HomeEventsMilbi FestivalMessage stick shares Indigenous culture and history

Message stick shares Indigenous culture and history

message stick
Gidarjil Land and Sea Ranger Des Purcell and Bunya Mountains Murri Ranger Hedley Henderson handing over the message stick.

A message stick, which travelled to the Milbi Festival along the song-lines of the region’s First Nations People, helped to launch the event and share Indigenous culture.

Message sticks were used as communication tools between tribal groups over countless generations and this year it showcased the respect of cultural exchange from one Aboriginal Ranger group to another.

The significant tradition has been shared with the Bundaberg community thanks to Wakka Wakka Elder Maurice Mickelo who designed the message stick and the Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers who delivered it to the Gidarjil Land and Sea Rangers.

A special smoking ceremony was even held before it began its journey.

Gidarjil Land and Sea Ranger Des Purcell said carved and painted message sticks helped to provide connections between groups and they were particularly useful between different traditional owner groups who spoke different languages.

“The message stick is the earliest form of writing a letter,” he said.

“We use them to break down barriers between groups by engraving or painting pictures on them”.

Message sticks were used for a number of reasons to share news about ceremonial events like the Bunya (bonye-bonye) tribal gatherings or to give notice of marriage alliances and burials (sorry business).

“It’s an exchange of information to help us share resources about our country,” Des said.

“We have a different form now, like a telephone where the exchange happens.

“But it is important to keep this history going.”

Traditional message sticks were made and crafted from wood and were generally small and easy to carry, between 10 and 20 cm.

They were carved, incised, and painted with symbols and decorative designs conveying messages and information.

Des said the use of a message stick during Milbi Festival 2021 was significant as it helped share the history of traditional owners, by weaving Aboriginal culture into community events.

message stick
During the 2019 Milbi Festival, Gidarjil Land and Sea Ranger received a carved message stick, while this year Bunya Mountains Murri Rangers passed on a painted message stick, both showcasing songlines which represents First Nations paths across the land.

He said message sticks shared the history, culture and art of traditional owners, and it was symbolic in helping to connect communities.

“It’s a way of sharing our history while helping to break down barriers and close the gap between communities,” he said.

“They represent the journey of the Bunyas coming out to the coast.”

Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers use traditional knowledge and conservation practices to look after land and sea Country.

“These message sticks will stay in our care until the next Milbi Festival, when they will come out again to show the community.”

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