For the past 60,000 years, Aboriginal people have lived on this land.
Despite the detrimental impacts of successive governmental policies upon Indigenous peoples, their culture, and their heritage – they have survived.
Asher Milgate is a photographer who grew up in Wellington, New South Wales – a place traditionally known as the Binjang of the Wiradjuri nation, which translates as “beautiful valley”. His latest exhibition …Survivors… features photographs and audio pieces of interviews and talks with 18 Elders or Elders-in-waiting as they reflect on their lives, and what it was like to grow up on the oldest continually run missions in Australia, Nanima. Milgate hopes that …Survivors… helps to retain the knowledge and stories of Indigenous people, and opens the eyes of others to the experiences that First Nations peoples have endured, and survived, and continue to live through.
“It is very important for Aboriginal people to speak about themselves,” says Milgate, “Respect is built through humility, honesty, patience and trust. When you have those things, you can build positive relationships. I hope through the Survivors we can establish some positive foundations for the future.”
And what beautiful stories that have to share too. Billy Lou Carr is a traditional elder, who reflects on his years growing up near Nanima: “I enjoyed life all my life. We were living not on the mission, but off the mission out on the Common. My father and my mother, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, grandfathers, grandmothers… Everyone was happy! Lots of people were nice and kind too. We used to go to dances every night. Old bloke Patty Ryan out here, played the concertina and an old broken violin. Bloody good music! I think of them days I wish everything could start all over again. But that has been, come and gone. And won’t return. It’s like buying a ticket on the train, when you lose it, you can’t go on the train and get a new one. But you bought the ticket and you dropped it. That’s the way life is…”
Aunty Joyce Williams shares her thoughts too: “A lot of people. Aboriginal. Years ago, they lived on the rivers, on the Bell River where all the market gardens were. They used to come out to the mission in trucks and people would just hop on the trucks and come in. One good thing about that, was that it never cost nothing for vegetables. For years, you could take whatever you wanted.”
“I always said that they were part of our survival. Especially the Chinese… they were nice. If you needed money for something, you could get it off them and pay them back when you was working in their gardens and they were good. And I reckon they were a part of our survival!”
Learn more about Aboriginal culture and history as told by their people by visiting …Survivors… on display until 10 May at the Western Plains Cultural Centre in New South Wales. Don’t miss out!