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HomeLifestyleWelcome to whales Indigenous ceremony at Avalon

Welcome to whales Indigenous ceremony at Avalon

An Indigenous Whale Welcome to Ocean Country ceremony took place at Avalon Beach on Friday 24 June, hosted by Living Ocean, the environmental association that promotes awareness of humanity’s impact on the ocean.

The occasion, held beside Avalon Surf Life Saving Club, was a community gathering to acknowledge the annual northerly whale migration, which takes place along Australia’s East Coast between May and November.

This year, an estimated 35,000 cetaceans will swim north to warmer waters, where they feed and breed before returning south for the summer. Some whales species swim as far as 10,000km during their annual migration.

Matt the didgeridoo player is accompanied by kids with Indigenous clapping sticks on Avalon Beach. Photo: Alec Smart

The Whale Welcome to Ocean Country event, which included a traditional smoking ceremony by Garigal elder Uncle Neil, and didgeridoo played by Matt, was addressed by David Cousins, Living Ocean Vice President, and Robbi Newman, the organisation’s co-Founder.

David Cousins told the gathering, which took place an hour after sunrise and included a gathering of local children on their way to school, that “the preservation of the marine ecosystem to boost whale populations is paramount, as the lungs of our planet actually reside in the ocean.”

Uncle Neil, Garigal elder, undertakes a smoking ceremony to welcome whale migration at Avalon Beach. Photo: Alec Smart

Whale poo

David also joked about the importance of thousands of whales’ toilet excretions as they swim along the coast, which provides vital nutrients and minerals for a myriad of sea creatures that feed on it.

Furthermore, he added, by providing sustenance for phytoplankton, whales enable these microscopic marine algae to remove significantly more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than trees, reducing the global warming.

Afterwards, children with Indigenous clapping sticks followed Matt the digeridoo player to the ocean’s edge where they squidged the wet sand from side-to-side beneath their bare feet, creating squeaking noises. This symbolically recreates the sounds dolphins make to communicate with each other, and is a customary and spiritual means to ‘call the whales’.

Matt the didgeridoo player leads kids with Aboriginal clapping sticks to the shoreline at the Living Ocean Indigenous Welcome to Ocean for Whale Migration ceremony on Avalon Beach. Photo: Alec Smart

The Garigal, a saltwater people from the Northern Beaches, traditionally ranged from Dee Why Lagoon north to Broken Bay and west to Terrey Hills, encompassing Pittwater, Cowan Creek and upper Middle Harbour Creek. Their clan totem is the whale.

Living Ocean, based at Palm Beach and originally part of the Sea Shepherd international direct action ocean conservation organisation, has a mission statement “to see the health of our oceans recover to benefit all life on Earth.”

The event was also timed to notify people of the forthcoming 23rd Great Whale Census Day on Sunday June 26, a public count of cetaceans overseen by ORRCA, the Organisation for the Rescue & Research of Cetaceans in Australia. Manly Observer covered the event here.

Matt plays didgeridoo during the Indigenous Welcome to Ocean for Whale Migration at Avalon Beach. Photo: Alec Smart

Living Ocean

https://www.livingocean.org.au/

Sea Shepherd

https://www.seashepherd.org.au/

ORRCA

https://www.orrca.org.au/

Reporting distressed or entangled whales

02 9415 3333

Dr Sophie Scamps, MP for Warringah, with David Cousins, Vice president of Living Ocean, Robbi Newman, co-Founder of Living Ocean, Uncle Neil, Garigal elder and Matt the didgeridoo player at the Indigenous Welcome to Ocean for Whale Migration at Avalon Beach.  Photo: Alec Smart

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