Brother and Bruno are Nyul Nyul people, and custodians of Winawarl, the country which is also known as Twin Lakes Cultural Park 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..
Bush Name Winawarl
Meaning Southern Wind off the Sandy Point
Tribe Nyul NyulBruno 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
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