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Cultural Mapping and Community Governance in Gnaala Karla Booja

Gnaala Karla Booja Working Party was the first partner in CAN’s cultural mapping and community governance program..

The GKB Working Party includes 20 people who represent families that cover 30,424 square kilometers of the South West region of WA. GKB is one of six regional Native Title Working Parties within the proposed Single Noongar claim area.

CAN worked with this community on this community driven project.

The project used arts and creativity to assist the community to identify culturally significant projects, sites, stories, people and buildings which they wished to record or map. CAN also worked with GKB to assist the community to assess and redefine its community governance structures.






The first stage in this project took place in 2011 and was a two day meeting at Lake Navarino that aimed to flesh out what the group wanted to achieve with the project and begin cultural mapping and community governance.

The GKB had identified three focus sites for this project – the Pinjarra Massacre Site, Pumphreys Bridge and Wandering Mission. The group worked with CAN artists Audrey and Arif Satar to map out the significant cultural sites on the land around these sites, using geographical maps drawn on large canvases. Each person helped to add their knowledge and their family’s knowledge to the canvases.

At the two day event there was a sense of urgency to celebrate Noongar culture, heal wounds, and create better lives for future generations. There was the sense that it was time to take ownership and act.

The two day event also started the conversation with the group about what community governance is and the group developed a conceptual framework for GKB Noongar Governance based on the concept that Elders’ knowledge is the its foundation.

After Lake Navarino, CAN and the GKB visited the three significant sites – Pumphreys Bridge, Wandering Mission and the Pinjarra Massacre site and used storytelling and the canvas cultural maps to depict important historical events and culturally significant sites on the map.

The Pinjarra Massacre Site is of great importance to GKB and all Noongars – it is the site of the Bindjareb people who were massacred in 1834, a massacre authorised by then Governor James Stirling.

The group who participated at Lake Navarino worked very closely to artistically depict the Bindjareb people’s camps, how they lived, food sources, dwellings and family life on the canvases, and to capture the Massacre and the pain of these events.

Later in 2011 CAN facilitated a cultural mapping activity at Pumphreys Bridge that aimed to collect and record stories from Elders, Community Leaders and family about the site.

The Community Governance discussion also continued at Pumphreys Bridge and the community agreed on their concept of Noongar Governance, a discussion that had begun in Lake Navarino.

At Wandering Mission the group shared their experiences of the Stolen Generation and Sima Khan White’s story was recorded in an audio-documentary.

Sima was born in Duralling near Narrogin and married into the Khan family at Wandering Mission. She then remarried and became Mrs Sima White. As a member of the Stolen Generation, Sima’s story represents the resilience of Aboriginal people and the strength of Aboriginal culture.

This was the first time Sima had told her story and afterwards she ‘felt free, like a weight had been lifted.’

In December 2011 Sima White passed away. CAN extends its deepest sympathy to Sima’s family. In late 2011 when Sima listened to her recorded story she expressed an urgent desire for this story to be told and the audio produced aims to honour Sima’s life story as she wished.

Our Spirits Stories Are Still There is a collection of stories from three people about two significant sites on GKB land – Pumphreys Bridge and Wandering Mission.

A podcast was produced that incorporated the three stories, including Elders’ Pop Matty Abraham and Aunty Janet Hayden, whose storytelling takes us back to what it was like growing up near Pumphreys Bridge and Narrogin country in the 1940s. The third story in the series is Sima Khan-White’s story of her experiences as part of the Stolen Generation.

The Gnaala Karla Booja project resulted in a number of publications that are for sale or download, including:

Karla Kurliny – Coming Back Home

Gnaala booroong wangkiny wongi ndja nyiny – our spirits’ stories are still there… Booklet

GKB consist of approximately 20 people representing families that cover 30,424 square kilometres of the Southern Wheatbelt region. GKB are one of six Regional Noongar Native Title Working Parties within the proposed Single Noongar Claim area. GKB have agreed to a working partnership with CAN WA for this project. If you would like to know more about GKB or the Single Noongar Claim visit the SWALSC website.

Stories, photos, videos and audio that have been recorded and collated during the Cultural Mapping and Community Governance program.

gnaala karla booja (gkb) means ‘our home land’ and includes the noongar people who have historical and cultural links with traditional boodja covering 30, 750 square kilometers of the south west of western australia.

GKB people speak Noongar language. Boodja (land) is the centre of their culture. People say they feel safe on boodja; it is home to family spirits, stories, histories and futures.

GKB people involved with the Cultural Mapping and Community Governance project identified boodja and Elders’ knowledge as the foundations of cultural governance.

Gnaala Karla Booja may contain the names, images or voice recordings of people who are now deceased. Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities may be distressed by seeing the name, image or hearing the voice of a community member who has passed away.

Wandering mission

Sima’s story – returning to wandering mission

CAN extends its deepest sympathy to Sima’s husband Jeff, and family.  This audio aims to honour Sima’s life story as she wished. In this audio Sima talks about experiences that some may find distressing.

This is Sima Khan-White recalling her memories as a Stolen Generation child. As her voice echoes in the empty halls of Wandering Mission, you can hear the rain pelting the tin roof and Sima White shares her story – a story that is compelling, sad, and yet wonderfully hopeful. We urge you to listen to these yarns. They are full of wisdom, sincerity and an important reminder that Our spirits’ stories are still there.

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