Tyronne brings his Country to Canberra

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Tyronne Bell... “A lot of people in the ACT don’t know anything about our culture here, and we want to change that.”
Tyronne Bell… “A lot of people in the ACT don’t know anything about our culture here, and we want to change that.” Photo by Maddie McGuigan

WITH a passion for educating the wider community about local Ngunawal culture, Tyronne Bell wants to pass on local and general Aboriginal stories and knowledge.

He started his business, Dharwra Aboriginal Cultural Tours in November, which offers short, half or full-day tours around Mount Majura, Mount Taylor, Black Mountain, Flea Creek and Namadgi National Park, as well as premium experiences including a luxury helicopter trip and a kayak down the Murrumbidgee River.

“We want to promote Aboriginal heritage in Canberra through interpretation of the landscape, guided tours and cultural activities,” he says.

“No one is doing what we do in the ACT, we are set up as a tourism product, but can also offer school trips and workshops.”

Dharwra, which means land or country, is part of Tyronne’s company Thunderstone, which he started with his wife Bronwyn in 2013, after they saw a gap in people’s education about local Aboriginal culture.

“We wanted to help spread the local Ngunawal stories – we spell it with one ‘n’ – that are embedded into Canberra and the regions,” he says.

“On our Dharwra tours you get an experienced Aboriginal guide including traditional Ngunawal custodians, who will interpret Aboriginal culture at significant sites.

“A lot of people in the ACT don’t know anything about our culture here, and we want to change that.”

The youngest of seven children, Tyronne grew up in Yass and says he has lived on Country all his life.

“The Dreamtime stories are a big part of our culture, and there’s always a lesson in them, whether about doing the right thing or jealousy or whatever it is,” he says.

“They are important and it goes back to traditional Aboriginal lore.”

Tyronne says he’s joined with like-minded people who have specific skills to create Dharwra, which means the company can offer traditional weaving workshops, doll making, bush tucker cooking classes and an introduction to the Ngunawal language.

“I’ve always had a passion for the advancement of Aboriginal issues, culture and language of the Ngunawal people,” he says.

“That’s the best thing about creating Dharwra for me, working with people who have specialised skills and share my passion for education, like Ronnie Jordan, who teaches indigenous games, traditional painting techniques and basket weaving, Adam Shipp who has a passion for bush tucker, and Jayden Goodrem who plays and teachers the didgeridoo.

“We had schools approaching us because they had nothing in the curriculum. We wanted to embed our stories, share our local Ngunawal culture and Aboriginal culture in general.

“We are doing this for the wider community. I think it’s changed in the last couple of years, the way the community sees the Aboriginal culture is changing. We see that because more people are coming to us to hear the stories and we want to set things up for the next generation economically but mainly culturally.”

Having worked as a ranger in ACT Parks and Conservation, and in the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio in the Native Title Unit, Tyronne is now a member of the Natural Resources Management (NRM) ACT Council and says he is driven by a passion for education.

“I love telling kids, we never had shops – the Country was our supermarket and we used the trees and shrubs for everything from food, cooking, medicine, handcrafts to making weapons, we used it all.

“We lived off the land, it was survival. That’s why we are so connected to our land and country, and why we care so much about respecting and looking after it.

“It’s stories and knowledge I learned from my late father, Don Bell senior, when he would take me out as a kid and show me stuff. It’s the same for me now with my own kids.

“It’s my passion to pass on the knowledge to the next generation so our culture doesn’t die.”

More information at thunderstone.net.au

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.

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