I was captivated and wanted to learn more about the Aboriginal language and culture after stepping off George Walley’s Dreamtime Cruise.
The Mandjoogoordap Dreaming tour has been operating for one year, in conjunction with Mandurah Cruises.
George was a welcoming guide who spoke from the heart, articulating his knowledge with passion and ease.
Attendees relaxed on the top of the boat listening to Mr Walley through the speakers, or sat below in the warmth, experiencing the tour face-to-face.
Mr Walley started by telling the story of the Wagyl and how it created the Peel waterways.
Their parents were waiting to pick them up from the bus stop in Barragup from Pinjarra Primary School, but they never turned up...they weren’t on the bus.George Walley on The Stolen Generations
“The Wagyl came from the ocean in through here and created this beautiful waterway, because the people asked for that,” he said.
“The female came through and created the estuary and the three rivers. As she was going up to the hill near Dwellingup, she went into the ground, creating the freshwater streams.”
The cruise followed the winding canals out to Boundary Island and back.
Mr Walley’s wife Lee-Anne prepared the traditional morning tea including damper and bush sweets.
Attendees learnt about the Noongar language and its symbolism.
“As language and culture goes, our ancestors must have had a great respect for land and our body,” he said. “We call the rivers and creeks the same name as our umbilical cord because of the commonness to sustain life.”
Mr Walley conversed with the crowd and joked about different community topics including the difficulties some people have with pronouncing Mandjoogoordap Drive.
“We had a boat full of people yesterday, and when they found out I named that road with the help of elders, they joked, ‘You’re the bugger that named that road’,” he said.
The descendants of the pioneer family call the Aboriginal mob ‘grandfather’, or ‘grandma’…that is a really respectful thing to do.George Walley
“Mandurah is just the shortened version of that word. How hard is it to say a word with one more syllable?”
Mr Walley explained the close relationship between the Sutton family and Aboriginal leader Yaburgurt’s family, when passing Sutton Farm.
“The Sutton family built their house on the land of Yaburgurt’s block,” he said.
“Over time they made a friendship. The descendants of the pioneer family call the Aboriginal mob ‘grandfather’, or ‘grandma’…that is a really respectful thing to do.
“That shows the relationship between the pioneering family and also the descendants.”
We even heard a ghost story, saw dolphins in the wild and learnt kangaroos could swim.
Mr Walley, who is also a musician, played a song he wrote and recorded highlighting the horrors The Stolen Generations faced.
“My grandparents were part of it and it’s the same story as other people’s grandparents,” he said.
“They were taken away as children to New Norcia. Their parents were waiting to pick them up from the bus stop in Barragup from Pinjarra Primary School, but they never turned up...they weren’t on the bus.
“They were taken by authorities during the course of the day.”
Mr Walley said he had visited these missions in recent years.
“There’s a bad feeling about those places,” he said.
Mr Walley said NAIDOC Week was special to him and this year’s theme celebrating women was a good choice.
“Our great-great grandmother Emily Nannup was a midwife, who delivered children in bush camps,” he said.
“We have that in our history and those amazing women have made a difference. They did empower us to be the people who we are these days.”
I have searched the other tours Mr Walley runs in the Peel region because I was so impressed by the cruise.
Other tour options were by bus, walking or canoe.
For more information visit www.mandurahdreaming.com.au.