Aboriginal History and Culture

In the spirit of reconciliation, ACRRM and RDAA acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

The Wonnarua people are traditional landowners in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, where RMA20 will be held (24-27 February 2021).

Meet the Artist: Thomas Croft

We are excited to announce we have commissioned Indigenous artist Thomas Croft to create artwork especially for RMA20. Look out for Thomas' art throughout the promotion of the conference, as well as onsite in the Hunter Valley.

About Thomas 

Thomas' traditional lines are from the Barngala clan. After living in Katherine in the Northern Territory for 26 years, he now resides in Newcastle, NSW. Thomas paints stories which depict the formation and constant change of our country, as well as things with cultural significance such as fire, water, sea animals, land animals, and especially Numbadda (Whale) each of which hold significant value to his people.

Thomas' paintings are the interpretations of traditional stories handed down by his elders past and present, and he also paints from life experiences, which include fire, water, Barramundi and rain. Living in the Northern Territory for most of his life, the wet season played a huge role in rejuvenating the life of the land. The rain brought rivers, billabongs and plant life back to life. Land and sea animals flourished off the wet season and food sources would increase for the people living off the land. These stories and life experiences influences Thomas to not only tell them through his artwork, but more importantly, teach his children who they are, and build on their identity as Barngarla people. 

View Thomas Facebook page here.

Tom headshot
About the Land

According to the Wonnarua dreamtime, the Hunter Valley was created by the great spirit, Baime (Byamee). Before Baime there was nothing, everything was sleeping. Baime awoke and created everything, the mountains, plains, rivers and every living thing. The spirit of Baime is depicted on a cave overlooking the Valley at Milbrodale painted more than 3000 years ago. Baime has his arms stretched open protecting the Valley. Baime also created Kawal (Ka-wal), to watch over the Wonnarua people. The spirit of Kawal is embodied in the wedge tailed eagle, found throughout the Hunter Valley.

Thanks to the Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation for providing this information on the history of the land. 

Culture and experiences at RMA

There are many Indigenous sites located around the Hunter Valley although many of them are off limits to the general public and even local Indigenous people. Publicly accessible sites include Biaime Cave, Tiddilick Frog, Finchley Trig, and Devil’s Rock. If you get a chance around the conference program, be sure to check out the Hunter Valley Visitor Centre for more information on the cultural significance of these sites and how to get there.  

If you're looking for a bite to eat, we recommend the the Wattaka Café (located in Singleton's CBD). This local cafe is a great place for delegates to experience local indigenous flavours and support a great cause. An initiative of the Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation, the Wattaka Café provides hospitality industry skills and training to local Aboriginal people with a disability. Their delicious menu is underpinned by Lemon Aspen, bush honey, Davidson’s Plum, Bush Tomato, Wattle Seed and many more traditional Indigenous flavours.

Further to the collaboration with artist, Thomas Croft, we are also proud to have the below initiatives and inclusions within the RMA20 conference program: 

  • The Welcome to Country will be delivered by traditional landowners, the Wonnarua people, at the RMA20 Welcome Reception (Wednesday 24 February) to mark the official opening of the conference.
  • The opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members to network with each other during a dedicated event.

  • The opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registrars to apply for support to attend Conference. 

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students have the opportunity to apply for the ACRRM President’s Prize and MDA National and RDAA Rural Health Bursary to support them to attend the conference. 

  • Joining us as a keynote speaker, Victor Steffensen's work over the past twenty seven years has been based on the arts, film making, and reviving traditional knowledge values - particularly Aboriginal fire management, through mentoring and leadership, on-ground training with Aboriginal communities and across all categories of Australians.

    Read more about him here.