>The scene: Friday – a perfect early-autumn afternoon, slightly warmer than usual and bathed in late afternoon glow
Us gathered at Victory Park, Castlemaine for a sound-check [running late of course – they always do ] before the official proceedings opening the Castlemaine State Festival which is a feast of visual and performing arts happening up here until the end of next week.

Family groups began to trickle in with blankets and chairs, picnic teas at the ready, strolling performers moved through [ or above, as the case may be ] the crowd and there was a palpable feeling of expectancy and happiness

So as not to take the edge of the song for later, we used Yil Lul [ which we’ll be doing at the closing Garden Party ] as our sound check and then, spread out three deep in front of the stage, attempted to sit until needed.
Now when I say ‘sit’ I actually mean crouch on the ground, all bunched up and unobtrusive, and hope that by the time Jane needed us to stand, that the combination of numb feet and muscles still protesting from the Blackadder Incident would allow me to get upright with some degree of dignity still intact.

In true Castlemainiac form, there was minimal boring, self-aggrandising waffle.
What we had instead was:

the Elders of the local DjaDjaWurrung [ Jarra speaking ] people, Uncle Brian and Auntie Carmel, garbed in traditional possum skin cloaks inviting us all onto their land, followed by a clay bedaubed Ricky Nelson chanting the Wominjika song. In Jarra language Wominjika means roughly ‘welcome to our country’ and hearing it sung in that strange, eerie nasal voice used in koori singing and accompanied by stamping and the clapping of one boomerang on another was wonderful and powerful.

… even if the smoke from the equally traditional welcome fire was a bit invasive at times

then the response

Jan Wositzky [ local singer, banjo player, teller of tales, composer and all round good bloke ] began to sing his song ” Wominjika” joined by Ron Murray** and [ to great applause ] by the Mayor of Castlemaine, Puck Schieraugmented by James Rigby on guitar.

“Thank you for the welcome to your country
Thank you for the welcome to your land
Can we two walk as one underneath this sun
Thankyou for the welcome to your land

Thank you for the welcome to your country
Thankyou for the welcome to your land
can we two walk in peace by your shining creeks
Thankyou for the welcome to your land

Some of you shed your blood when the long-boats hit the sand
Some of you danced with us, dancing hand in hand
Some of you were stolen from your home when you were young
In this, in this old land – in this, in this old land

Some of us arrived in chains, some with a Bible or a gun
Some to make our fortune, some came for the sun
Some of us sought refuge to start our lives anew
In this, in this old land – in this, in this old land

Then it was the turn of our massed choir [ ChatWarblers, Peace Choir, a contingent of local school children, and several other choirs ] to add harmony and chorus …

“Thank you for the welcome to your country
Thank you for the welcome to your land
Can we two walk as one underneath this sun
Thankyou for the welcome …

wominjika, wominjika, wominjika
Thankyou for the welcome to your land “

[ composed by Jan Wositzky ]
From our side of the mikes it sounded pretty good for an open air effort, and I can’t help but wonder what Jan W. made of it. Apparently it was the first time that he’s heard his song performed by anyone other than himself and while one man singing with banjo is great, it is an entirely different sound with around a hundred male and female voices singing four part harmony!

As we came to the end, the Jarra chant once again rose up and over the top … marvelous… Dave obviously loved it*
The party went on for another couple of hours but David and I left after our singing was done

* David is technically a member of the Peace Choir but the quiet-crouching-all-bunched-up would have been hugely outside his comfort zone so instead he watched from a prime front position with Carer Sarah who also took some of these photos

** Ron is an elder of a different tribe, so he too needed to be welcomed onto DjaDjaWurrung land. If you click on that picture, you will be able to see that he is holding the tail feathers of the Red Tailed Black Cockatoo which is his totem animal – the Victorian subspecies is a highly endangered bird and Ron asked us all to pray /think positive thoughts for its continuance.


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