is more than a craft group.
“It is a way of renewing culture and essential in healing the effects of dispossession and the stolen generation. The women ‘walk the land’ retracing the steps of their great grandmothers and connecting with the environment while feeding the spirit as they search for pandanas, lomandra and other local materials to use in their craft,” she said
When the group started the women made objects using techniques that were not necessarily from the local area. More recently, Lauren looked at old books and objects in the Lismore Museum and consulted elderly Indigenous women to rediscover lost techniques and to use materials that grow in the local area.
“An old lady from Cabbage Tree Island remembered fishing with her auntie and being shown reeds that were used traditionally for weaving. At first many of the old people were afraid to share their culture. This is because early last century Aboriginal people were forbidden from speaking their language or following traditional practices,” Lauren said.
The Casino group includes teenagers as well as women in their eighties, and every age group in between. As well as reeds and grasses they are rediscovering traditional dyes and use feathers and seeds for decoration, just as they have done for millennia.
“The older ones feel sad and lonely that so many of the old ways have been lost. The younger ones feel empowered, strong in their culture and part of a continuity that is thousands of years old. It gives me hope that we are able to recapture our identity and own it,” she added.
Wake Up Time have held several exhibitions in the local area and sell their crafts to provide additional income for their community.
Lauren Jarrett second from R and The Buttery’s Community Support Worker, Katrina Kelsey third from R with members of the Wake Up Time group.
(inset – optional shot Cathy: A selection of the artefacts made using traditional techniques and materials)
Wake Up Time is supported by Commonwealth Government Funding, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and individual donors. To help support this program:
LINK TO ON-LINE DONATIONS