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Bush Babies in Goomalling

Bush Babies in Goomalling
By Steph Lamb
30 August 2015

Bush Babies Goomalling took the form of an intergenerational project called Goomalling Yarns - Stories from Koomal boodja. A partnership between CAN, the Goomalling Shire and the State Library of WA, the program combined hip hop songwriting, oral histories, photography, film and printmaking. Workshops in photo sharing, scrapbooking and family history research were also attended by more than eighty Goomalling community members who helped bring the town’s past back to life. Bush Babies Goomalling aimed to share the cultural significance of Goomalling and Noongar stories of the region with the broader community.

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Senior community members shared historic photos and stories of when people were living in the bush, on reserves, in missions and on the outskirts of Goomalling since as early as 1925. More than 350 historic photos were identified in this process and uploaded to the WA State Library’s Storylines archive, where the Mavis Walley collection takes pride of place.

When Dallas Phillips turned up to a Bush Babies workshop with a chocolate tin of old photographic slides, she had no idea she was holding one of the most significant photographic collections of recent times. The tin contained more than 350 images taken by Dallas’s mother, Mavis Phillips (nee Walley), documenting the everyday life of Noongar families living in and around Goomalling. Historians at the State Library of WA described the Mavis Walley collection as one of the most important in its Storylines archive.

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But that was only one of the highlights of what was an incredible Bush Babies journey for many families in the region. Oral historians Bill Bunbury and Jemma King recorded the personal stories of twelve senior Noongar community members, which were then used to create a radio documentary.

Using these historic photographs and stories as inspiration, artist Scott ‘MC Optamus’ Griffiths worked with Goomalling’s young people to record a hip hop music track, Turn Back Time, which was accompanied by a behind the scenes documentary. With photographers Nat Brunovs and Mary Parker, the young people also documented the history of the town through photography workshops at significant cultural sites.

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Senior community members used their photos and stories to create mix-media artworks with artists Poppy van Oorde-Grainger and Iris Guilmartin, which were included in the Goomalling Yarns - Stories from Koomal boodja oral history and hip hop CD package.

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