8th September 2015
UNCLE MAX DULUMUNMUN HARRISON
The Hon. MARK PEARSON [9.06 p.m.]: Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison is a Yuin elder connected to his tribal lands of the South Coast of New South Wales—extending from the Snowy River in the south, to the escarpment of Wollongong in the north, and west to the Southern Highlands. As a young man he was chosen for initiation into tribal lore. He learnt the ancient wisdoms and spent many years learning about caring for country. Uncle Max stresses the importance of learning gleaned from watching, listening and seeing. He says, “If we don’t follow these three principles then we don’t learn anything.”
For more than 30 years, Uncle Max has been passionate about educating people from a variety of backgrounds. He has taken people to his country, showed them sacred places and taught them about the importance of reconnecting with the land. With his family, he provides cultural training and education via their Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness consultancy. Indeed, he led the opening traditional ceremony for the 2011 and 2012 Australia Day celebrations at Sydney in recognition of his standing in the community. He has been invited to speak about the importance of maintaining traditional wisdom in Japan, Finland, France, the United States of America and across Australia. In 2009 he published a book titled My People’s Dreaming “to raise awareness of Aboriginal spirituality and to explain how we connect to the land”.
His teachings cover the Yuin people’s creation dreaming, bush lore, foods, healing, laws and punishment, spirituality and the significance of our relationship to land and to animals. Uncle Max is greatly concerned about proper respect for the environment and the animals that share country with us—we all are bound together by a spiritual connection. He sees the land very clearly. But rather than using European ways to describe the landscape, he encourages people to go step-by-step and be a part of it. Instead of classifying a tree and objectifying it, he asks people to look at the tree, to experience how it sits in the landscape and grows, as well as the plants that grow around it and its purpose in that place. He notes:
People are saying what are we going to do about climate change, what are we going to do about the ozone layer? They are looking up there at the ozone layer. It is not up there that’s the problem, it’s down here. And this is what I am trying to show people and teach them.
That deep connection with land includes a proper relationship with animals. At certain times of the year, Uncle Max will perform ceremonies to ensure that the whales are sent on their way to protect the fish and to look after the food and medicines in the ocean. He describes when he was three years old watching his father and uncles slapping the water to bring in the dolphins. He said:
These old men were masters of communicating and getting in touch with the spirit of the dolphins.
Uncle Max is also an expert adviser to The Think Tank for Kangaroos [THINKK] and has raised a number of concerns about the killing of kangaroos for commercial and non-commercial purposes. He has expressed concern that the mass killing of kangaroos is damaging dreaming tracks across Australia. At the conclusion of his book he says:
Mother Earth births everything for us. Father Sky carries the water and oxygen for us to breathe. Grandfather Sun warms the planet, warms our body, gives us light so we can see, raises the food that the Mother births and raises most of our relations, all our plants and trees. Grandmother Moon moves the water and gives us the woman-time and our birthing.
Uncle Max recently said to Chinese officials, “Please don’t eat our kangaroos and I would never eat your pandas.”