Sharing our stories

(From left) Deniliquin High School Students Carissa Doidge, April Weir and Amy Weir participated in the Yesterday Stories feature on Wamba Wamba Perrepa Perrepa culture, which included basket weaving and learning a cultural dance.

Deniliquin’s history has found its place on a mapping project.

The Yesterday Stories organisation — which runs an audiovisual historical mapping website and phone application — has added five ‘stories’ on Deniliquin.

The project was put together in partnership with South West Arts, local government, historical societies, and Create NSW.

South West Arts executive director Kerry-Anne Jones said the stories locals wanted to be told ‘‘emerged quite organically’’.

‘‘It was more a focus of people coming up and repeating the same stories,’’ Ms Jones said.

‘‘There seemed to be a fairly clear selection of stories people wanted told.’’

Importantly, the project was initiated at the beginning of COVID, and gave young people and local artists the opportunity to get involved with creative storytelling.

‘‘They’re not just video documentaries, they were all told in different art forms,’’ added Ms Jones.

‘‘We engaged local artists to be a part of it. We had people reenacting things, we had the Indigenous stories being told through dance and other mediums, and kids were doing video editing.’’

While the stories were available first on the website in December, they were added to the official map and phone app last week.

The pieces include videos on First Nations culture, the Deniliquin Ute Muster, the Big Deni Float, women in the mechanical industry in WWII, and the Lawson Syphon project.

The cultural story sees a group of Wamba Wamba Perrepa Perrepa Elders teaching young people about their heritage, including the art of weaving.

It includes interviews with Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre chair Jeanette Crew.

‘‘This has been the homeland of our people for 65,000 years,’’ Mrs Crew said.

‘‘This weaving style is the one that we have used in this part of the Murray River, the Murray River Valley, it was only ever done in this region.’’ntsaThe weaving practise is called ‘coil weaving’, using a blanket stitch to connect the coils. They also weave fish nets and dilly bags for catching fish and gathering food, which could be used locally or traded across the continent.

‘It also contributes to what we call our cultural economy, so it’s something that we did to use in trade,’’ Mrs Crew said.

She said the Wamba Wamba Perrepa Perrepa people traded with Aboriginal nations as far north as the Northern Territory, and southward in what is now known as Victoria.

‘‘So there’s a trading network that covers the whole of Australia.’’

In 2006, Yarkuwa determined that the practise was dying out, and sent two women to relearn it at workshops. On returning, they passed the technique onto others.

‘‘Our philosophy is, as long as there’s still someone doing it, it will never be lost.’’

The video also details their recent ancestor’s experience with the Stolen Generations, including children being forced to hide from the police who would attempt to take them from their familial homes. ‘‘They used to take all the fair skinned kids away, they say to ‘breed the black out’.’’

‘‘In the same way they say that’s it’s important for everyone to maintain their culture, ours is important to us because ours originates on this land.’’

‘‘This is our land — and all our spiritual places, and all our religious places are in this land,’’ Mrs Crew said.

No story on the region would be complete without including the famed Deni Ute Muster, and through interviews the video explores how the event was formed in 1999 to help the community through a devastating drought.

It has grown in the last 22 years to mean so much more to so many people, both nationally and internationally.

General manager Vicky Lowry helps tell the story of the muster, and how it put Deniliquin on the map as the ‘ute capital of the world’.

From one of Deni’s longest running and most successful events to one of its newest, the Big Deni Float takes a popular local pastime and has turned it into a popular fundraising activity.

Held on Australia Day as a fundraiser for the Deniliquin Rescue Squad, VRA Rescue, it sees hundred of people float from Willoughby’s Beach in Deniliquin’s east to McLean Beach in the west.

As part of the video, people share with their fond memories of floating and frolicking, including pride, connection to history and ancestors, enjoyment, supporting a good cause, and reducing stress in the calm atmosphere of the float.

The World War II piece explores women taking on non-traditional roles in the workforce while the men were fighting overseas, including those women who worked as airplane mechanics.

Alma Warren is one of the women featured in the piece.

She was one Australian woman who became a skilled aircraft mechanic despite gender discrimination, and who eventually became a popular team member of the Number 7 Service Flying Training School at Deniliquin.

One of the stories of the Lawson Syphon development explored in this project is the opportunities it gave to refugees migrating to Australia after World War II.

It helps tell the story of the Walles, through son Theo, who survived a WWII refugee camp on the border of France and The Netherlands to come to Australia, where Theo’s father worked on the syphons.

Theo said he grew up around 20 different nationalities and a web of languages while his father worked on the project.

The Yesterday Stories project explores more than just Deniliquin past, present and future.

South West Arts is also launching stories for Hay and Balranald, which can be seen on the Yesterday Stories app soon.