What have homemade tattoos got to do with The Dog Act of 1883?

Gordon Marshall, a Karajarri man, remembers giving himself homemade tattoos as a twelve or thirteen year old. He shaved his arm and then used the burning sap-slimed seeds of the Willing tree to dissolve designs into his skin. It was a kind of toughness test, so despite the searing pain, there was no way he flinched.

This is one of the stories told as part of a joint Nyikina Mangala and Karajarri cultural awareness package and over the last month, KRED Enterprises has delivered a number of the packages.

Robert Watson, who’s also delivering the training, says the key aim is to foster appreciation by giving people a fair and accurate picture of Indigenous culture and history.

“We’ve had Prime Ministers pay homage time and again to Aboriginal people, we’ve even had a Prime Minister say sorry, but for many people, these are bare political statements. Our cultural awareness packages are about giving meaning to these statements. They’re about peeling back the dry layers of history to reveal a very real, a very human face.”

The joint package spans 50,000 years of Indigenous history, moving from the complexities of Karajarri kinship ties to the devastating legacy of the Stolen Generations; from basic bush medicine to The Dog Act of 1883.

Robert Watson says we can’t challenge the status quo, or even understand why the status quo exists today, unless we understand this history.

“Until we understand history, we are unable to put the journey of Aboriginal people into context; we are unable to appreciate the annihilation, dispossession, insecurity and marginalisation from policies and decision-making processes.”

Gordon Marshall says it’s important people working on Karajarri Country undergo the training.

“When people come out onto Country, they need to know about Country. They need to know about the places they can and can’t go. If they’re told not to go there, then no means no. This cultural awareness package gives them a better understanding of why this is important.”

The packages are a part of the work KRED does with companies to ensure any development on our members’ Country is designed and operated to meet the highest environmental and cultural standards. They are run through KRED’s wholly owned subsidiary company EHSIS and are part of KRED’s mission to create positive legacies for our members in the Kimberley.

While participants aren’t required to stick their arms out for a bush-tattoo, we are confident that the material in our packages will leave a positive mental tattoo: one that reminds us of the need for mutual respect and mutual understanding in all our personal and commercial relationships.