New Gympie business shares 40,000 years of knowledge
"I WANT to introduce people to the local indigenous culture,” Russell Bennet, owner and operator of Cooloola Cultural Connections says.
As an emerging Aboriginal elder, Mr Bennet is perfectly placed to impart the knowledge that he and his family have gathered about the Gympie region over countless generations.
"No-one was there to be a mentor for them (young people). They didn't have anyone to teach them their history. I took up the challenge,” Mr Bennet said.
Mr Bennet recently took a group of teenage boys and introduced them to bush tucker, bush medicine and bush craft, with a healthy dose of survival training thrown in.
"The boys took a lot home from it. And the feedback from the young people and their families was all really positive.”
Since that trip Mr Bennete has started working with asupport groups and wants to develop a mentor program for indigenous youth.
Mr Bennet said he had been contacted by non-indigenous people wanting to participate in the project.
"I said 'Of course!' I see this as a way to break down cultural barriers,” he said.
In addition to teaching what he was taught by his family, Mr Bennet is keen to explore other cultural traditions from other members of the indigenous community, and would love to hear from traditional owners on all subjects of cultural significance.
"It's important for us to be on country and to be seen on country,” he said.
"We can all benefit from the passing on of information. I encourage any indigenous person or anyone with knowledge of cultural songs, dances, arts, crafts, bush tucker and bush medicine to contact me. We can then use that knowledge to connect with people.
"No matter where you're from, we're all one people. Get on board and teach others our history and culture.”
Another facet of his business is to act as a liaison between the general and indigenous communities by putting people in touch with those who have the skills required.
"For example, I was asked to organise dancers for the G150 dinner last year. I put them in connection with a dance troupe from Brisbane. They did a great job,” Mr Bennet said.
Mr Bennet has a Facebook page at Cooloola Cultural Connections were he can be contacted, or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"This business is my way of giving back. If I can get one person to where I am in life, I'm a winner.”