(Introduction by Ruth Armstrong)
Croakey’s walking journalism initiative, #CroakeyGo, is gathering momentum.
In October, three members of the Croakey connective – Melissa Sweet, Lesley Russell and Ruth Armstrong – stepped it out in Adelaide with an enthusiastic group of South Australians, most of whom were full of ideas from attending the SA State Population Health Conference the day before.
As Aimee Brownbill, Secretary of the Public Health Association of Australia, SA Branch Executive Committee, writes below, the walk became an amazing, interactive journey of reflection on Adelaide’s living Aboriginal history, under the gentle, humorous, entertaining and informative guidance of Kaurna man, Tirritpa Ritchie.
Every CroakeyGo walk so far has been different (this one was a step-up technology-wise, as Tirritpa brought along nifty headsets so we didn’t miss any of his commentary), but there are also many similarities in terms of the benefits of walking and talking together.
Here we present Aimee Brownbill’s excellent wrap of the day, along with some reflections from her, and from University of SA-based, health sciences lecturer, Dr Richard McGrath.
And here is an invitation to join us for an early-morning CroakeyGO in Newcastle next Tuesday (5 December), coinciding with the Journalism Education & Research Association of Australia (JERAA) conference.
Aimee Brownbill writes:
On October 22nd we set off for #CroakeyGO Adelaide. We wove our way through the beautiful Adelaide CBD, along the Karrawirra Parri (River Torrens) and amongst the lush foliage of the South Australian Botanical Gardens. The morning began with a moving welcome to #KaurnaCountry by our guide, Tirritpa Ritchie.
Tirritpa is a Kaurna man. He works as a paediatric occupational therapist and guides a ‘walking classroom’, similar to the walk we were embarking on, with occupational therapy students from the University of South Australia.
On his walks, Tirritpa teaches about the culture of the Kaurna people, their knowledges and history, entwined with the outcomes for health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
A diverse group came along for the walk, although we all shared a common passion for social justice, public health and wanting to work together for better health outcomes.
Joining us were Aboriginal health professionals, public health practitioners, health journalists, health policy workers, students from different programs, a kindergarten teacher and two little ones (they’re never too young to start thinking public health!).
Our interests spanned health education, dementia, physical activity, nutrition, mental health, rural health and the Aboriginal workforce.
Our first stop was along the banks of the river, where we Tirritpa told us hundreds of Adelaide locals had gathered in 2008 to witness the Apology to the Stolen Generations.
He asked us to reflect there for a few minutes on the work-in-progress that is reconciliation.
Walking along the river, Tirritpa spoke about the significance of the rivers in Adelaide to the Kaurna people and the role they have played in Indigenous knowledges for better health.
Tirritpa spoke of the setting of river banks as birthing places for women and their midwives, senior Aboriginal women, who guided them through the beginning of their womanhood journey.
Our stopping place for this conversation made for an interesting contrast. As we stood beside the river bank, the New Royal Adelaide Hospital towered in the background.
We then visited Piltawodli, meaning possum home, and home to the Kaurna language school. All were fascinated as Tirritpa spoke about the construction of Indigenous languages. Kaurna people meet regularly to construct new language for modern objects such as Facebook.
Courage, ancestry, mateship
A true sense of sorry was felt among walkers as we visited the Aboriginal war memorial.
One walker commented ‘entire families are listed here’ as we wandered through the trail of names. Tirritpa spoke of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people did not hesitate when enlisting to serve Australia, despite not being recognised as citizens at the time.
Those who returned, did so to a country that continued to deny them basic human rights.
Some were denied re-entering Australia. Receiving no recognition created further economic disparities, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who fought for Australia were not provided financial support in the way other veterans were.
Along North Terrace, we passed a building which once housed the Chief Protector in South Australia.
Many walkers commented that they pass this location on their daily work commute and had previously been unaware of its significance.
With the example of the generational impacts caused by the Stolen Generations, the importance of planning in health policies that move us toward equity was stressed.
Our walk ended in the stunning South Australian Botanical Gardens where we stopped to appreciate the true beauty of plants that have served as a source of food, medicine, shelter and protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for thousands of years.
One participant commented: “I have never stopped to actually appreciate the beauty of trees before. Flowers, yes, but not trees.”
For many of us, this was our first experience of #WalkingJournalism and as the walk commenced, there were excited discussions of establishing a regular #CroakeyGO Adelaide walk.
Croakey and PHAA SA Branch would like to extend their gratitude to Tirritpa Ritchie for his time and the valuable lessons he shared with us throughout the walk.
We would also like to thank all of those who came along and participated, both in real life and virtually (together we got #CroakeyGO trending on Twitter!).
Completely new to the concept of #WalkingJournalism, I had no idea what to expect at #CroakeyGO Adelaide, but I was excited to find out.
