Brothers Jack and George Manantan are members of the Taepithiggi clan, Traditional Owners of the Country where the 2014 Indigenous Fire Workshop was held at Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve.
The love of country demonstrated by the workshop participants has touched the brothers.
“Just look – everyone here is so happy,” George said, on the final day of the workshop.
“It’s been great for the Taepithiggi mob, sharing our stories with everyone. We are all so similar and to have countrymen from different places come to our place, makes us so proud ” he said.
Taepithiggi were successful in a bid to have land returned a year ago, and according to Jack it’s great to be back on country.
He said the ancestral spirits are happy and present to welcome everyone at the smoking ceremony.
“Everyone felt welcome, all good and comfortable on Country. They can see the respect we have for our culture and ourselves and how we look after people,” he said.
Both Jack and George look forward to spending more time on their home country.
Jack reckons he has much to learn, yet there is no better place to be. George looks to future workshops happening on their land.
Both brothers are thankful to Ronnie Guivarra and Dianne Nicholls, Cultural Rangers from Mapoon Land and Sea office for their help with ceremony during the workshop.
“I’m proud of Ronnie and Dianne,” said George.
“It’s well appreciated with what they did.
I’m just happy that everyone is so happy. We are like a big family."
“It’s been unreal to have this here,” Jack said.
Cecil Arthur, who has worked on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve for more than three years, is from the Taepithiggi clan. The fire workshop was a new experience for Cecil, the experience of learning about fire and how it works at various locations meant a lot for him.
“It is significant for Taepithiggi to have the workshop here as we are recognised as a clan of significant stories and connection to this country,” Cecil said.
This event helps to showcase us on a bigger and brighter scale, and provides an opportunity for making new friends and networks,” he said.
Cecil’s mother was removed from Mapoon in 1962 to New Mapoon, and currently lives there.
“One big goal is to bring the family back to country, get them to work here and care and sustain the country like the old people did,” he said. He sees an opportunity with Australia Zoo to keep the unique culture of the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve and Taepithiggi culture and run it together as a partnership.