Tree charts community bonds

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A sizeable family tree created by Mulga Bore School students, their parents, and members of the community, is demonstrating societal links to the mother and father of Tommy Bird Mpetyane and renowned painter Lindsay Bird Mpetyane.

The genealogical map captured the attention of a community quarantined to prevent the invasion of coronavirus.

Teaching principal Pesala Brown began the enterprise based on a “small part of the Bird family tree I came across in a Darwin gallery”.

“I took a photo of the section because I had worked with the Birds, and knew the family,” she said.

“After my appointment to the school I printed the photo, and with the help of assistant teacher Colleen Wallace we launched the project as part of our Indigenous Language and Culture program, and started to expand the tree.

“We began with Frank Bird and Rosie Nungarri, the parents of Lindsay and Tommy Bird. While Lindsay had three daughters, his brother Tommy had seven children — mostly Mulga Bore residents — including renowned artist Paddy Bird Nungari, now deceased.”

Ms Brown said all the families in the community are related to the Birds, and there were huge gatherings of people wanting to make contributions to the record.

“On a wall-mounted display board we added our photos of (Bird) family members, and then drew all the diverging hereditary connections,” she said.

“We have added skin names and totems belonging to students, their parents and grandparents.

“The tree has expanded our knowledge of Country and inspired traditional stories, such as the successful negotiations by Lindsay and Tommy Bird to ensure the return of part of Artartinga Station (Woodgreen Station) to the Anmatyerr people.

“We’ve written a song about Lindsay Bird, his dreaming story, and the history of how he got the land back for his people.”

The tree is an ongoing project, used as a reference point for learning about Country and culture.

Tree charts community bonds
Nathan Bird (Tommy Bird's grandson) and Nikeria Moore (Lindsay Bird's granddaughter).

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