I recently visited the Orara East State Forest on a picture-perfect Saturday morning to attend the Award-Winning Giingan Gumbaynggirr cultural experience.

Heading north from Coffs Harbour, I left the highway and followed the windy Bruxner Park Road up the hill to the meeting point at the cultural site of Niigi Niigi(Sealy Lookout).

The first look at the land of the Gumbaynggirr people from the Forest Sky Pier was breathtaking, views stretching across the key features of Munim-Munim (Moonee Beach) in the north to Nunguu Miirlarl (Pickett Hill) in the south.

Starting at Niigi Niigi (Sealy Lookout), as a group we experienced cultural dance and smoke ceremony lead. It’s clear that these passionate guides have a gift for teaching and education and has bestowed on themselves a responsibility to perpetuate Gumbaynggirr tradition for generations to come. They spoke about the importance of culture, the stories of the Gumbaynggirr people, history and their language. Their culture is one of inclusiveness.

Soon the smells of damper filled the air, made with flour from the seeds of basket grass (lomandra longifolia) traditionally collected by the Gumbaynggirr women. We’d later learn the ingredients for the flour could be found close to where we sat.

Damper Making

After the initial ceremony and traditional damper making, we set out on a short walk along the sloping Gumgali Track, with stops at points of interest where stories were told and we could experience hands-on the plants of the area and their various uses. We tasted native sarsaparilla (hardenbergia violacea),  which is high in Vitamin C. Helping people in need is law of the Gumbaynggirr people and the sarsaparilla plant was provided to early European settlers when they arrived to remedy scurvy. We learned other plants and their uses too, the stem of the bracken fern for ant bite, the cutting of bark from the eucalypts for canoes, how to find a suitable branch to make a boomerang and sap for antiseptic from the blood-woods of the area. If you’re interested in spotting wildlife, some groups have been lucky enough to see a koala or two.

Culture Tour at Orara East State Forest

The Giingan Experience is a popular experience for both locals and visitors from interstate and overseas enjoying their holiday on the Coffs Coast.  If you do visit Sealy Lookout and the surrounding area, I recommend joining the Giingan Gumbaynggirr cultural experience, for someone who grew up in the area I was amazed at how much I learned throughout the day.

The Giingan Gumbaynggirr cultural experience runs on a monthly basis throughout the year. Click here to book or find out more.

By taking part in this experience, you are making a direct contribution to the revitalisation of Gumbaynggirr language and culture. 

Click here find out more about Gumgali Track.

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