Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre & Café – Grovedale

Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre & Café – 410 Surf Coast Highway – GROVEDALE

Narana is one of MSCL’s favourite places – so very close to the Surf Coast – and well worth a look-in on the way down, or tripping back to the Big Smoke…

Ashes, middens, the story tells
Of campfire light and mussel shells
The sea breeze brings a Dreamtime song
Sung by the spirits of the WathaurongThe Spirit of the Wathaurong John Clark

Tread lightly upon this Surf Coast earth, for it is the rightful home of the Wadda Wurrung People of the mighty Kulin Nation – land that covers three-quarters of Australia. For thousands of years, and countless generations, the Wadda Wurrung People lived a harmonious and industrious life. Their sophisticated standard of living is documented as being one of the highest in the world.

Regrettably – by 1839 – white settlers and pastoralists had forcibly claimed the land of the Wadda Wurrung People as their own, and with tragic and heartbreaking consequences. The few remaining traditional owners of the land surrounding the Surf Coast and beyond were forbidden to set foot in the streets of Geelong. Ironically, the name Geelong is derived from the Wadda Wurrung language. Translated djillong means ‘tongue of land’ or ‘peninsula’.

There is much to learn at Narana Aboriginal and Cultural Centre. And there’s a warm and welcoming team here happy to share their knowledge of all things Indigenous: How to prepare traditional bush tucker using native medicinal flora, wattleseed, lemon myrtle and native saltbush; and kangaroo damper; the making of a didgeridoo; Dreamtime storytelling; understanding the cultural significance of Aboriginal art, woodwork and bush crafts; the sacred ritual of the corroboree, and much, much more. You may even be lucky enough to be taught how to throw a boomerang – the right way.

Narana is all things Wadda Wurrung magic – an unforgettable stop, a short 15-minute drive from the Surf Coast.

You may notice the sign on the Torquay Road heading to the Surf Coast Highway that announces – ‘You are entering Wadawurrung Country’. And although Jo Whitehead’s The Wadda Wurrung People. Did you know? documents the history of the Wadda Wurrung, John Clark – above – writes about ‘the spirits of the Wathaurong’. ‘Wathaurong’ is the early colonists’ corruption of Wadda Wurrung. Yet, assuredly, the rightful ownership and the legends attributed to the Surf Coast’s Wadda Wurrung ‘borrowed land’ will forever remain documented – and for time immemorial be recorded in the annals of Indigenous and Australian history.

The morning of our visit, MSCL and little ones were privileged to meet Lyndon Arthur Perry – acclaimed maker and player of the didgeridoo. When asked, Lyndon happily demonstrated his sublime didgeridoo skill and mastery, and went on to explain the fascinating intricacies of his art. Lyndon’s skilfully carved and ashed pelican didgeridoo is a magnificent example of timeless Indigenous art many, many months in the making.

And beautiful Milly shared the Dreamtime story of The Three Sisters of Cape Otway…

Long time before today, there were three sisters. They were very good. They helped their parents – they were good gatherers and always helped with caring for the children.

One day a stranger came to their country; he was not a good man. He was a sorcerer; he wanted the three sisters. The Elders told the three sisters to ignore the stranger. This made the stranger very angry, so he used his magic to sing the three sisters to do his bidding.

The behaviour of the three sisters changed. They became very nasty. They would not help anyone. They spoke very nastily to everyone. So the Elders decided to tell the stranger to go away and never return.

The stranger became angry and decided to steal the three sisters and take them back to his country. The stranger headed back to his country with the three sisters.

The Elders sent the young warriors after him. They caught up with him, speared him and brought the three sisters back.

The Elders held a meeting to discuss what to do with the girls. It was decided that they would speak to the Great Creator – Bundjil – and tell him what had happened.

He told them that the three sisters were bad. So the three sisters were beaten and hot coals were put in their mouths, to remind them not to speak badly and to always obey their parents. Then Bundjil performed a magic spell and transformed the three sisters into three hills.

The three hills can still be seen today. Although one hill is being excavated for red scoria.

Dreamtime story re-told by Uncle David Turner.

Milly did inform us, however, that since the original telling of this story – after much local protest – the excavation of this little sister hill has ceased.

The cuisine at Narana Café is a talking point – and in a very good way – just remarkable. You’ll find nothing like it anywhere on the Surf Coast. The Indigenous tasting platter of crocodile, emu, eel and kangaroo is exclusive to Narana. We were rendered speechless when the lemon meringue pancakes with butterscotch ice-cream and local wildflowers arrived at our table. You just have to…

On the menu our visit –

Indigenous tasting platter of crumbed crocodile, emu fillet, smoked eel, pulled kangaroo, wallaby chorizo, Meredith goat’s cheese and Outback Spirit chutneys – available for purchase.

Paperbark barramundi with native salt bush and mountain pepper chat potatoes; char-grilled bush tomatoes.

Slow-cooked fillet of kangaroo curry with rice and fresh damper.

Lemon-infused chicken salad – or – thinly sliced marinated emu fillet.

Macadamia-crusted chicken burger.

Wattleseed scones and muffins with wild rosella jam and finger-lime whipped cream.

Lemon meringue pancakes with butterscotch ice-cream decorated with wildflowers.

Walk about the Curragundi Native Garden Trail. Meet and greet the pet emus and their babies, wallabies, and local birdlife flitting about the billabong.

Narana’s gift shop is overflowing with handmade Indigenous art and craft, cultural artefacts, native herbs and spices, Australian native flora-sourced body and skincare products, souvenirs, and a comprehensive selection of unique homewares. The woollen tapestry woven floor rugs, handblown glass, ceramic works and dreamy jewellery are testament to the unparalleled artistry of each and every one of Narana’s Indigenous exhibitors.

There’s a comprehensive supply of Dreamtime story books, too. We came home with several copies of Naiura’s More Tales of My Grandmother’s. The vibrant artwork springs as if by Dreamtime magic from every page; and the stories are the perfect duration for little ones.

Children will love the Indigenous-themed adventure playground designed and constructed by The Gordon Institute’s GTECH work experience students.

Narana’s Art Gallery exhibits and sells art produced by internationally acclaimed and emerging Indigenous artists from all over Australia. The focus here is on artists in residence. But the secret was out long ago. Narana Gallery’s art is in high demand locally – and by offshore collectors – and is shipped all over the world.

For opening hours, guided tours, events, and school holiday program dates and times –

Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre & Café

Bibliographic content and history of the Wadda Wurrung Nation:

The Wadda Wurrung People – Did you know? – Courtesy of Jo Whitehead. Available for purchase at Narana.

Koongadgee, Narana – for now. Gobata. Nyatne, nyatne…

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