IMA exposure trip to the Juraki Indigenous Surf and Culture event.
It is hard to see certain things unless you are standing in the right place at the right time. Juraki Comi (pronounced Joo-raa-kye and sometimes spelled Churaki) knew this basic idea too well. He was a Minjungbul man of the Bunjalung tribe who lived in and around the Tweed River mouth, on his traditional lands in northern New South Wales in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Churaki was raised in the ways of his tribe and was commissioned by his father, Caomoi, to watch over the dangerous waters of the Tweed and the nearby coast. Fulfilling his cultural duty to take responsibility for the wellbeing of any visitor to his ancestral lands, Churaki performed many daring rescues of non-Indigenous people who did not know how to swim or navigate these beautiful but treacherous waterways. It is fitting, that around a century later, the same local Minjungbul people still reside at Fingal Head across the river from Tweed and have named a surf and culture event in Churaki’s honour. Joel and Mary Slabb are the Bunjalung locals who have had the vision to continue the long links between surfing and their culture.
September 2016 was the second time the Juraki Surf competition and cultural event was held in recent years and it was an immense privilege for IMA to host an exposure trip with four fantastic volunteers from One Community Church (Melbourne). Carly, Bernadette, Tom and Harriet journeyed from Victoria’s cold to volunteer on the sunny and sandy beaches of Fingal, to serve and to learn from the locals, and to explore Indigenous culture and issues in a relaxed and relational context. The event itself was a massive success with contestants and competitors from across Australia, as well as teams from Samoa, Vanuatu and New Zealand. Just as successful was our connection to the local Indigenous Christians and the privilege of being welcomed into their land, their homes and their culture. It is always worth remembering that this event is set against a backdrop of many disadvantages facing Indigenous communities. A stark reminder of this was brothers Joel, Kyle and Josh. While in the midst of running Juraki, they shared a traditional song in support of another community event in Tweed Heads held to raise awareness about the devastating number of young Indigenous people taking their own lives. There are many lessons that we’ll take away from Juraki (and we pray that we’ll keep learning), but what will stay with us will be the overwhelming sense of welcome, and of walking together in celebration and hardship with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
Churaki had to be present to his country and his culture, to stand in the right place on the shore, to know the nuances of the local weather, tides and currents to ultimately save lives. Likewise, God invites us to ‘get to know the locals and their culture’, to understand the ‘lie of the land’ when we do mission in any context. There is an open invitation to join with the locals of Fingal and ‘be in the right place and at the right time’.
The IMA Juraki Exposure trip will run again in September 2017. Email Nick@gmp.org.au for enquiries.
IMA Coordinator East
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