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Bernadette Hardy

Balawaa (no one is left behind) 

Bernadette Hardy Gamilaraay | Darug (Cannemegal) 

Gamilaraay | Darug (Cannemegal) 

Gamilaraay Dharug Languages


November, 2022.

​​I have written this for the amazing women who created a place of belonging for our autistic daughter to thrive and belong. I’d like to dedicate it to them – Aunty Marnie and Auntie Jo, Aboriginal women healing and providing pathways in early learning.

Following this is an exercise, provided to stimulate a dialogue with the ideas in the story.

This story begins with two sisters, Waan (Crow) and Burrugarrbuu (Magpie), growing up near Guragurang waterways and following in the footsteps of Bidjigal resistance warrior Bembul Wuyan, who was known to transform into a crow! Wann and Burrugarrbuu were born into The Dreaming, however, after the catastrophe of Colonisation in 1788, they became disconnected from their place of belonging, the Saltwater of the Yuin Nation… and found themselves very, very far from Balgan Mountain!

The Dreaming forms stories of the creation of Country. It is a kinship system integrating all living and non-living things together in harmony, as Dhiiyann (Family). It is Gunimaa (Mother Earth), Bubba Gunagala (Father Sky), Dhaadhaa (Grandfather Sun), Dhhiyann (Grandmother Moon) dancing together, with intention. 

Dreaming and story are Everywhen (past, present and future interconnected), born from Country, written in sacred places, visible and invisible to the eye but felt with the heart (boot boot), thus informing Law. 

It is impossible to change Law, no matter how much Mula (Money), how much power or privilege one thinks they have. Country is a gift of belonging. With it comes the obligation to care for six seasons. This influences the way we behave together as kin. We call this Lore, it sings back to Law. We are Country.  Country is the place from which we come, for which we yearn, long to find healing from and return to…our spirit returning, one day becoming an ancestral spirit too!

Following 1788, disconnection sat in the hearts of Waan and Buruugarrbuu. The impact of Colonisation is devastating, creating disconnection and removing a sense of belonging. Resilient and determined, the sisters lived in two worlds – one in the shape of a triangle with the human at the top, the other a circle of belonging and connection.

Circles replaced with triangles, Waan and Buruugarrbuu were forced to migrate against the natural curvilinear songlines woven with Country, created in harmony for over Yulimara (Sixty Five) Dhawadha (Thousand) years.

All the Dhigarra (Birds) became confused and disconnected. The system’s natural flow came to a grinding halt. Country was lonely and crying as the children learned to adapt or die; seeing her natural, intertwined systems break down, a climate crisis for Gunimaa (Mother Earth), terribly sick.

Despite it all the sisters remained close, vulnerable yet still determined and clever. Together they explored and enjoyed Dharug and Dharawal Country, mapping out a plan. With offspring they gently and quietly lived in harmony with the six seasons, as their ancestors had done forever. For the next three decades, at the rising of the sun, Bawaa (older sister) Waan and Miimii (little sister) Burrugarrbuu met young fellas on down by the mangroves of the Baramada River, a place that offers food and shelter for all. Every day the Dhirridhirri (Willy Wagtail), Muraay (Cockatoo), Gugurrgaagaa (Kookaburra), Gila (Galah), Wiidaa (Bowerbird), Mudhay (Brushtail), and Garrawirr (Ringtail) joined, as Waan & Burrugarrbuu cleverly created a place of Re(Dreaming), a place for young fellas to become custodians, learn resilience and experience a true sense of Belonging, a place for all where Balawaa (no one is left behind).

By the campfire, they shared stories under the stars, Unc from Muruwari sung to help healing, Wumbat (Wombat) wriggled it, just a little bit and Burrugarrbuu smiled. Dharawal, Bidjigal Dhungutti warrior shared the story of how the Bandaar (kangaroo) got his pouch, the little fellas’ eyes growing wide all the while, reflecting Venus in the night sky. Belonging is connecting with Country….it can never end when we treat all as kin.

The young fellas grew strong from Waan, from vulnerability emerged strength. Harry Bird joined, and the wise tawnies watched on, dropping occasional feathers as welcome connection from up high in the towering ancestor gum. Their place of learning was happening on the path of the Rainbow Serpent, who lovingly carved the Dharawal Garden.

One bright summer day, unexpectedly Murray (White Cockatoo) flew into the Dharawal garden. Disconnected from her Gamilaraay homelands, she had heard about this special place of belonging. Dhuga-djuu little ones with her Yuwagayrr (Ibis), Thuuraay (Light) and Yuluwirri Wiithaa (Rainbow Bowerbird) also came. Murray wasn’t in good shape, Ngarragaa (Poor/Dirty) feathers dishevelled by the triangles of economic growth.

Disconnection turned to hope as the sisters embraced their vulnerabilities, offering up a doorway of love, acceptance and belonging. It’s this Wii (fire) that encouraged Murray to re(dream)! Crow and Magpie cared for the Yuwagayrr, Thuuraay and Yuluwirri Wiithaa.. As her wings were repaired and her feathers began to shine; she began to look Dhiraabuu (flash). Before too many seasons had passed, she was able to find new strength, and her children became clever. Together with Bubaa (Father/Dhaadhaa) and Baagii (Mother) they found the strength to fly back to Gamilaraay lands for healing, and returned strong. It’s amazing what kindness and belonging can provide when Country is kin.

Walgan (Aunty) Waan and Burrugarrbuu encouraged the children to find their voice amongst the Yilu-gi (play/ing), Bawi-li (Sing/ing) Dha/li (Eating), Mawu-gi (digging). The children were at one with all of Country, Harry Bird and Garygan imprinted in our Bootboot (heart) forever.

As Murray began to recover, elders Aunty Beth and Uncle John helped her reconnect mother tongue, disconnected through trauma to (re)dream the foundations I now share with you. Walgan Waan and Burrugarrbuu –The love they showed we share with the children, in places of belonging created with love in the face of adversity: Balawaa; ‘no one is left behind’.  

Garriya Gaaramali: Don’t Steal!
Garrriya Bumali: Do not kill!
Garriya yaal dhanggili : Do not tell lies!
Garriya Bumalay: Do not fight!
Guluma-li Gunimaa: Care for Mother Earth
Narrangarra-li guru-mayuu: Look after Country
Ngarrangarra-li maa-gu bula: Look after totems
Gunimaa ngarrangarra-li nginaalinya: Mother Earth will look after you
Bubba gulama-bahhaay nginaay-nyi: Father God (Baiame) will care for you

Gaba Nginda Yaalu (Good you, later) 


On an A4 piece of paper, can you share a drawing or painting that is an example of how you have felt belonging in a place of learning?

Bernadette Hardy is a Gamilaraay & Dharug designer, and co-leader of hardyhardy. B is actively working in the built environment to raise the voice of Country within the design process. Driving much of her creative work is a responsiveness to her identity and lived experience of raising a family with autistic culture.  Much of her knowledge and values have been shaped by her father, a Gamilaraay and Dharug master craftsman. 

B is undertaking a practice-led PhD that seeks to understand how we sense space from an Indigenous Standpoint. This research interweaves two-eyed-seeing; Indigenous (Country Centered Design) and mainstream (Human Centered Design) worldviews. This gift of multiple perspectives, when blended mindfully together, allows us to link knowledge systems, explore differences and provide design solutions for belonging; where no one is left behind.