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‘DJAARA-fied’ welcome sign brings Dja Dja Wurrung to forefront of regional centre

Jarred Cross -

Ahead of celebrating 10 years with a landmark agreement for self-determination on country, Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation have strengthened their presence on the central Victorian landscape in the heart of its regional centre.

Now trading as DJAARA, on Thursday the corporation unveiled the new Bendigo sign at city's centre designed by Dja Dja Wurrung/Boonwurrung artist Racquel Kerr, representing the cultural significance of place, country and culture tied to creator spirit Bunjil.

"Bunjil's wingspan contains significant meeting places and areas from the floodplains in the north, to the volcanics in the south. Djaara was created from Country, so our intrinsic connection lies beyond physical and spiritual - we are one," Ms Kerr told National Indigenous Times.

DJAARA general manager Cassandra Lewis said "the skyline of Bendigo is changing, we're DJAARA-fying Country".

Racquel Kerr's unmissable art on display. (Image: Jarred Cross/NIT)

Similar pieces are displayed at Bendigo's law courts, Galkangu building (formely Bendigo GovHub) and TAFE, with presence also in surrounding districts.

"It's how you become gently present in a permanent way, on country. I think that's really special. And that's been made possible through our RSA (Recognition and Settlement) Agreement, but also by the relationships and partnerships. We've been able to build with others and collaborate and co-design on major projects," Ms Lewis told National Indigenous Times on Thursday.

DJAARA operates a range of in-house enterprises and partnerships with local business and government from environmental planning to commercial ventures.

Through November the group are hosting a program of events in celebration their RSA agreement with the Victorian State Government signed and later officiated in 2013.

The new sign can be found in Bendigo's city centre. (Image: Jarred Cross/NIT)

"For us, it's a legal framework that we work within as a corporation. What it's actually created for us is really rights and recognition....(to be) put back into conversations, put back into the landscape again...actually creating opportunity for our people to be present," DJAARA chair Trent Nelson told National Indigenous Times.

He said without the RSA, Ms Kerr's likely wouldn't have been afforded the opportunity she has with her art in the city centre.

The agreement has a footprint across 11 local government area's in central Victoria.

"It just pushes us first and foremost in those conversations, and it creates opportunity to celebrate our culture," Mr Nelson said.

Signing of the Recognition & Settlement Agreement 24 March 2013. Pictured: (left to right) Aunty Fay Carter, Uncle Graham Atkinson and Ron Kerr Jr. (Image: supplied)

"We've got really good relations with people that aren't built on formal written agreements. They are actually, basically, communications and relationships. That's what it comes down to. And it's meaningful. It's not tokenistic. And I guess for us, it's what we keep working towards to create those opportunities...It just creates a better future for all of us, not just as Traditional Owners, but also the wider community as well."

In May, DJAARA launched their climate strategy, setting a path ahead for beneficial and restorative environmental and biodiversity planning.

RSA anniversary celebrations begin with an informal opening ceremony at Rosalind Park, with a gala dinner later in the evening of Saturday November 11.

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