Gugurr yan.guwan dhadhadya: Keep on walking strong

Decolonising the space

James Gerrard

Section Editor

James is a podiatry graduate who has worked in public and private settings in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, and he now lectures at La Trobe University within the discipline of podiatry. James is also a current University of Newcastle PhD candidate, involved in research giving First Nations voice to foot health education, and the developing, delivering, and evaluating of cultural safety education for undergraduate podiatry students.

James Gerrard explains why this section of STRIDE has been given a new name. New artwork is also introduced, along with insights from artist Nellie Green regarding the story behind her dedicated artwork and what this means for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples; as well as all podiatrists.

Welcome. What was the ‘Indigenous Section’ in STRIDE magazine is now a progressively decolonised space, meaning it counters misrepresentation and dehumanising of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and it privileges First Nations worldviews, in a space that combines knowledges.

The process of decolonising spaces

The mechanisms decolonising this space are cultural. We cannot communicate with direct speech, play music, nor can we gesture, but through language and art, this place can demonstrate decolonising spaces’ powerful impacts on health, social connection, wellbeing and self-expression. This process of decolonising spaces, including physical environments such as healthcare settings, can be replicated in principle and process by podiatrists, and the businesses and organisations within which we work, to promote positive healthcare experiences for First Nations Peoples.


A name change for this space in STRIDE

The first change to this space is the name, Gugurr yan.guwan dhadhadya (pronounced gu-gurr yan-gwa da-da-ja), which translates to ‘Keep on walking strong;’ demonstrating inclusive and respectful language and importantly, promoting and privileging First Languages. The guardians of language and Community have always known of the positive connection between language and wellbeing in this country, and all of us should know and understand this relationship. Colonisation continues to destroy First languages use, a culturally protective health factor for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and a key representation of the diversity of sovereign First Nations.


Gugurr yan.guwan dhadhadya (‘Keep on walking strong’) by Nellie Green.

Gugurr yan.guwan dhadhadya (‘Keep on walking strong’) by Nellie Green.


This name for this section in STRIDE comes from Badimaya Country. We acknowledge the dedication of Badimaya Elders and Community in their work to revitalise a language almost lost through violent colonising processes.  See if you can locate Badimaya Country on the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies First Nations map


If you are having trouble finding it, that is because there are so many diverse groups included on the map. They are representative of the sovereign Nations, the kinships, the languages, and the lores that make up the oldest continuing living culture on earth. Gugurr yan.guwan dhadhadya promotes this fact, bringing First Nations recognition, resilience, and pride to this space. Additionally, the term ‘Indigenous’ has gone. Although commonly used by government and in mainstream publications, this term homogenises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples instead of acknowledging diversity across sovereign First Nations. It dehumanises too, with links to ‘colonial research’ grouping First Nations Peoples with flora and fauna. Being government imposed, the term ‘Indigenous’ is considered inappropriate by some people across First Nations.


The second change is the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worldviews. First Nations artist Nellie Green now speaks to this space through her art of the same name, Gugurr yan.guwan dhadhadya (‘Keep on walking strong’). 


Dedicated for our progressively decolonised space here in STRIDE, Nellie’s art educates us into First Nations perspectives of foot health. Nellie describes her work, sharing “the importance of foot health to First Nations Peoples, with footprints in the work depicting the footsteps that take us through a lifetime.” 


Nellie continues, “Footsteps that carry us on continuous journeys along different paths, that carry the energy, that carry the burdens, that carry the accomplishments, and that carry the stories of our own lives.” 


Nellie describes the colours she has used in the art. “[It is] … a means to present a serious message in good humour. While the loss of foot health is traumatic, a lot of people need to get over the stigma about feet and hiding them, and need to be proud of their feet, considering what they put up with and what we put them through.


As Nellie concludes, “We trust our feet to bring us home.”

Meet the artist behind this section, Nellie Green a Badimaya woman from the Yamatji people of the Central Wheatbelt of Western Australia

Nellie Green is a Badimaya woman from the Yamatji people of the Central Wheatbelt area of Western Australia. Born in Morawa, Western Australia, she lived most of her life in Perth and Fremantle, before moving to Melbourne in 2001. Nellie has three sisters and two brothers and she is an Aunty, Great-Aunty, and Great-Great Aunty.


Nellie has a strong professional background in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education, working in Western Australia and Victoria since 1994. Nellie is also involved in issues concerning media representation, creative writing, social justice and the human rights of First Nations peoples.


Over the years, Nellie has represented her Community/ies locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. She was winner of the 2000 NAIDOC Aboriginal Artist of the Year in the then-called Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Noongar (Perth) Region awards and she has been published in Indigenous anthologies and other publications. In 2012 Nellie was awarded an Indigenous Staff Scholarship from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and in 2013 she was winner of La Trobe University staff award for ‘Enhancing Inclusivity’.


In 2005 Nellie successfully completed the Certificate II in Indigenous Leadership at the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre, Canberra. In 2010 Nellie graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Indigenous Community Development & Management) Honours from Curtin University. She is currently enrolled at La Trobe University undertaking a Master of Educational Management and Leadership.


After 30 years working in higher education, with the last 18 spent at La Trobe University, Nellie has embarked on her journey as a First Nations contemporary artist and has returned home to live and work on Badimaya Country.