Kunjiel Corroboree – Quandamooka Celebrates People, Country and Culture
Words by Rachel Trevarthen
“See the children there, playing in the sand circle where our people have danced? They’re massaging the Earth, this is healing and this is sacred.”
Aunty Donna is a Quandamooka Elder who has been waiting her whole life to have Kunjiel (Coorooboree) on her homeland Minjerrabah, also known as North Stradbroke Island, off Brisbane.
A wave of emotions came over the 65-year-old and other elders on Sunday when the tradition – gatherings involving dance, music and Dreamtime stories – finally returned to country.
“I’m absolutely rapt to see this happening here; this regeneration of culture and to see song lines that have been broken returning,” Aunty Donna told SIBW.
Kunjiel was outlawed in Australia in the last century, a ban that contributed to the loss of cultural identity for many indigenous people across the country.
This Kunjiel was the closing celebration for the inaugural Quandamooka Festival; celebrating culture, country and people over three months from July to September 2015.
Held at Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island, it featured dancers from Yulu Burri Ba (Stradbroke Island), Nunukul Yaggera (Brisbane region), Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi (Sunshine Coast), Butchulla (K’gari Fraser Island & Fraser Coast), Yarrabah (far north Queensland) as well as the Torres Strait and Pacific Islands.
Leanna Ruska says dancing alongside other Nunukul Yaggera People at the festival was a proud moment.
“The best part is seeing all the kids participating and dancing and knowing the knowledge is being passed down,” she said with a smile.
“It gives me hope that our culture will continue and faith in our future.”
Beginning with a smoking ceremony to cleanse those present, the coming together of mobs to celebrate kunjiel on jarra (Earth) was a powerful reinvigoration of stories, recreating of song lines and reconnection between people, spirit and earth.
Cameron Costello, CEO of the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation and festival visionary, described the day as a proud and historic moment for Indigenous people to once again unite and share their Dreaming stories.
The first ever Quandamooka Festival speaks to the incredible cultural resilience of Aboriginal people who have overcome great adversity to see the spirit of the land and its people prevail.
Songman from the Yulu Burri Ba dance group Raymond Walker summed up the feelings of many of those present: “What I see this (festival) as, is laying down a foundation of cultural Lore for years to come, for our future generations.”
*Author’s note: It was a great privilege to be a part of Kunjiel and bear witness to a cultural renaissance of local Indigenous arts and to share in the richness and continuity of the world’s oldest living culture.