Building A Future Through Aboriginal Lore and Culture

Built on traditional Aboriginal ceremonial grounds, the Men's Tribal Centre is Olabud Doogethu's latest initiative to bring men and young people together to find strength through Aboriginal lore and culture.

Since the Shire of Halls Creek approved the establishment of a Men’s Tribal Centre in August 2021, the Olabud Doogethu Aboriginal Corporation has begun establishing an Elder’s Reference Group, which consists of key Aboriginal Elders from the key communities in Halls Creek.

The Men’s Tribal Centre will be established on the old Halls Creek Golf Club, which is traditional ceremonial grounds for Aboriginal men. In particular, these grounds were used to prepare young Aboriginal men to enter lore.

‘This land has been handed down to us for over a thousand years… It’s for everybody to come in, no matter what skin you are, what tribe you are. It’s a very cultural area for any men to go there,’ said Larry Smith, who is overseeing the work at the Men’s Tribal Centre. 

The entrance to the Men’s Tribal Centre, which is the former Halls Creek Golf Course.

Like many in the community, Larry feels that there hasn’t been any culturally-safe places for Aboriginal men to get together, to yarn, and to deal with problems with the guidance of leading Aboriginal Elders and others in the community.

‘It’s the first one for us, for a very long time… We’ve never had anything like this so far.’

An integral part to the success of the Men’s Tribal Centre is the co-development process with leading Aboriginal Elders from the Halls Creek communities.

Since the early stages, Aboriginal Elders have guided the Olabud Doogethu human rights team to ensure that the Men’s Tribal Centre is by the community, for the community.

This has so far included guidance from key Elders such as Stewart Morton (Jaru), Keith Jugarie (Kija and Jaru), Jimmy Demi (Kija and Jaru), as well as local people who want to be a part of the Men’s Tribal Centre, such as George Demi (Kija and Jaru).

For many, the Men’s Tribal Centre is an opportunity for young people to reconnect with their Aboriginal culture, history, and identities, as well as for people to come together.

Keith Jugarie is a leading Kija and Jaru Elder who has helped guide and advise the establishment of the Men’s Tribal Centre.

Keith Jugarie, a Kija and Jaru Elder from Mardiwah Loop in Halls Creek hopes that this is more than just talk, and more about action.

‘What I hate to see is just talk, and nothing gets done. But if we can get together, make a plan, and get it up and going for all of us to share, then it will be good,’ said Keith.

‘In this sort of town here, we’ve got so many different tribes here. You’ve got Jaru, Kija, Walmajarri, Bunuba, and so many from different areas who are now here… I’d like them to understand that we’ve got this thing [Men’s Tribal Centre] up and going… there’s lots of people out there with plenty of good ideas… It’s a really good starting point to get it up and going.’

Passing down knowledge and helping young Aboriginal men learn more about traditional ways is why leading Jaru Elder, Stewart Morton, wants to see the Men’s Tribal Centre be successful in Halls Creek.

Stewart Morton is a leading Jaru Elder and wants to pass on his traditional knowledge to young people.

‘It’s really about teaching. Because there’s no more Old People here. I’m the only old fella here from this Country who’s got the knowledge of the blackfella way. I learnt it from my old parents. It’s time coming. I’m getting a bit too old. I want to pass my knowledge on to the young people and take it from there,’ Stewart said, as he reflected on the legacy he wants to leave behind with the Men’s Tribal Centre.

In Halls Creek, there are major concerns from the community regarding a lost connection to Aboriginal lore and culture.

Many believe that as time goes on, there will be less Old People around to share and pass down this knowledge.

George Demi, a Kija and Jaru man, has supported Olabud Doogethu to set up the Men’s Tribal Centre, alongside his older brother and local Elder, Jimmy Demi.

George believes that the community needs to learn and gain knowledge from the Old People, while they are still around.

‘We don’t have a lot of Old People alive, so we got to pass it on to the next generation that’s growing up and put them through lore and culture – and keep them [young people] strong again,’ said George.

Eric Clyde is a Gurindji Elder from Wave Hill, Northern Territory, and fears that without a Men’s Tribal Centre, there’s a risk of Halls Creek losing its historically rich connection to Aboriginal culture.

Eric Clyde, a Gurindji Elder from Wave Hill, Northern Territory, hopes that the Men’s Tribal Centre can bring young and old people together.

Eric grew up with many of the Elders in Halls Creek today and lives between Wave Hill and Halls Creek. For Eric, he’s noticed that there aren’t many Old People left in Wave Hill either and that the fear of lost cultural connections is real.

‘On our side [Wave Hill], there aren’t many Old People who live. I’ve only seen a couple of them around, but their sons and daughters aren’t into it. They’re all gone,’ said Eric.

‘I hope the young fellas can come here to this place and start working with the Old People. That’ll make good for everybody, because if the young people want to take over… it will also be good for young fellas to come together [at the Men’s Tribal Centre] and get a sense of how other young fellas are doing in the remotes – like Balgo and Mulan.’

There is a wide consensus among locals that a lack of culture and identity is the reason why a lot of young people get in to trouble with the law.

The local Elders who are working on the Men’s Tribal Centre hope that this initiative will help guide young people along and help them create a better future for themselves and for the next generation of Halls Creek.

‘Our generation used to listen to the Old People… We need them [young people] to understand about where they come from and who they are

It’s very important for young people to get their culture back, because if you don’t have any culture, you won’t have any future,’ said Larry.