The PHAA SA Branch were asked to co-organise the event in conjunction with our 2017 SA Population Health Conference (you can see re-cap of the event through #SApophlth) and I was more than happy to put my hand up for the event.
I was not disappointed. CroakeyGO turned out to be all that I had expected and much more!
Simply put, the event was a great forum to talk about my passion for public health with like-minded people while walking in my beautiful home town.
I have always thought Adelaide is the best city to call home. However, the walk introduced a new level to my appreciation of Adelaide. I learned so much about the many beautiful places I have visited and pass each day, unaware of the deep meaning these places hold.
When I ride my bike along the Karrawirra Parri (River Torrens), I will think of how rivers are settings for so many cultural practices, whether this be a gathering place for family and friends or the historical role played in Kaurna birthing practices.
As I walk to the University of Adelaide, past the war memorial and office once occupied by the Chief Protector in South Australia, I will be reminded how important it is that I am mindful of what the future impact may be of policies or programs I advocate for.
I will stop and embrace the beautiful new mural painted on North Terrace by Alan Sumner, a South Australian Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna and Yunkanytjatjara man. The mural is aptly titled for the day, Ngadlu Padninthi Kamangka – We Walk Together.
I will endeavour to visit the botanical gardens more often and during my visit I will not only see beautiful plants, but sources that have provided vital nutrition, medicine, shelter and protection for Aboriginal people for thousands of years.
The walk was also a useful forum to bounce off each other’s passion and ideas, and was great for building friendships and future collaborations.
I really enjoyed a conversation I shared with Dr Richard McGrath on how current public health leaders can support and encourage young professionals. This is a topic I am passionate about.
Our conversation reminded me of the call Michael Moore made at the 15th World Congress on Public Health (#WCPH2017) for leaders in public health to make room for, and support, our emerging leaders.
After the encouraging chat, I decided this was a message that needed to be further shared. Young professionals needed to “hear it straight from the horse’s mouth”.
So I decided to put myself out there in conducting my first Periscope interview. Richard shared: ‘it is time we (grey haired men) take the backseat…and encourage younger people to be at the front and have their voice heard’.
After attending the SA State Population Health Conference on the Saturday and CroakeyGO on the Sunday, I expected to be a little tired come work on Monday.
However, it was quite the opposite. I woke feeling energised by the passion and enthusiasm shared by all who attended the events.
Personal reflection: Richard McGrath
The opportunity to be involved in a #CroakeyGo walk was one I was not going to miss. Having viewed previous walks via Twitter and Croakey articles, I was keen to be involved.
On top of that the walk was being arranged to coincide with the SA State Population Health Conference and was being led by a colleague from UniSA, Tirritpa Ritchie, a local Kaurna man. A perfect trifecta.
Walking and talking is not something new to me but being able to walk and talk with a diverse group along the Karrawirra Parri (River Torrens) as well as listen to Tirritpa Ritchie educate us all about Kaurna history, language, culture and food was more than I could have hoped for.
The walk was full of wonderful conversations and provided an excellent opportunity to listen to others about their ideas, thoughts, hopes and dreams in regard to health, wellbeing, equity and social justice.
The walk helped me to develop fresh perspectives of various locations we visited (many of which I have traversed across in the past).
Hearing about how the river bank was used as a birthing site provoked conversations about how we can learn much from Aboriginal culture, how Western medicalisation of pregnancy and birth places a focus on risk and how women have become disempowered in relation to a key aspect of life.
Visiting the Aboriginal War Memorial (for the first time) provided an opportunity to reflect on the way successive Australian societies have (and in many cases continue) to segregate and marginalise Aboriginal people and the sacrifices many have made for our nation.
Listening to Tirritpa Ritchie point out and share his story linking key buildings to historical events concerning the treatment of Aboriginal people living in SA was profoundly moving, appreciating even more deeply that the stories of mistreatment and the ramifications of the Stolen Generation still resonate today.
Ending the walk in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens provided an opportunity to listen and talk about the deep connection Aboriginal culture has with the land.
Weaving our way through small tracks within the gardens, seeing and learning about how different plants were used for food, medicine basket weaving and playing in clearly highlighted how far removed our culture is and remains in relation to the natural environment.
I began the walk with relatively high expectations. I was not disappointed. In fact the walk went way beyond what I could have dreamed of.
#CroakeyGo Adelaide was walking journalism, walking education and walking awareness raising all wrapped up into one.
The success of this initiative was clear as many discussed how we could make such an activity a more regular event as we posed for a group photo. To the #CroakeyGo team, thank you for your inventiveness.
To the #CroakeyGo organising team, thank you for your efforts. And to Tirritpa Ritchie, thank you for sharing your knowledge and stories with us all.
• Follow Richard McGrath and colleagues from the the University of South Australia School of Health Sciences at @WePublicHealth this week, as they cover the Australian and NZ Association for Leisure Studies conference in Hobart – #ANZALS17.
Watch these interviews