An eye opening experience

As a nutritionist, Danielle Wilcock welcomed the opportunity to experience food in a completely different way. To forage for native foods commonly referred to as bush tucker, is something she had never done nor considered. Tracy Wise, a local business woman, Aboriginal artist, tour guide and mentor afforded her the privilege of joining her on a bush walk through the lands of her home town and country. Danielle shares her “truly enlightening” experience.

TRACY Wise is a descendant of the Barkindji (River People), and affiliated with Bundjalung, Ngiyampaa people of NSW and Wotjobaluk people in Victoria through both maternal and paternal ancestors.

Tracy is a strong woman with integrity and foresight.

The cultural experience she provided has been of great personal significance.

I was able to develop my understanding of Aboriginal culture in a very open and honest way, something I am immensely grateful for.

I came away from my adventures with Tracy feeling extremely inspired and educated, more than I could have imagined.

Arguably the most treasured part of my entire cultural experience was the bush walk Tracy facilitated.

Driving towards Wentworth we made our first stop on the side of the highway. Myself unsure of what exactly it was we were stopping for, but Tracy had spotted the very thing she wished to show me.

Tracy walked me over to what seemed to be a vine. She reached for an object among the vines and pulled it down to show me.

My immediate reaction of course, was to question what it was.

To my surprise, Tracy advised it was indeed a bush banana. After removing it from the vine a white glue like substance emerged from the fruit, which I learnt was used for securing ropes on tools and making jewelry.

Learning how Tracy and her ancestors used to cook these little bush fruits was quite amazing. I couldn’t help but feel in awe of the generations that discovered bush foods such as this to be edible but on top of that, they established their additional purposes.

Further in our journey we stopped at the Namatjira and Merinee Reserve, here Tracy explained the historical significance of the area.

There’s an information site on the outskirts that really sheds some light on the hows and whys of its inception. I couldn’t help but feel we all should want to be better educated on things like this.

The absolute highlight of my experience with Tracy was unquestionably the walk we took through bushland near Fletchers Lake, Coomealla/Dareton. As we took a walk along the spine like tracks, Tracy explained to me what her childhood was like, she afforded me an unexpected but truly honest account of her upbringing. Most interestingly she described the ways in which her family would have foraged for food and cooked it. The ability to use their own environment is something that truly blows me away.

Her account allowed me to understand and appreciate that way of life, and for her to be so frank with me about these memories was something of a privilege.

There are many places that can be toured in the local area, including reserves in Red Cliffs and cultural sites in Wentworth but it was my experience visiting Fletchers Lake that will remain with me for a very long time.

Arriving at the lake, after our walk through the bush land of Tracy’s childhood, the wind seemed to pick up and the trees almost welcome us. I felt an sense of warmth despite the cold wind and for the first time since living in the region, I felt truly closer to home.

Growing up on the coast in North West Britain, I’ve always missed that fresh sea air, but for reasons unbeknown to me I could smell the salt in the breeze, it was crisp and clean.

We later watched the sunset over Fletchers Lake, which was almost emotional to witness. Watching the glowing ball of matter disappear beyond the horizon reinforced the nature of our being on this earth. We are merely visitors, here for a short time. It prompted me to evaluate life and just stop to take time appreciate the earth with which we live.

For someone who is not philosophical or intensely spiritual in nature, this experience was truly enlightening.

Tracy has an desire to educate others on local Aboriginal culture, but understands the need to provide a safe space for people to do so. Wise Art on Eleventh provides just that. It’s a private gallery she shares with her mother Mary Wise, and is something of a gem in the heart of Mildura.

Entering the gallery, you immediately feel a sense of culture and authenticity. There’s original artwork on display among other cultural artefacts, such as decorated emu eggs and hand painted didgeridoos.

Aside from the artworks being visually captivating, it’s the way in which Tracy describes each piece that’s of considerable value. To explain the deeply personal stories behind the pieces and educate me on the cultural significance of each artwork is something I feel extremely privileged to have experienced.

Tracy utilises her art in the most effective of ways, using each as a vehicle for others cultural learning process. Depiction of her stories in the form of art is a creative ability inspired largely by her mother. Speaking with Tracy, it’s evident they share a close and respectful bond.

At no point does Tracy influence the learning process, the environment she creates is highly conducive to learning but enables individuals to establish their own sense of meaning.

I learnt a tremendous amount about the culture but also myself. I highly recommend seeking out your own cultural experience or simply commit to learning more about the Aboriginal culture. I believe we can all learn so much from each other, we all share this earth collectively at the end of the day.

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