Welcome to Country

Nola Hawken
Descendant and elder
Awabakal people

Ay-la yarteen Awabakaleen, Nola. Am-mo umba. Larng oonee Awaba.

Hello, I am Nola, a woman of Awaba.

I am a descendant of Ned and Margaret of the Awabakal people. They are my great-great grandparents. My relationship to them is through my mother, Thelma Powell, her father, Billy Williams, and his mother, Ellen, the daughter of Ned and Margaret.

It is my privilege on behalf of the Awabakal people to welcome you to the land of our ancestors.

My Aboriginal ancestors, the Awabakal people, have lived in this land for thousands of years. I begin by honouring the memory of our ancestors and loved ones who have passed away.

Traditionally, a welcome to country gave permission to Aboriginal people from surrounding nations to enter another Aboriginal's land. Those Aboriginals would have to wait on the cultural boundary until they were welcomed into a neighbouring nation's land.

The cultural footprint of the Awabakal land is reflected in the surrounding landscape, from the mountain ranges in the west and from the Hawkesbury and Hunter Rivers in the south and north to the east coast near Newcastle.

Our Awabakal cultural environment is a holistic one. It reveals how its people are interconnected with the spirit of the land and the water, to their past, present and future. In a way, each day has the past, present and future fused within it. Every day we have opportunities to learn from our history, apply it to our lifestyle and have a better chance at creating a happier future.

The land we are on now is where the Kourumbung clan lived. This clan were a part of the nation now known as Awabakal. They passed down knowledge of their lores, customs and culture as part of their fundamental educational and spiritual growth and wellbeing.

Every culture and spiritual tradition has a story to tell. The Awabakal people have dreaming stories with symbolic messages that can guide us in how we care for each other, our children and our land. Similar to the Christian faith, these stories, or parables, are creative expressions to communicate the meaning of life and its mysteries. These universal themes are still relevant today.

We as Australians represent all types of nationalities and spiritual communities. Hopefully, as we share our stories, we will reveal the insights and inspirations that connect us to the loving side of our humanity.

While we can all imagine how this area was lush with wildlife, fauna and flora, and how the First People would have enjoyed it, today the descendants of the Awabakal people believe we all need to nurture new visions that are inspired by the cultural integrity of our ancestral family.

If we can imagine it, we can achieve it! If we can dream it, we can become it!

This land has had a wealth of knowledge walk over it. Together, each one of us deepens the footprints of our ancestral families. I hope the spirit of reflecting and sharing will be among you as you brave the challenges and enjoy the successes of this coming year, finding your inspiration at Avondale.

Welcome to the land of my ancestral family, the Awabakal people.

This is an edited version of a welcome to country Awabakal descendant and elder Nola Hawken (pictured) presented at Avondale University's Opening Convocation on March 3, 2010.
Credit: Ann Stafford

Used with permission
(c) 2010 Nola Hawken