I want to talk about special quality of my people, one I believe to be the most important, and our most unique gift. In our language, this special quality is called dadirri. It is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness.
Ngangikurungkurr means deep water sounds. Ngangikurungkurr is the name of my tribe. The word can be broken up into three parts: Ngangi means word or sound, kuri means water, and kurr means deep. This is about tapping into that deep spring that’s within us.
Many Australians understand that Aboriginal people have a special respect for nature. The identity we have with the land is sacred and unique. Many people are starting to understand this more. There are many Australians who appreciate that Aboriginal people have a very strong sense of community. All persons matter.
Dadirri is the greatest gift we can give to our fellow Australians. It recognises the deep spring inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift Australia is thirsting for. It is like what you call contemplation.
When I experience dadirri, I am whole again. I can sit on the river bank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find peace in this silent awareness. There is no need of words.
A big part of dadirri is listening. Through the years we have listened to our stories. They are told and sung, over and over, as the seasons go by. Today we still gather around fires and together we hear the sacred stories.
Listen To Learn
As we grow older, we ourselves become the storytellers. We pass on to the young ones all they must know. The stories and songs sink quietly into our minds and we hold them deep inside. In the ceremonies we celebrate the awareness of our lives as sacred. The contemplative way of dadirri spreads over our whole life. It renews us and brings us peace. It makes us feel whole again.
In our Aboriginal way, we learn to listen from our earliest days. We could not live good and useful lives unless we listened. This was the normal way for us to learn – not by asking questions. We learnt by watching and listening, waiting and then acting. Our people passed on this way of listening for over 40,000 years.
Quiet listening and stillness – dadirri – renews us and makes us whole. There is no need to reflect too much and do a lot of thinking. It is just being aware. My people are not threatened by silence. They are completely at home in it. They have lived for thousands of years with nature’s quietness.
The other part of dadirri is the quiet stillness and the waiting. Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait. We do not try to hurry things up. We let them follow their natural course – like the seasons. We watch the moon in each of its phases. We wait for the rain to fill our rivers. When twilight comes, we prepare for the night. At dawn, we rise with the sun.
We watch our bush food and wait for them to ripen before we gather them. When a relation dies, we wait a long time with the sorrow. We own our grief and allow it to heal slowly. We are river people. We cannot hurry the river. We have to move with its current and understand its ways. We hope that the people of Australia will wait. Not so much waiting for us – to catch up – but waiting with us, as we find our own peace in this world.
If our culture is alive and strong and respected, it will grow. It will not die. And our spirit will not die. And I believe that the spirit of dadirri will blossom and grow, not just within themselves, but in our whole nation.