Brother and sister Bruno and Cynthia are Nyul Nyul people, and custodians of Winawarl, the country which is also known as Twin Lakes Cultural Park. Cynthia and Bruno work together in sharing traditional knowledge with visitors to Twin Lakes Cultural Park. Their family have been maintaining the area for the past ten generations.
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Meaning Southern Wind off the Sandy Point
Tribe Nyul Nyul
Bruno Alfonse Dann is a Traditional Owner, Indigenous Artist, Indigenous Landcare and Culture Specialist and Chairperson of Manowan Aboriginal Corporation.
Bruno was born in 1951 at Beagle Bay in Western Australia, in the shade of a Morrell tree. His mother, Benadicta Geraldine Dann, was a Nyul Nyul woman and traditional owner of the Beagle Bay area. His father, Roland Thompson, was a Buniba man stolen from the Fossil Downs area. At this time of Bruno's birth, it was not permitted for an Indigenous woman to give birth at Beagle Bay. According to government law, Bruno's mother had to give birth at the native hospital in Broome. She defied the law to give birth to Bruno in his own country. She was fined £30 as a pentaly, which was a lot of money for an Indigenous person back then.
At the age of five, Bruno was taken from his mother and placed in the Beagle Bay Mission. His older brother Vincent had already been taken there. These early years were very difficult for them. Their mother died two years later in 1957, leaving his two sisters Cynthia and Rena also in the care of the mission. Bruno's story has been recorded by the National Library for the "Bringing Them Home" report.
Nyul Nyul culture was virtually forbidden at the mission, but at Christmas time the children were permitted to "go bush" and spend time with their old people. It was during this time that Bruno learned how to make traditional tools and weapons. He also learned about country, wildlife, sea and how to be a proper land carer the way his old people used to. Nyul Nyul people are surrounded by the sea, and the salt water still plays an implicit role in his art work, in which he highlights the land/sea connection. After finishing his education at Derby Junior High aged 15 in 1968, Bruno set out to experience the outside world. At age 16, he met first his father who worked on stations in the Fitzroy River area for the first time.
Bruno also began working as a ringer. He then travelled to Alice Springs where he became a fitter for the ANR railways. He was sent to travel the line between Finke, Abminga and Alice Springs. He worked five years with the ANR. His new love, Rachael Swan, kept him in Alice Springs. Rachael is a traditional of the Arrernte Pwentame tribe and comes from a very large family in Alice Springs. They settled down and had four children together.
Bruno and Rachael started a career as the original artists for "Walkabout Australia" which became very successful in Europe, Canada, USA and Japan. In 1985 they were awarded a certificate from the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory for their contribution to art. After a separation with Rachael, Bruno returned to his homeland and ran into an old Bro
Skipper (whose name is not mentioned here as he has passed on). They started making artifacts together. "He taught me a lot and refreshed my memory," Bruno says.
In 1998 Bruno met his partner Marion Louise Manson, sharing a love for the land and a respect for culture. Together they decided to go back to Bruno's country, and commit their lives to restoring it back to health. "When I came back to country it was dying and crying".
In 2001 Bruno helped establish and became Chairperson of Manowan Aboriginal Corporation, which was named after the country that Bruno's grandfathers had left for him. As Chairperson, Bruno began many years of positive work to heal and restore his culture and country, while bringing employment and opportunities to many other members of the Nyul Nyul community
Bruno holding kullis (hunting boomerangs), and Gnarl (weapon stick and digging stick).
Tribe Nyul Nyul
My name is Cynthia Winawarl and I was born at Broome native hospital on the 5th November 1954. I am a local woman originating from Winawarl, which is in Nyul Nyul country, situated at the north-west coast of the Peninsula. I am a mother of three and grandmother of nine.
I was educated at Beagle Bay misssion by the best teachers from the school, who taught me discipline, respect, cooking, hygiene, etc. Beagle Bay was an education hub, for children throughout the Kimberleys and further afield. We made our own clothes and clothes for the little children. Every child had a chore to do during the day.
The nuns took me out of school at the age of 14, and my first job was to look after my great grandfather, "Irrdame", known as Rami, who was dying. My first experience of employment was the smell of death. My great grandfather was the big boss for the Nyul Nyul people and taught me my culture, language, and the knowledge that I practice today. The language that I spoke with the Nyul Nyul people is commonly used today in and around the Kimberleys. My great-grandfather Irrdame was greatly respected for his knowledge and powers. I looked after him for about three months, and when his health worsened, he was taken to Broome, and my two uncles, Albert and Joseph Dann took him back to his traditional country, Beagle Bay and buried him.
When I first came to broome in 1969, I was a voluntary cook for the parish and the community and then worked as cleaner and housemaid at various places. In 1971-2 I worked at the hospital as a kitchenmaid and from 973 to 1977 I started a family, and worked a the Conti and Tropicana as a cleaner, laundress and kitchen maid. From 1978 to 1995 I had various jobs including cooking at the Nulungu College, which took in high school children from all over the Kimberley, working at the Goolarabaloo Hostel cooking for young adults doing medical training, and living on Country, helping my extended family to set up an outstation.
One of the most interesting jobs that I have had was working on a voluntary basis for the "Stolen Generation" project for the Kimberley Land Council, which involved travelling around the Kimberley, talking to people about their generational pain and suffering resulting from the removal of children. As part of this project I set up working groups in Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Derby, Broome, Beagle Bay and Kununurra. I was instrumental in gaining financial assistance to take a group of Kimberley people to Alice Springs for the "Bringing Them Home'" conference. There was also a general enquiry into the removal of children, held in Broome and Halls Creek. My own story was used for the "Bringing Them Home" report to represent Beagle Bay.
I also worked on a voluntary basis for the homeless, assisting families to find accommodation, and setting up a tenants' action group.
In 1997 I was employed to work on SHEP, The Special Housing Assistance Programme. My role was to deal with disadvantaged tenants who were facing eviction or other housing problems and I worked closely with my clients, to teach them how to budget, about health, hygiene, disipline and respect, and how to take on responsibility for themselves. The clients were referred to me by HomesWest and I produced monthly reports. The job gave me an insight into disadvantaged lifestyles and the problems that people face.
Since 1999 I have been doing voluntary work in the community, assisting families to reconnect with country and other family members. I supported the peninsula women who set up the first womens' group on the Peninsula to give children protection.
One of my passions is making temporary art from dead wood, bones, shells, nuts and seeds. I've had the opportunity to take family and friends out bush on country, and I've met a lot of people doing this. I'm passionate about passing my knowledge on to other people. There's so much that the land has to offer in terms of survival. FIsh is the best medicine. Mother nature has so much to offer us out there.
I love the bush (bindarn in Nyul Nyul). I love anybody's bush or anybody's country. I am a survivor in the bush, and I know what to eat and what to avoid. When I'm in the bush, I'm in my glory and I don't care if I don't see anyone else for the next six months. After eating bush tucker, I feel clean inside. Being in the bush brings me back to reality and I realise I don't need anything else. Mother nature always provides at the end of every day. I am willing to share my knowledge with others and I am passionate about bush food. Everything has a season. Everything has a good and a bad about it and you just have to find out.
You can take me out of the bush, but you can't take the bush out of me. I am a professional in the bush.