Home Ground Advantage – a yarn with Bonnie

August 21, 2023

Bonnie Welch (nee’ Cavanagh) is a proud Taungurung woman, descendant of John Franklin, self-confessed sports tragic and the kind of deadly person you always want on your team. Growing up, Bonnie set her sights on being either a physio for the Geelong Football Club or a Forensic Investigator. She opted for the path less travelled and completed her criminal justice degree, going on to contribute fourteen years with the Victorian Police in the State Forensics Services Centre in Macleod – despite being told there was no way she’d get a job in Forensics. But she didn’t give up on her sporting ambitions either, she is still a mad Geelong supporter and has been involved – both on and off the ground, with her beloved Broadford Football/Netball Club for twenty years. Bonnie’s passion and determination is now focused on her family and her mob. As Mum to beautiful two-year old daughter Georgia Reign and as the Executive Manager of the Community and Culture division of the Taungurung Land and Waters Council and guide for wawa biik, her future ambition is clear and her drive is even more tenacious.

Tell us about how you've come to work for your Taungurung mob?

I always wanted to work directly for my mob at some point. In my mind though, it was the confidence that was missing for quite some time. I wanted to be fully equipped to bring something to the mob so I could represent them proudly and strongly and that they could be proud of me too. When I saw a position open that really suited my skill set, coinciding with the birth of Georgia and my desire to be closer to home and Country for work, it was a no brainer to apply. I haven’t looked back since and just love everything about working for TLaWC. The team is equally as passionate as I am to support, unite and elevate the Taungurung Nation to great heights. The leadership was also a key factor for me as the organisational values, vision and purpose resonated strongly and I knew with the leaders and Elders involved, we would do some deadly things now and into the future. Image: Bonnie and Aunty Jo with the Kyneton Police

What are your passions outside of work?

I am a sports tragic, mainly AFL. I have been the President of the Broadford Football Netball Club for the past five years and involved for two decades, so it is very much my second home and a passion of mine. I still play netball achieving Life Membership recently for games played at the Broadford FNC. I love everything that sport brings including a sense of purpose, connection, fun, friendships and life-long memories. I am also obsessed with water including water sports and fishing. Living on Country is so special to my family and I, so when we moved back on from Naarm, it of course had to be near water, so Nagambie is now home. However growing up in Broadford, Broadford will always be home, home. Image: Bonnie with Uncle Mick Harding

Is there a part of Taungurung Country that is most special to you? Why?

Everywhere quite honestly! I have so many memories across Country it’s really hard to refine, particularly with it being so beautiful! From Mount Buffalo, Nagambie, Seymour, Eildon, Mansfield, Broadford, Kilmore, Heathcote, Yea, Alex… My family and I have so many stories and connections to place, I just find myself very lucky. I often speak about how when going off-Country, you can immediately sense when you get closer to Taungurung lands. Heading back over the Great Dividing Range gives me that feeling of safety, excitement, and grounding – home. I took this photo on the Goulburn River in Nagambie and I just love it! It was a quiet, warm summer’s day, sun peaking through the trees, gentle movement of the water, peaceful. But the best part is it kind of looks haunted with a ghostly figure in the reflections across the water! Not edited whatsoever, so I like to think its perhaps an Ancestor coming past to say wawa!

What are you most proud of?

I must set the scene to this question by acknowledging my parents who have really defined who I am today. Being young parents from disadvantaged backgrounds, their love, tenacity and sacrifice gave my sister and I such strong foundations for the success we are having today. Through this, it makes me super proud when I can make an impact on people’s lives through the learnings and opportunities I have been given along the journey, be it through my volunteering, friendship group, my team at work, or the Taungurung community. But ultimately, I am proud to make any positive impacts which are grounded in the values instilled in me by my parents. I am also really proud of the work our organisation is doing to create exciting and lasting opportunities for the Taungurung Nation. The future is looking bright! Image: Bonnie, her sister Jaimie, Dad Anthony and Mum Shelley on Bonnie's wedding day

What or who inspires you?

