Djeran Dreaming: culture in season for Marissa Verma


Marissa Verma in traditional garb.  Picture: Will Russell        www.communitypix.com.au   d467789
Marissa Verma in traditional garb. Picture: Will Russell        www.communitypix.com.au d467789

DESPITE having worked with some of the world’s biggest names, Marissa Verma’s biggest passion in life is to educate people about her rich culture.

Ms Verma, who has cooked for renowned chef Antonio Carluccio, is encouraging young people to immerse themselves in her heritage at a Djeran Dreaming workshop at Lake Monger on April 20 as part of the Propel Youth Arts WA Kickstart Festival and National Youth Week.

The workshop, based around the Noongar season of Djeran (April to May), will teach participants about the roles of the men, women and children and Noongar artefacts and their use, and will include a tucker-tasting lunch.

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Ms Verma said she enjoyed running the tours and believed she played an important role in breaking down barriers in the wider community.

“Teaching people about my cultural heritage is really a passion of mine; it’s what I really feel connected to,” she said.

“I love the country that we live in. The diversity of the plants, medicine and fruits and the flowers and understanding that and living amongst it is amazing.

“I work with councils to deliver these programs and I encourage a lot of Aboriginal people to join those programs and be on it, learn Noongar language and Noongar culture: get them to take ownership and take it on board.”

Having reconnected with her culture later in life, the well-respected leader is also teaching the next generation to have pride.

“I guess I was in denial for so long because of that shame factor; because I didn’t know and a lot of youth feel that and they deny their Aboriginality,” she said.

“What we do is embrace the young kids and get them to get out of that shame basket and put themselves in the proud basket; this is something (a culture) people want to know and understand.

“We are the best ones to give that knowledge to them and it’s my role to teach those young ones who they are, their connection to country and their cultural identity.

“It’s also nice to change the way some people have thought about our culture.

“I’m only just one avenue – Aboriginal people, the history, is broader than just me. Go out there, see Australia and talk to our people.”

Opinion, page 10