Tucked away off a back street in West Albury is the Yindyamarra Sculpture Trail.
It’s a five-kilometre sealed trail that starts at the Kremur Street boat ramp and winds along the Murray River and around various wetlands.
It’s teeming with wildlife. At this time of year there is a bounty of birds flitting around and turtles everywhere out basking themselves in the sun. The observant wanderer may even spot a platypus.
Those that know it, love it. Those that discover it, always go back for more.
One person with a close connection to the trail is Wiradjuri woman Ruth Davys. An artist, educator and facilitator, Ruth is now developing a cultural tour of the trail so that people can take a look at it through a different lens.
The Yindyamarra Sculpture Trail features 15 contemporary Aboriginal sculptures, including one by Ruth herself.
Her piece, Bogong Moth Migration, represents a time of the year when Aboriginal people would come together to perform ceremonies, exchange goods and discuss tribal lore before travelling to the high country to feast on bogong moths.
She talks about this, and all the other pieces, during her ‘Ngurambangga yanhanha’ (Walk on Country) tours which range from one to four hours long. She’s hoping it could develop further into full day and overnight immersions.
“The idea of a tour has happened organically,” said Ruth.
“It’s been an evolution. I’m a talker and I have networks and I’m not scared to try something new.”
Ruth has been working since 2016 to bring Wiradjuri language to the local community and her work with Giilangyaldhaanygalang has seen the production of a variety of resources. She’s regularly conducting language workshops and she’s often in schools sharing her knowledge with students.
“I’m involved in a lot of conversations due to my work and one of those was ‘how could we highlight the trail once it was built. What can we do to create the best experience for people walking it?'”
After discussions with the Aboriginal work crew who built and maintain the entire Wagirra Trail (total of 8.5 kms), some mentoring with Destination NSW and talking to artists and other community members, Ruth now has a formula to work on.
“It started off as, ‘This could work’, and now that it is working, I need to focus on making it work more effectively for me and everybody else.
“I haven’t had to put up a booking platform yet but that will be something to consider.
“The one-hour tour is the shortest walk and doesn’t cover too much country; it takes in the first loop, but the four-hour walk captures the whole loop with lots of engagement and time to sit and reflect at the end,” she said.
Ruth seamlessly blends Wiradjuri language into her regular conversation and the tour highlights around 38 words that people can learn – everyday words along with ones for animals and birds.
“Growing up I had a few Wiradjuri words that I’d heard so when I had the opportunity as an adult to go to university and do a graduate certificate in Wiradjuri language heritage and culture I thought why wouldn’t I take the opportunity up?
“We are Wiradjuri, I knew that, but I didn’t know a lot of my language. I realised we weren’t immersing ourselves in our culture and that became really important to me.
“That was the start of my own cultural journey and now I’m building my skills around tourism and what that looks like. What are people after? What’s the experience that they want to go away with?
“And these days I’m getting more and more calls; people want to know, they want to understand more than ever.”
Ruth admits it’s often a challenge standing in front of a group.
“I’m the youngest of nine, so I was always the one who sat in the background, so yes, it’s something new for me to be up the front,” she said.
“But I think there is real value in a guided tour and finding out who the person is that created the artwork, how did they even come up with the idea that they created and how do they fit into the community? All those things.
“There are also lots of cultural objects out here and if your eyes aren’t open and someone isn’t pointing things out then generally you just don’t see them.”
Ruth’s tours run on demand and prices can be dependent on group numbers. You can find out more by contacting her on 0427 042 209 or going to the Giilangyaldhaanygalang website.
More on Wagirra Trail and the sculpture walk can be found here.