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Meeting the Dreaming
Meeting the Dreaming is a year-long dialogue commemorating the 50th anniversary year of the Discovery of Mungo Man.

Lake Mungo Reflections: An Uncommon Dialogue between Jim Bowler, Shane Howard and Jason Kelly.


Mungo Man revealed himself to Geologist Jim Bowler on February 26th, 1974. Along with the earlier discovery of Mungo Lady (1968), these ancient human remains forever changed our understanding of Indigenous occupation of the Australian continent.

Three tribal groups manage the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Site, the Mutthi Mutthi, Paakantji /Barkandji and Ngyiampaa. All three are descendants of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady, and continue walking in their footsteps and sharing their culture.

On February 26th, 2024 a special delegation comprising of senior Elders of the 3 Tribal Traditional Owners groups (3TTGs), Jim Bowler and his extended family as well as long-time “friends of Mungo” made a pilgrimage to Mungo National Park to mark the 50th anniversary of the day of discovery. Through presentations and in ceremony the year of dialogue was initiated. This year will culminate in a series of events nationally until late February 2025.  This gathering  at Lake Mungo was featured in The Guardian Newspaper article as well as ABC news article and vdeo.

Hot Springs Event

Following the successful launch of “a year of dialogue” initiated by Jim Bowler and supported by senior elders of the three traditional owners groups at Lake Mungo on February 26th, 2024, the next step in this national series brings us to the sacred lands of the Mornington Peninsula, home of the Boon Wurrung / Bunarong people of the Kulin Nation.

On Friday April 12th, 2024 this public event and special ceremony was held at Peninsula Hot Springs in Victoria to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of Mungo Man. The event was a combination of pivotal discussions featuring eminent Australians (1:30 pm – 5 pm) as well as a presentation, broadcast and concert (6:30pm-8:45pm) on Friday April 12th, 2024.

PHS Event Poster

Meeting the Dreaming by Jim Bowler,
November 2023

“White man got no Dreaming” – Indigenous Elder to Anthropologist Bill Stanner, 1956
“You don’t know who you are!” – Indigenous Academic Lillian Holt to non-indigenous audience at Sydney Opera House, 1987 eve of Bicentenary,

Theme: “Connection to Country”

In the challenges noted in the quotes above, non-Indigenous Australia has thus far failed to specifically respond. Definition of our “dreaming” and a clear understanding of who we are, are agendas that are wholly unfinished. We remain largely in search of identity compared to First Australian voices. Although we share this fine land, we stand culturally deeply divided.

Following the October 14, 2023 referendum, when 60% of Australians rejected an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, we now face a new urgency to address the cultural divide. Can the concept of “Connection to Country” provide the glue necessary to help bridge this gap?

Answers to that question require dialogue between post-1788 modern Australia and first Australians. Each can explore that concept of “Dreaming” in different thought modes, Indigenous may be more holistic, non-indigenous may be more rational, science based. Such exploration would involve both groups speaking with conviction from within different philosophical agendas. This process of dialogue can help bring the two groups together, a link with each other’s worlds.

In the aftermath of the Voice’s rejection, it is timely to explore those grounds for collaboration between cultures. That is the issue these dialogues seek to address: between post-1788 Australia and indigenous people. The recent referendum on the Voice to Parliament of indigenous Australians has raised questions of our relationships, of our connections with each other. Its rejection by the majority of the Australian people has left those questions unanswered. It has left the nation more divided than before.

It is time now for us to renew our efforts to dialogue, to search for a new consensus and mutual understanding with indigenous people. Our response requires translation from indigenous “Dreaming” to our modern Australia equivalent, one based perhaps on new scientific understanding that expands our cosmology and the unique even mystical relationship between land and people.

In that context, a joint consensus of all Australians, along the lines of the 2017 “Uluru Statement from the Heart”, would demand Australia-wide attention.

Can the Mungo Man’s 50th anniversary help provide that context?

Towards that end, we propose a joint “Connection to Country” celebration in association with the anniversary in late February 2024. These celebrations would amplify the timely voices of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady with their own challenges, “What have you done to our land? What have you done to our people?”

Such commemorations can involve cultural activities such as music and dance as well as the kind of dialogue and sharing that is so urgently required. Communities around the country can be invited to organise their own events, along with several larger coordinated events.

In our mutual dependence on nature, we seek unity in celebration of the land we share, a connection on common ground. It is that sense of “Connection to Country” we seek as healing balm and bond.. First Australians retain a profound sense of that connection as a “mythic genesis”, a cosmology linking people and land, an integrated connection, all things united with the other. Embodied in their “Dreaming”, is a strong sense of spirit beyond reason that defines a synthesis of Land-People unity.

The western world largely lost that sense of mutual belonging with Nature. In the 18th century “Enlightenment”, rational science and misguided religion destroyed precious people-land intuitions such as those embodied in the Celtic tradition. With little room for mythology, reason became the sole arbiter of truth, devaluing things of the Spirit. As inheritors of those times, we of European -Australia descent remain to some degree remote from those nourishing spirit connections. Our post-1788 complacency was shaken by the 1969 emergence of 40,000 year old Mungo Lady followed in1974 by Mungo Man on the shores of ancient Lake Mungo. Their revelation as already fully modern with burial rites of extraordinary complexity opened a new sense of respect for the traditions of frequently denigrated indigenous colleagues. Australians were challenged to explore much beyond the cold facts of science. These were living people with minds like ours 35,000 years before Abraham, the father of so many traditions, Judaic, Christian and Islamic.

In seeking here a new concept of Land-People integration, we also look ahead to future outcomes, building upon these dialogues and celebrations. “What is the final objective?”

This country of amazing landscapes has long provided home to amazing Mungo people and their descendants so tragically misunderstood. As at Uluru, indigenous colleagues have much to teach us. Definition of our own sense of scientific “Connection” would lead to wider, even national discussion, a new sense of Land-People integration.

This would be a shared visitation experience for all Australians. In their voices from the graves, Mungo Man and Mungo Lady ask no less.

Jim Bowler
November 19, 2023

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