When searching for a location to shoot our Resort ‘22 campaign, a conversation with Lockie Cooke, a long time friend of SIR., ignited the idea to travel to Kooljaman in Bardi Jawi country in Western Australia. Kooljaman is jointly owned by two surrounding Aboriginal Communities of Djarindjin and Ardyaloon (One Arm Point) – a sacred place, rich in indigenous history which goes back some 40,000 years.
Lockie has worked within the Bardi Jawi country for over a decade after visiting the community in 2005 as part of a school leadership camp. He fell in love with the place and people and wanted to give back so he teamed up with the local Aboriginal lead Sport and Recreation organisation, Garnduwa and established ICEA. His work through the ICEA Foundation as a leading reconciliation organisation, is anchored in the philosophy that mutual respect is built through creating experiences, driving genuine relationships and developing understanding of Indigenous people, country and culture. After conversations around this notion, Kooljaman felt like the perfect place to bring our campaign to life, with a cultural sharing experience, one we are honored to have encountered.
As night set on the first day of our campaign shoot, family members from the Chaquebor, Davey, Lee, Wiggan, Damon-Wiggan, Ejai and Hunter family came to the site locations at Kooljaman beach and Cygnet Bay to welcome us to country, sharing stories of the land and weather patterns through traditional song and dance around a campfire. The ceremony, organised by Lockie and lead by Traditional Owners Irene Davey and Bundy Chaquebor, was an experience our whole team will never forget.
Learning and sharing stories from the traditional owners of the land we visit is imperative in understanding the deep culture and history of these places. We wanted to share a part of these stories , particularly of Bundy, who went above and beyond to create such a special and unforgettable moment during our time at Kooljaman.
In conversation with Lockie Cooke and Bundy Chaquebor.
Lockie: So mate, what is your connection to Kooljaman? Could you share about your family group and the tribes you’re part of?
Bundy: My Grandmother is connected to Kooljaman, my mum's mum. Her brothers and sisters through there and the connection to Kooljaman, they Goolarrgoon people, their country is from Swan Point down to Kooljaman area. My dad is from Goolarrgoon area – I’m part of that group on my fathers side. When you get a map you can see how far Goolarrgoon travels; it actually travels right down to Lombadina Point. My mother’s mother, my grandmother is from Bulgin (Hunters Creek) area, but my dad is from Swan Point area. So I’m connected to this side of the country from my grandmother and father’s side
L: Tell us a little bit about the work you do on Kooljaman?
B: I work as a tour operator at Kooljaman beach and I take tours at Kooljaman and also Djarindjin Area, teaching about Bardi Jawi people and how they survive in Country.
B: I do a lot of fishing tours at the moment, and a lot of cultural tours. I do bushwalks, where you learn about seasons and different types of bush foods but also medicines – medicines you can produce during the wet and dry seasons.
L: What are some of those medicines that when Gardiya (westerners) come to visit, they are most blown away by how accessible they are?
B: Well, Gubinj (Kakadu Plum) which is high in Vitamin C, and there is another fruit there called Joongoon and it’s about calories and carbohydrates.
L: Where do you find it?
B: It’s normally part of cultural wine thickets. You get them from Kooljaman right down to Broome.
L: The SIR. girls loved it when you helped organise the cultural dance experience on the last night they were there.
B: Yes. That cultural dance is part of my cultural bosses' dreaming, and my cousin and brother and my cousins sisters. We’re part of that group, of that family, so I used the whole family to perform for the girls that night. That’s the story that’s told to this old man, to me and my cousins, he was our boss in cultural ceremonies and he gave us permission to look after that, to continue with the boys learning to sing – it’s good for them to learn more and more to connect with the ground and land.
B: Yeah, it tells you about the rain clouds, and it also tells you about the birds that are going hunting.
L: Nice! And, do you remember the dance that they did for the girls? Or were there a bunch of different ones?
B: Basically, that song the boys and the girls were dancing, was a story about the tenurs of the weather from August and right through to the wet season, and just telling everyone about the rain cloud formation that’s filling up from that time of the month. There are all of those circles, which we used to tell them the story about the formation of the rain clouds coming through for that season.
L: What's the season called?
B: That’s ah, Rirrul. It’s the formation during the wet season. Bungoon, Rirrul, Ngunjun and there’s Munboon which is the cold weather one, and that’s about the wet season coming through.
L: A lot of people would appreciate how someone like yourself is a bit of a leader in the community, you’re a bit older and are still looking after these young people, passing on these songs. How important is it for you to pass on those stories and songs?
B: I guess being a dictionary in Aboriginal culture is very important, to teach our kids the knowledge that they have to be taught In the community and in the school, and to continue teaching that. People from our country have passed away, so that knowledge goes with us – what I learnt from my old people is to continue teaching them in this day and age.
B: Kooljaman, you learn about the people and the language, and the culture and the customs. And people like us who work in between Kooljaman, like myself, are part of that Goolarrgoon clan and you can learn more about the Mainland Bardi Jawi People. So when visitors go home, they feel connected not only in kinship but genealogy, where we come from.
L: So there’s a lot of different stories from the area, do you have one story you could share with us today?
B: The story that’s close to our mob, the Goolarrgoon and that’s been recorded by my cultural boss and was published too, back in the 80s.
The Loolool Story is a creation story about the dream time, it talks about a blind man who was always fed the meat of male turtles by the tribe, the meat from the male turtle is not nice to eat and can be quite tough. The blind man did not know the difference between a male turtle and a female turtle until he was given the flesh of a female turtle to eat. He discovers that the tribe was being greedy to him, which made him angry. He became so angry that his tribe would hide the prize meat from him, so he started hitting members of his tribe. This caused a big fight amongst the tribe. The blind man hit one of the men with a piece of wood from the hit pit and he turned into a Shovel Nose Shark, he hit another man with another piece of wood and he turned into a Stingray, he hit another man with a shield, he turned into a Hammerhead Shark. Another man tried to run but the blind man got his boomerang and hit the man and he turned into a Bull Shark. All those stingrays and sharks we call Joordoo (Shark) Boongood (Grey Stingray) Jungarrd (Oyster-back Stingray), Boordoongoord (Bull Shark) and Mardgulinj (Hammerhead Shark). So that's how these animals came to be, because of that Dream Time story. If you go over to Hunters Creek you will see a little gully there, that’s where the old blind man set them free from the lake. So that’s why today, Bardi Jawi people can only hunt Turtle during Lalin Season (Summer Time) from August through to October.
L: Kooljaman is stunning all year round, but do you have a favourite time of the year that you love going there and certain activities you love doing?
B: Yeah, Barrgana and Jalalay season is probably one of the best times, and that’s the start of the dry season. The Irralboo season and Barrgana are the dry desert wind seasons in June and July. And Larlin season which is the season we are going into now.
L: What kind of feed do you get then?
B: Well, mud crab is the main source of food, bush honey, and the big oysters you get on the eastern side. That’s the best time of the year.
L: So what's that, April, May, June?
B: Yeah, April, May, June. Yeah, and you've got the whiskers salmon and the blue-noes salmon.
L: What do you think is a must see or do for people coming to visit Kooljaman?
B: It’s more the education really, and for people to enjoy, just relax and to slow down for a bit. You know, everyone is always in a hurry. I think of Kimberly life, it’s probably more relaxing here than out in the bush. You’re not in a hurry – people need to take time out sometimes to slow down, and embrace the beauty of this area.
L: Yeah definitely, man thank you.