Noongar elder Trevor Walley looks at life in a practical way

Noongar Elder Trevor Walley doesn’t like to use the word ‘pride’.

“There aren’t any proud moments, life is to be proud,” Trevor says. “There’s not a word in our vocabulary for proud, it’s called happy.

“You are sad when you are sad and happy when you are happy and once your life is fulfilled, that’s when you are proud.

“If you don’t carry on drinking and smoking your life gets better.”

Trevor was born in Pinjarra but grew up in Medina where he says he had a fabulous childhood.

He has family connections across Noongar country, from Moora and Albany, through to Jerramungup, and Kellerberrin. 

“We had no money, but we had the greatest time of our lives.

“As long as you have a bed and food you walk out the door, you have a great life.”

Trevor was born in 1957 in an era that didn’t have all the technology we have now.

“The tree was a swing and we had bows and arrows, shanghais and the bush, when Medina was full of bush. It’s about the joy of life.

“The best moments are when you jump off a rope and you swing out and you swing back or you’re on a bike with the fresh air in your face.”

You will often see Trevor out and about delivering his Welcome to Country.

And while he is passionate about getting the Aboriginal cultural message across, Trevor says it’s not something he wants to force down people’s throats.

“I think people’s lives are very busy. The broader community, white community, have their own hopes and aspirations.

“I don’t need to impress anyone, I do my job and I do it well.

“I don’t really engage with people and I don’t really care about people, all I want when I do a job is to do it well. 

“I want to do my culture properly and do it the best I can.”

As an example of being in the moment Trevor recalls seeing a segment on television recently where a man visiting caves at the top end of Queensland was excitedly talking about how he was going to go back down south to tell the wider community about Aboriginal culture.

His Aboriginal host told the man that was not what he was here for.

“There’s so many things going through your brain. Relax, just relax you are going to burn yourself out, you’re not enjoying the moment you’re with me. We’re here to look at the caves and you’re talking about going down south and changing people’s attitudes, but that’s not what we’re here for. Let’s focus on the moment.” 

It’s a sentiment Trevor agrees with.

“I’m not going to change anyone. I’m not going to and I don’t want to. I am what I am. People see I’m an Aboriginal person and if they want to engage, I will engage, but I won’t go out of my way to engage because otherwise I’ll be all burnt up inside. 

“Because you can’t lead a donkey to a trough you can’t make them drink, so don’t worry about it and don’t try and change anything.”

Trevor says he reserves his energy for when he is on stage so he can give 100 per cent. 

Have a Go News met him when he provided an inspiring Welcome to Country for WA Ballet’s Ballet at the Quarry.

“When you are doing a Welcome you’re 100 per cent. That’s all you can do. You shouldn’t be running around chasing anything because you’re on stage and that’s when the best comes out and that’s the appropriate time – at the event – so I really don’t want to chat to anyone, I don’t want to have negatives in my brain.

“I just want to enjoy life, and the happiness comes out of life. If people can see that I’m Aboriginal and if they want to engage with an Aboriginal, they have got to engage with me. I don’t engage with them. You always have to know which way to go.” 

Trevor says with plane loads of tourists arriving wanting to learn about Aboriginal culture it can be time-consuming.

“We only make up less than three per cent of the population.”

When people do want to engage Trevor says he takes it gently to break the ice.

“But I would not support trying to change the world or impress people. Because all we’re doing is making ourselves feel bad. We are actually hurting ourselves by someone who doesn’t really want to be engaged. 

“But when you do engage people, they will follow you up and they will remember you,” he said.

Previous articleAra’s life lessons and enlightenment interviewing older people
Next articleAcross the water – indigenous art exhibition
Journalist and public relations specialist Allen Newton has worked across major media organisations in Western Australia and PR locally and internationally. He and wife Helen Ganska operate Newton Ganska Communications. Allen started his journalism career at the long defunct Sunday Independent and went on to become the founding editor for news website PerthNow, Managing Editor of The Sunday Times and PerthNow and then Editor-In-Chief of news website WAtoday. As well as news, he has been an editor of food and wine, real estate, TV and travel sections. He’s done everything from co-hosting a local ABC television pop show, to editing a pop music section called Breakout with Big Al, and publishing his own media and marketing magazine.