KARI Foundation’s Cultural Connection to Healing Country

This year’s NAIDOC Week celebrations were unfortunately disrupted once again due to COVID-19. We believe it is still important to celebrate NAIDOC Week as best as we can, specifically to recognise the importance of this year’s theme, ‘Heal Country’.

Troy Dargan is employed as the Cultural Unit Manager at the KARI Foundation and is a key contributor to our Cultural Unit Program.

Troy is a proud Gumbaynggirr man from Nambucca heads, with links to Yuin country, Wallaga Lake on his mother’s side and Wiradjuri people from Dunedoo and Wellington on his father’s side.

Healing country is healing yourself, healthy country equals healthy people and healthy culture. When country is healthy our mother provides us with all the food and resources we could ever need. When I carve I disconnect from the urbanised life and it helps me block out all of the noises of the contemporary life we live today. When I carve I feel connected to country where I am sculpting a block of time into a piece of art just the way our ancestors would have. – Troy on this years NAIDOC Theme

Troy’s Carving Journey

Troy began his carving journey back in 2016 in Port Augusta, South Australia and has returned every year, with the exception of 2020.

“This opportunity allowed me to develop new skills and knowledge, along with forging some solid relationships. Both the Nukunu and Adnyamathanha people have been extremely welcoming and accommodating to my every need during my time spent out on country with my mentors and master carvers, Patrick Ferguson and Uncle Roy Coulthard.”

Since beginning his journey, Troy’s trips to South Australia have been life changing for the way he sees and respects Aboriginal culture and country. Some items Troy has carved over the years have been exhibited at the Yurtu Ardla Exhibition in the South Australia Museum in Adelaide.

“I had mixed emotions about the exhibition as I was excited for my carvings to be in the same museum that has the highest number of Aboriginal items in the world then on the other hand, I was still grieving the loss of my father who we only buried the week before it started.”

Every year Troy has returned from these trips with an enriching amount of knowledge and has been able to share what he has learnt with his sons, as well as a number of groups including some NRL clubs.

“Carving is something I would like to be able to do more of; when I carve feel like it soothes my soul and is very therapeutic”.

Troy was honoured to  carve custom pieces for representatives of the men’s and women’s teams All Star’s teams in 2021.

The piece of wood used to make the boomerang for Latrell Mitchell was given to Troy back in 2018 from Uncle Dave, an Elder from Walgett who had received the natural material from another elder in Lightning Ridge.

The natural shape of the timber allowed Troy to create a piece to be proud of and he was able to present Latrell with the artefact at training, providing a fitting close to this yearlong craftsmanship journey.

“I knew this piece of gidgee would make a beautiful boomerang and I have been saving it for something special like this.”

Troy also hand carved a pair of clapsticks for the Women’s Indigenous All Star’s Captain, Tallisha Harden. These clapsticks were carved with mulga, which was cut for him by Uncle Choppy and Uncle Benno during a visit to Brewarrina last September.

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