Uncle Mark Flanders is a true storyteller. He has the unique ability to bring his audience along on a journey, weaving tales rich in indigenous tradition and history. “I’m a custodian and knowledge holder for my country and culture and I’m passionate about educating people about these ancient lands,” says Mark. And the fortunate audience at this year’s Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival will have the opportunity to be captivated by the man and his passion.
Born and bred on Gumbaynggirr Wajaarr (Country), Uncle Mark is a highly respected local Elder. “When I was a young man I made the conscious decision to become more culturally engaged,” says Mark. After an initial training in the timber and cabinet making industry, Mark left to work with the Yarrawarra Aboriginal Corporation where he learnt from the Garbi Elders. “This was a time of learning about our culture and the natural environment,” says Mark. The Elders were the knowledge holders and through their storytelling I acquired the knowledge,” says Mark.
Uncle Mark is keenly aware of the importance of indigenous storytelling to the preservation of Aboriginal culture. “We have lost too much already. The truth needs to be told,” says Mark. Indigenous stories aren’t traditionally transcribed, only increasing the significance of Mark’s mission. “There is a beauty in storytelling. It is powerful. It appeals to the broadest audience, to people of different backgrounds and ages,” says Mark.
A member of the Garby Elders of Red Rock/Corindi and a member of the Garlambirla Guuyu-Girrwaa Elders group in Coffs Harbour, Mark is also an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife. These combined roles allow Mark to share his stories of striking cultural significance with 100’s of schoolchildren, locals and tourists to his country. “For some children the gaining of traditional knowledge can be life-changing. Put a spark to the fire year’s ago and it will still be burning today,” says Mark.
On Sunday 9th June at 11.30 am, Uncle Mark Flanders will share the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival stage with Professor Marcia Langton AM, anthropologist and geographer, and Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne; local ‘hatted’ indigenous chef and the star of TV cooking program ‘Wild Kitchen’, Clayton Donovan; and Aunty Shaa Smith, who was part of the team that began the revitalisation and maintenance of Gumbaynggirr language through Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative. The session- ‘Gayirray’ (Talking Together)- Indigenous Writing and Storytelling, will be chaired by local Gumbaynggirr figure Michael (Micklo) Jarrett.
- Gayirray (Talking Together): Indigenous Writing & Storytelling
Sunday 9 June