My sister. She is the most beautiful person inside and out, and a very hard worker. She is a wife and mum to three young kids, volunteers a lot of her time to community and works shift work. She is also my unofficial personal assistant as we both lead such hectic lives but she manages to always keep me on track. I swear she has two brains working in there because her multi-tasking is next level and seriously keeps me in line. She also has excellent advice and always has your back.

What do love most about leading wawa biik experiences?

I am a people person, so its nice to connect with others and share pieces of the Taungurung story, including my own. Any opportunity where we can educate and bring others on our shared journey is one to cherish. The experiences are really deadly and I am constantly learning each time. Being outdoors and connecting with Country is also very special. It grounds you and allows you to heal. Image: Bonnie with Uncle Shane on a wawa Euroa experience

Finally....what are your aspirations for the Taungurung community?

That we are always positively united, strong, healthy and proud. We have been here for tens of thousands of years and our mob's resilience, passion and knowledge is to be celebrated and empowered to ensure healthy lives and healthy Country for generations to come.

Take a closer look at the beautiful images on the wawa biik website and newsletter. You may notice they communicate not only the warmth and excitement of the wawa biik journey, but also hint at the pride and connection that the photographer Hunter Callaghan has to his mob and Country. Hunter belongs to the Nira-illim Bulluk Clan of the Taungurung Nation and was born and raised in the western suburbs of Naarm, Bunurong Country. He works as a content producer for RMIT University but is also a freelance photographer driven to capture the faces and places that tell the Taungurung story. Check out our yarn with Hunter to find out more about his culture and photography. Link in bio

#gonagambie #tahbilk #kooriepride #culture #taungurungcountry #nagambielakes #visithighcountryvictoria #visitvictoria #supportlocal #blog #photography
Now presenting - the wawa biik Taungurung Cultural Experiences video premiere!

wawa biik (hello Country in Taungurung language) offers immersive cultural experiences that contribute to the positive future of Taungurung culture and Country. This video provides insight from the wawa biik guides (Uncle Shane and Aunty Jo, Taungurung Elders) into the available experiences and the deep connection to Country shared by Taungurung people. 

Special thanks to Ryan from @luminairepictures and the @wawabiik team for dedication to such a moving outcome. 

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

We look forward to seeing you out on Country!

#gonagambie #euroa #tahbilk #culture #nagambielakes #visithighcountryvictoria #visitvictoria #taungurungcountry #tourismaustralia
“Our wawa biik experiences are built on dhumbak gadhaba (yarning together). We create a safe space for everyone to share and be part of the conversation. We acknowledge that we are all coming to biik (Country) from different places, experiences, understanding and knowledge and that’s ok. Our yarns are about sharing our culture, story and experience but this can only happen when we are there respecting each other, listening to each other, and to biik, our Country, so that we can walk together” - Aunty Jo 

 #culturaltours #tourism #travel #Victoria #explore #SeeAustralia #culturalexperience #culture #history #Taungurung #taungurungcountry #gonagambie
Debbie’s melt in your mouth lemon myrtle cookies have become a much-loved staple of our wawa Euroa experience.  Debbie Redding of Debbie’s Delights has been baking delicious food for over 37 years but more recently has enjoyed learning and experimenting with Indigenous ingredients, including our delicious wawa biik morning teas. As a small business owner living and working on Taungurung Country, taking part in the wawa biik partnership program has given Deb the opportunity to connect with Taungurung Elders and deepen her connection to the land. Deb’s philosophy is all about sharing good food, laughter and quality time on Country with family and friends – we are delighted to have Deb as part of our extended team. Check out our yarn with Deb, link in bio! 

#gonagambie #tahbilk #kooriepride #culture #taungurungcountry #nagambielakes #visithighcountryvictoria #visitvictoria #supportlocal #euroa
Great day on Country today! Thank you to this beautiful group for coming along on our wawa Nagambie Experience. 

#gonagambie #tahbilk #kooriepride #culture #taungurungcountry #nagambielakes #visithighcountryvictoria #visitvictoria #supportlocal