Connection to culture is important for the next generation, and this is something that Derek Nannup wanted to tap into when establishing the Boorloo Indigenous Youth Yarning Circles in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A Whadjuk, Bindjareb, Yued and Wardarndi man of the Noongar Nation, Mr Nannup was named the 2021 WA Young Person of the Year and winner of the ECU Community Leadership Award for his tireless work within the community at the recent WA Youth Awards, run by the Youth Affairs Council of WA.

A support worker for children in care at the Aboriginal Health Council of WA, he also sits on the Mirrabooka Police District Youth Advisory Group and the Youth Educating Peers Reference group.

His work began from a young age, sitting with Elders and learning about culture, though he doesn’t consider it work.

“I see it as my role and responsibility as a Whadjuk man,” Mr Nannup told the National Indigenous Times.

“Through the work I’ve done, I know so many mob, so I’m in a good place to connect everyone, as well as connecting to Elders and cultural knowledge.”

 

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Mr Nannup said it was an honour to be recognised with the awards, but that it’s more about the feedback he gets from the community and his people.

“It’s not about me, it’s a reflection of the community,” he said.

“Every person that’s been involved has contributed to this award, my understanding and my journey.”

Mr Nannup said stronger connections among the community were needed, and he has seen the benefits of the yarning circles.

A lot of young people in the community were familiar with each other, but didn’t know each other personally, so he wanted to create a space where cultural connections would be nurtured.

“I’ve seen a lot of friendships come out of it,” he said.

“There was a huge cry for a space like this in our community where different mobs are mixing and connecting with each other.

“In this space, there’s no such thing as groups or social status, we just recognise each other as people and Blackfullas before anything else.”

Juggling so many roles and responsibilities, Mr Nannup said it’s culture that drives him to get up every day and keep going. He said that it was his own journey that made him realise what the answer was for other mob.

“Culture was my saviour during tough times,” he said.

“I felt like I lost my self-identity because of the negative stereotypes and I was unsure of where to find it again.”

After turning to performing arts as an outlet, Mr Nannup said he found it was just a coping mechanism before coming back to culture.

“The thing that really healed me was culture and I realised it was the answer for a lot of young mob.”

For the future of the Boorloo Yarning Circles, Mr Nannup said he’s content with letting the young mob lead the way, but he does hope the yarning circles can effect change.

“Wherever the yarning circles go, I’m allowing the young mob to create that,” he said.

“Whatever comes out of it, comes out of it.”

“When it comes to things like suicide and incarceration rates, I want to have a positive effect on the negative statistics. I want that cultural connection to be more evident in our community.”

By Madison Howarth