Meeting Noongar elder Kathy Yarran

The first time I consciously recognized the intimate relationship between a landscape, language and people, was meeting an amazing Noongar speaker, Kathy Yarran, in Western Australia. I was living for a short while in Kellerberrin, a small farming town, hardly a town, just a few basic shops straddling the Great Eastern Highway on the edge of the farm belt and desert and a three-hour drive inland from Perth. Kathy was the oldest living Noongar resident and the last fluent speaker in town when we met, and possibly one of the wisest people I have encountered. She had a way of looking and speaking, which seemed to penetrate to your deepest thoughts and emotions. 

Kathy talked about living in the bush throughout her early life when curfews and bans prevented her community from being in the town. She did not talk in anger, but with a passion about her connection to the soil and her desire to pass on her understanding through the language and meaning of Noongar. One afternoon she allowed me to record a conversation which I edited into a short film I had made using a kite to film the landscape she was talking about. It is a landscape of red earth, salt flats, granite, Eucalyptus and wattle, and an extraordinary amount of birdsong.

The brief time we spent together has stayed with me over the years. 

Portrait of Cathy Yarran
Noongar Elder, Kathy Yarran
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