The Ngulla Mia Project 

Keeping our culture alive and thriving

The Ngulla Mia (Our Place) Project aims to create an environment at the MAC premises (located at 4 Woods Street, Esperance WA ), that incorporates native and bush tucker plants into the Mudjar Cultural Gardens with areas for sharing traditional foods and meals and yarning spaces. The indoor areas provide spaces for workshops, many that incorporate traditional cultural practices including sharing Dreamtime stories, aboriginal history and culture, art, music and dance. A mural will be developed and included in the outdoor area that captures the culture of the Nyungar people including animals and plants.

The Ngulla Mia Project is an evolving project for the development and creation of our place as a space for Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people to come together to celebrate culture, share experiences and gain a greater understanding of the local Nyungar history, stories and language. The need for this project has been identified through discussions with our Directors and Members who are local and regional Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal Community Members from the Nyungar, Ngadjuand Wongi regions. The project also aligns with National Closing the Gap new ways of working which includes local action in order to make a difference and achieve positive changes in outcomes for Aboriginal People.

Mudjar Aboriginal Gallery is a community and fair trade focused shop featuring a powerful collection of local artworks, authentic handcrafted traditional tools and ethically created and sourced giftwares. This guarantees that the original artists and their communities benefit from the royalties of all items sold bearing their unique stories and talents.

The Ngulla Mia Project includes providing opportunities for Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people to engage and participate in a range of activities that provides them with social connection, increased skills and knowledge, training and education and a sense of ownership over the project activities and outcomes. The Project is actively driven by Aboriginal People and assists them with developing leadership skills and increased confidence in their abilities as well as a sense of pride in their achievements.

The MAC shed and workshop is a constant hive of activity offering space and tools for skill development and creative exploration for artists and craftspeople. The emphasis in the activities here can be reminiscent of the Aboriginal spirit of the bush mechanics, by encouraging the use and reuse of recycled materials to make new inventive goods. A great example is the Dismantle Bike Rescue mob that visit. BikeRescue is a dynamic youth development program that uses hands-on skill-building to engage and mentor young people in need of support. BikeRescue builds knowledge, social skills, confidence and teamwork through various mechanical and mentoring activities. During BikeRescue, participants fully strip and rebuild two bikes each. The first is donated to charity, which earns them the second one to customise and keep for themselves.

The pallet rescue team keep the workshop humming as the regularly turn old pallets into cool new furniture.

On any given day our resident artist, local Nyungar woman, Atheleen Thomas can be found in a corner of the shed quietly immersed in paints and stories.

Mudjar Aboriginal Corporation feature in Esperance Tide, May 2021
Ngaanyatjarra Lands Students visit to Mudjar Aboriginal Corporation, May 2021

On the 12th May 2021, Ngaanyatjarra Students visited Mudjar Aboriginal Corporation (MAC) and took part in Ngulla Mia (Our Place) activities including art and craft, woodworking and furniture making. The students had planned to visit Perth for their annual school camp, however, due to covid concerns, they had to cancel that trip and they contacted us here at MAC to see if we could help them with other plans.

The students were accompanied by Daisy Tuparntarri Ward who is a respected elder of the Warakurna community, and whose striking portrait was painted by David Darcy and won the 2019 Archibald Prize People’s Choice Award. Daisy Tjuparntarri Ward is a leader in her community in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, her role transcending many realms as a cross-cultural educator, artist, advocate against domestic violence and passionate spokeswoman for her people.

On meeting NSW artist David Darcy, the two became friends, leading to him capturing her on canvas. “Over several weeks, we got to know each other. I discovered I’d met an extraordinary woman,” he said. “Super-Tjupa, as she is referred to by friends, has a remarkable connection to country and traditional culture, yet this “born-in-the-bush, modern woman” possesses a wonderful ability to navigate Western society with intellect, charm and good humour.”

In the painting, Mrs Ward is depicted in red oxide, often used instead of ochre, with her chest painted with a design from traditional women’s songs. “I am a cultural woman,” she said. “It means so much — my face, my eyes — and that line across, that makes me strong.” Mrs Ward decided to be part of the prestigious prize after visiting Tamworth Regional Gallery last year, where finalists and winners were exhibited. “Coming out of the door I said ‘I’ve got an idea’,” she said. “My pain, my people. I need to do something.”

The great-grandmother hoped the portrait would help governments recognise issues faced by indigenous Australians, and lead to more education, honesty and respect: “People are still out in isolated communities and we still have our sacred culture passed down generations and generations.” “I’m trying really hard to try and help the Government understand the pain we go through in remote communities,” she said. “We’re struggling – it’s a long journey and there are still problems.”

Darcy said he hoped the artwork would give Mrs Ward more of a platform for the advocacy she does. He focused on her eyes, as “windows to the soul”. On seeing the portrait, which is more than 2m tall, Mrs Ward felt like dancing. “I was just so happy. Finally my voice will be heard through art,” she said. “I am really proud of myself for what I did for my people.”