Gotha's message for knowledge and learning

Kathy Gotha Guthadjaka Bower Bird

I would like to share some insight gleaned from the nesting habits of the Bower Bird.

Kathy (Gotha) Guthadjaka

NT Senior Australian of the Year  


Kathy Gotha Guthadjaka Bower Bird

The way ancient generations of Bower Birds made their nests from sticks and grass and decorated them with shells and pebbles. They kept a special pattern for their nest.

Old Nest – traditional knowledge in old forms; only shells and nuts

Traditional knowledge in its original form ; it’s where the language and culture and knowledge is coming from ; the land, the nest…

Same goes for Yolngu; without the land, we have nothing to create a nest for our young people

Like the bush turkey living in town; they’re trying to live like the old way but they can’t like they are in the bush.

Gotha Kathy Guthadjaka Bower Bird

Today the colors and content of the decorations have changed. Some keep colored glass, some like green, some like blue—some even keep a mobile phone and a bit of cash handy. Everything is mixed together and the bird is living in two worlds. , filled with mixed treasures from old and new.

So if children have access to traditional education and modern learning too, then they will thrive in both worlds; their homeland and the western world.  They feel safe in their homelands, when they carry their homeland knowledge with them they can feel strong.

Gotha Kathy Guthadjaka Bower Bird

There are guardians and protectors outside – to stop theft of the treasured knowledge, but this can also protect and manage too much from outside influences and not acknowledge authority of the guardians.

Gotha Kathy Guthadjaka Bower Bird

Not everything is accepted and the pattern has not changed. The Bower Bird keeps a clear pathway and line of vision from its nest.

My people are like the Bower Bird. Warramiri are colourful people, yet we discern. The clear path needs to be made ; When you have a clear path you can organise and see clearly.

Gotha Kathy Guthadjaka Bower Bird

Then treasured things can be kept safe and valued, and some can be shared, give comfort or teach us valuable lessons in two worlds.

Mulwat is a treasure – like traditional knowledge and western knowledge together we can learn from and share with each other –

Like the school at my homeland Gäwa; Yolngu children are learning both Yolngu and Balanda knowledge together

It is the learning from this analogy that I would like to share with Australia as a result of this research and award.

Gäwa – a remote homeland community on tip of Elcho Island in north-east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
Warramiri - is the name of one of the ‘clans’ and language groups of the Yolŋu Indigenous people of north-east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
Yolgnu - Indigenous Australians of north-east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory
Balanda – a white person
Mulwat – something of great value or treasure
Bower Bird – a bird which crafts nest-like structures, known as bowers, and decorates them with attention-getting items.