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By Georgia Durmush, a second year Bachelor of Arts student

A spiritual experience felt by the heart

Earlier this month, I headed to the Gulkula ceremonial grounds in north-east Arnhem Land with three other University of Sydney students, to act as an Indigenous Student Leader at the Garma Youth Forum. As Student Leaders, we helped to mentor the school students who were participating in the Youth Forum, as part of the annual Garma Festival of Indigenous Culture.

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I’d first like to thank the wonderful Yolgnu elders and community for accepting over 2,500 visitors to their country, and for giving up their time to teach us about Yolgnu culture.

It was an amazing and memorable cultural experience, allowing me to learn more about my culture and identity as a proud Wailwan woman. Over the 6 days, the Youth Forum gave us the opportunity to learn traditional Yolngu dance from the elders, listen to a traditional woman’s crying ceremony, mentoring students through faculty workshops and encourage them to take on higher education.

One of my greatest achievements was hosting the Youth Forum’s Q&A panel. As an aspiring TV news presenter, this was an amazing opportunity to practice my interview and presentation skills. It was also a chance to listen to the students (our future leaders) speak about their cultural experience at the Youth Forum, and their plans to purse a university education.

The Yolgnu language has been untouched by westerners, and listening to it was truly a spiritual experience. The elders explained the importance of land, animals and culture in one’s identity. They reminded us that land is the protector of all humanity, reinforcing the need for us to care for it.

These past 6 days will be held close to my heart and I will keep these memories treasured forever.

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