People and Places
02/09/2020
Connecting Culture through deadly determination

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Kayla Cartledge is a proud Gurrindji woman. Born on Larrakia land up north, this 29-year-old innovator who is committed to providing a platform for Indigenous Australians to connect with Culture comes from strong beginnings. Spending the first eight years of her life surrounded by impenetrable Culture in the Top End, Kayla and her Indigenous mother, non-Indigenous father and sister moved to the Mornington Peninsula and things were different. 

Kayla explains: “Everything was different. Culture is everywhere in Darwin and the language is different too. No one knew what I was saying when I went to school at Eastbourne Primary in Rosebud. No one knew what ‘deadly’ meant. There were only a couple of Aboriginal people at the school and Mum was about the only mother who would come into the classroom to help, which is what she did in the Northern Territory. 

“It was difficult because my parents were telling me how important it was to keep Culture alive and yet that wasn’t the message I was getting outside of the home. I spent a lot of time trying to find out who I needed to be in each situation and had to find a way to amalgamate the two different sides of myself. I felt quite isolated not having clear sources of Indigenous Culture around me while I was growing up. That’s where the idea for Our Songlines began.”

Honoured to be living on Bunurong/Boon Wurrung land, this former Padua student’s desire for Indigenous traditional owners to be able to connect from coast to coast has resulted in something really special. Kayla continues: “A songline represents a verbal story that supersedes time or place but navigates one through land, lore and position within Indigenous Australia society. Different people within tribes have different songlines, which can be to do with practical/knowledgeable things or spiritual things. We chose Our Songlines to be our name as we are inviting you into our culture and into our story. 

“We began building our Google Maps platform last year, which looks like an Indigenous language map covered with Indigenous symbols. You can click on a symbol and listen to the stories from the people of that area in English. It took about three months to develop the basis of the map and it comes from a healing perspective. There are Indigenous businesses and points of interest included on it, and any Indigenous or non-Indigenous Australian can hear, see, learn and connect with each other and Indigenous history. Down the track we’d like to include Indigenous languages.” 

Kayla is hoping to have the map launched by the end of October and is currently working part-time in cultural auditing within the youth sector. This beach, bush and book-loving Bachelor of Commerce mover and shaker who now lives in McCrae is ready, set, go. Deadly.

To find out more, go to www.oursonglines.com

LIZ ROGERS 

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