Nurturing the next generation of Taungurung leaders

April 20, 2023

A big focus for wawa biik is creating space for our Taungurung Elders to spend time with the younger generation on Country to provide them with cultural knowledge, leadership opportunities and confidence in asserting their cultural identity.

Bobbie Pepper, a Wotjobaluk, Gunaikurnai Woman with ties to Taungurung, has a background in creating and delivering Koori Leadership programs and is proud to head up the Taungurung Youth Group called Wayilak Bayubarring (meaning youth round circle). We yarn with Bobbie about the importance of creating this fun and safe space for Taungurung youth to lead their own vision, have a voice, and stay connected with each other and their culture to drive the future that they want to see.  

How was Wayilak Bayubarring established?

This name and the concept for a youth advisory group was something Taungurung Youth were asking for before I commenced working with Taungurung Land and Waters Council. The founders of this group are Traditional Owner Youth who have so many fond memories of coming together for camps and cultural days growing up. When Covid-19 started and lockdowns became the norm they were deeply hindered by the lack of connection to each other and missing out on the mentorship of their peers but also their Elders’ guidance and cultural teachings. In May 2022 we held our Inaugural Youth Camp at Commonground in Hilldene. Commonground was built for the purpose of First Nations People and holds a special place in the Youth’s heart given their Ancestors connection to that land. This was not only the start of Wayilak Bayubarring but a real coming together to create the vision and purpose of the group with true passion and driving force to grow. With a fire in their bellies, they wanted to create something meaningful for themselves but also a group of Young People their Elders could be proud of. Minds and values aligned to create Wayilak Bayubarring as it is today and growing for the future.

What is the purpose of the youth group?

Wayilak Bayubarring is full of our future leaders and a place for the Taungurung Youth to grow and learn while setting goals and visions in which I have the privilege to coordinate, from little things, big things grow, and they are certainly doing this. Wayilak Bayubarring members have set themselves up as real leaders of young people across Taungurung Country and I am immensely proud of every one of them. They are trailblazers for First Nations Young People and show up at every opportunity to help each other grow and evolve into the deadly young adults they are.

So what does the group have planned for 2023?

They have a huge year planned as we get set to head to the snow (this being the first time for many of them), our official launch of Wayilak Bayubarring in August, our Annual Summit in November as well as their own goals and daily lives where they are completing VCE, working full time, at university and more. We are so excited to have wawa biik as a safe and inviting place for Wayilak Bayubarring to grow their skill set while we start planning for a special tour for the Elders over NAIDOC week. If you are lucky enough to have Jonah as your tour guide on a wawa biik experience you are in the presence of not only a founder of Wayilak Bayubarring but a future leader in the making. Jonah's leadership, love of Country and his People really drives Wayilak Bayubarring to be strong, courageous, and resilient.

wawa biik is proud to champion the achievements and voices of Wayilak Bayubarring in all that we do.

Ashley Wilkinson is a proud Taungurung man of the Yeerum-Illiam-Balluk clan, which is below the Benalla and Mansfield area. Ash works as a Field Service Officer conducting cultural surveys and is also a wawa biik guide. We yarn with Ash to learn more about his perspectives regarding cultural heritage. It’s well worth pulling him aside for a yarn on our wawa biik tours too as he’s got some great insights to share. Head to our bio to read this blog. 

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