Shane Monk is a traditional owner of Taungurung country; a first person of the rivers and the mountains. Taungurung country is a large area, but Shane says just 20 traditional owners now live full time in the region “on country.”
Shane wasn’t always aware of his ancestral links. Today, the former roof plumber is the cultural and natural resources officer at the Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (Corporation). Based at Broadford, the Corporation was established to serve the needs of its mob, as well as educate and make connections with the wider community. “A large part of my role is to raise awareness and share knowledge,” he says. Shane enjoys speaking with schools, community groups and businesses.
He says that interest is sparked and connections are made through stories, particularly how artefacts (stone tools) were used. The originals are too precious for everyday use and Shane has a collection of replicas, which are 3-D printed. “These replicas look and feel exactly like the tools my people used up to 50,000 years ago,” Shane says. As part of his role, Shane also performs cultural consultations and welcome to country ceremonies.
He says that members of the public often call because they’ve found an artefact or scarred tree on their property and aren’t sure what the next steps are. “We’ll go out, identify the object or tree, and give the person a bit of background about what they’ve found.”
“Then we’ll perform a traditional smoking ceremony.”
Before finishing the conversation, Shane lifts up a large, replica tool. “Holding these, talking about them, I can feel the connection to my ancestors,” he says. “Their blood is running in my veins and it brings history to life.”