Naaguja family opens a new chapter for Dreamtime storytelling in Geraldton

Headshot of Lisa Favazzo
Lisa FavazzoGeraldton Guardian
Yvonne Radcliff, Zamaria Councillor, Derek Councillor, Amelia Councillor.
Camera IconYvonne Radcliff, Zamaria Councillor, Derek Councillor, Amelia Councillor. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

A Naaguja family has educated tourists, blow-ins and people born and bred in Geraldton about their culture since the 1990s.

But, this week, their phones were ringing off the hook after a successful rebrand shifted their venture up a gear.

Derek Councillor, who runs Daarrgi Naaguja, is over the moon. He loves what he does and he can't wait to fill his booking diary.

“We just tell the stories like we were telling them to our kids,” he said.

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“We don’t have to rehearse anything. It is straightforward and from the heart. People get drawn right into it and really listen.

“It offers them an insight to our Naaguja way of life and our culture. People who have been on our tours have been here six or seven generations and we take them to a spring they don't know existed.”

The rebrand involved a new tour bus decorated with traditional art and graphic design, an enhanced social media presence and fresh uniforms. The venture also got a new name, with Daarrgi referring to Mr Councillor’s Yamatji name.

“I’ve had that since I was child,” he said.

“In the Pilbara, it means turkey. Here, it means one with people.

“One name could have three of four different meanings between the different language groups.”

Mr Councillor said none of this would be possible without his aunty and Naaguja elder, Yvonne Radcliff, who founded the business.

“With her blessing, nothing can go wrong with us. It is just full steam ahead for us now,” he said.

Mrs Radcliff was born on the Chapman River and has seen the local area change dramatically in her lifetime. For her, this project is about spreading to the world that Naaguja culture is alive and well.

The family have deep roots in the Geraldton region, with their recorded history going back to Mr Councillor’s great-grandparents Barrowa and Jooldarnoo.

Derek Councillor's great-grandparents Barrowa and Jooldarnoo.
Camera IconDerek Councillor's great-grandparents Barrowa and Jooldarnoo. Credit: Supplied

Clippings from newspapers at the turn of the 20th century show Barrowa to be somebody who used his voice to speak on behalf of other Indigenous people and skills to cure them of their ailments

“The stories were always there. I was getting on and Derek came in to take over. I am sure the elders called him back and I am sure they would be so glad and so pleased,” said Mrs Radcliff.

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