So many of us don’t have language and I tell the kids you can be the person in your family to bring it back.

Baraya Barray ~ Whale Song

Baraya Barray ~ Whale Song brings attention to the origin of First Nations languages and the important lessons we can learn from our natural environment in caring for Country by celebrating saltwater songlines of the East Coast following the movements of Humpback Whales from Lutruwita (TAS) to Meanjin (QLD).

Coinciding with the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, during the three year program, communities across the east coast will connect young First Nations people with Elders, Language Custodians, scientists, poets and musicians, through On Country immersive experiences, to learn about and respond to our original language holders - the Whales.

I am excited that Baraya Barray - Whale Song will inspire young minds through Eldership, poetry, song, dance and Aboriginal languages to re-awaken our ancient whale song line and improve language acquisition, leaving a valuable strength in the community whilst restoring Eldership, a voice for Sea Country and a rite of passage through Cultural connections to Sea Country.

~ Dr Jodi Edwards (Custodian)

Celebrating Saltwater Songlines

Creating new songs and poems in language alongside Elders, students revitalise the tradition of orality, learning culture and stories first hand through embodied experiences, that cultivate pride and enhance wellbeing.

Participants listen to and record whale song, learn the whale stories of their Country, and look for environmental and ecological indicators to their health and migration journey. Dances, poems and songs in language are created in response, recorded, performed and passed along to neighbouring communities, creating a new contemporary songline up the East Coast.

2024 Workshops

Baraya Barray ~ Whale Song will make its way along the east coast over the next 3 years starting in 2024 with workshops on Yuin, Wodi Wodi and Dharawal Country in Gumea Dharawal, and Dharawal language. During the northern migration, workshops will be held in:

  • Nowra
  • Shellharbour
  • Port Kembla
  • Wollongong

With over 80 students participating from 10 schools. Performances and project outcomes will be celebrated during the southern migration later in the year.

Workshop partners for 2024 include:

  • Waminda
  • Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation
  • University of Wollongong - ANCORS Division
  • Wollongong City Council
  • Griffith University

Listening to Whales Activity

There is a real thirst and hunger to be taught and to learn in this way and it's a treat to be able to run a program like this and get our kids out and connected to Country, learning about language and carrying the stories and songlines forward… across the day you see a kind of pride that starts to bubble in them, they stand a bit taller and they speak a bit louder and more confidently. Our kids are feeling connected, not only to the land and to nature but to each other. They feel strong and proud of who they are.

Short video filmed during the June 2023 Dharawal pilot workshop.

Directed by Luke Agius
Produced by Rami Fischler
Song composition by Nicole Smede
Poem and reading by Indiana Lane

Project Testimonials

Burri burri (whale) is a big part of Dharawal culture. Ngia (I) learned that me and my siblings aren’t Dharawal but we have learned their important connection to gurigurrah (sea) and ngura (Country), just as we have in our Tongan culture. Connection between our cultures is so much clearer now and I’ve seen how similar we are in terms of tradition and respect for family and Country. We value our bubang, our nguru (Country) our gurrigurrah (sea) and our yabun (music), relying on them to teach us, about us.

~ Tahanni (student participant in pilot workshop)

I love the idea of offering Elders from different communities the opportunity to participate in this fantastic project. It speaks to the reality of our Peoples - that is we are many, with different languages and cultures, but we all come from the same set of life values that are articulated in many ways.

~ Elder participant

As a Worimi woman, I deeply understand the cultural significance of this project for First Nations people and for all Australians. Garuwa means ‘ocean’ in our language, Gatthang, and we selected this name because of our ancestral and contemporary connections to the sea. Our whale kin are central to these storylines and cultural understanding.

~ Genevieve Grieves (Filmmaker, Garuwa)

Supporters and Partners