Welcome Performance- Highlight of the day!- November 20, 2018

The 2nd National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference kicked off with a warm welcome and a very nice spirit dance. Professor Ted Wilkes and professor Dawn Bessarab started the conference with a brief introduction and a little bit of background.

It was an interesting segment of the day but proved to be costly as it exceeded its time limit and put the other speakers in a tight situation. The other delegates and speakers were then a little rushed and didn’t have enough time to speak and present their topics. Dr.  Richard Walley played a two-part song with the didgeridoo, the first was about the water, the second part was about who and where we are. Following that he made some acknowledgments and then introduced his brother for the welcoming performance.

The Welcome performance was my highlight of the day, it was a two-part dance. The leader or elder walked up to the stage introduced himself and began playing the didgeridoo for his group to begin dancing onto the stage from the sides. It was quite interesting as the movements were slower and more graceful compared to our traditional jigging. The second part was magical, the females in the room were to clap their hand against their thigh and the males were to clap their hands. It reminded me of the song Queen - We Will Rock You because of how everyone was in rhythm.

The first keynote panel session was to set the scene and I was able to grab one or two points from each professor. Prof. Tom Calma talked about how diverse Australia was, as there is no one predominant race as there was many. He stated that 95% of Australians have experienced suicide either first hand or an extended version. Prof. Helen Milroy was focused on if we don’t reclaim our way, our culture, we will lose it. Prof Pat Turner spoke about the demographic which was most affected, which was young Australian men are the most at risk for suicide.

For the concurrent sessions, I started off with a destressing/painting workshop. Everyone was to draw a flower, animal or something that gives them hope. I’m not much of an artist so I drew a flower. The painting is a “triptych” which is a work of art that is divided into three sections, or three carved panels that are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed openly.

The painting is to be displayed at Pat Dudgeon's office at the University of Western Australia. I also attended the wood burning and ax-making workshops besides the painting. The ax making was surprising because the ax head was made of the following: charcoal, blackboy resin, and kangaroo poo. All the ingredients were grounded up into one mixture.


Paul Chapman