Totems pay tribute to Tabulam’s past and future

Tabulam Public School has unveiled four magnificent totem poles celebrating connection to Country and people as part of NAIDOC Week. Luke Horton reports.

Four totem poles around a circle created with sandstone blocks. Four totem poles around a circle created with sandstone blocks.
Image: The four totem poles at Tabulam Public are part of the school's yarning circle.

Four new totem poles now proudly stand watch over the Tabulam Public School yarning circle.

The totem poles represent the town’s deep connection to Country and its people and were unveiled as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations at the school.

The school’s Aboriginal Education Officer and local Elder, Aunty Carmel McGrady, said the poles were carved by Tabulam artist Shaun Dunwoodie from four beams salvaged from the old timber bridge that once spanned the Clarence River in the town.

“The students are so proud of them,” she said.

“They’re absolutely unique and it’s not just how they look, but the history they represent.”

Aunty Carmel said local Aboriginal Elder and cultural knowledge keeper, Poppy Harry Walker Mundine, was born near the old bridge.

“Poppy Harry was born in a big house near the old bridge. He’s the keeper of our stories and it was important there was that connection back to him as well,” she said.

Aunty Carmel said the animals represented on the four totems were all important to the local Wahlubal tribe of the Bundjalung Nation.

“They all have a cultural connection to our people. They represent our place and our food,” she said.

“Our totem, the eagle ‘Mibin’, is the warrior, and the kangaroo, goanna and the short-necked freshwater turtle are our food.

“The other important animal represented is the possum, ‘Guyahyn’, the messenger. He lets us know when there is going to be a death.”

Two wooden poles. Two wooden poles.
Image: 'Mibin', the eagle, and 'Guyahyn', the possum, are both represented on the totem poles.
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