An Aboriginal healing ceremony at Auschwitz

August 11, 2019 by Elana Bowman
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Noel Butler, an Indigenous holder of knowledge and keeper of stories, won the Outstanding Contribution to Reconciliation Award for NAIDOC week his years of working and sharing his Cultural knowledge and skills to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people including the Jewish community.

Noel and Trish Butler

Noel and his wife Trish have been teaching, delivering programs, and working with Aboriginal adults, non-Aboriginal adults, and children for over 35 years and host immersive tours on their Bawley Point property near Ulladulla ranging from short walks on country to degustation dinners – all with a focus on learning about the plants that have sustained, healed and helped the Yuin people for tens of thousands of years.

Over the years they have:
  • Received an invitation by the Jewish community to hold a Healing Ceremony with and for the Jewish Community at Birkenau, Poland
  • Taught culture to primary and secondary schools in the UK
  • Been an artist in Residence UK
  • Performed in the UK including Edinburgh Festival.
  • Represented Australia along with a cousin, Bruce Pascoe and assisted by Slow Foods Australia at the World Indigenous Conference for Sustainability hosted in India. This was provided by the United Nations and other countries to help provide answers to western societies’ problems on non-sustainability of the future. Learning from the past from today’s knowledge holders for a better future for all peoples.
  • Noel, Trish, and Phillip Butler went to India as special guests and to perform at the ‘Monolith Festival’ in Meghalaya.
Noel spoke with J-Wire about his visit to Poland in 2009. “In our culture, people have stories and different skills and we want to pass them on.” Noel Butler said.
In 2009 Noel received a phone call when was teaching at TAFE in Ulladulla from a man who was wondering how he kept his culture alive. He had approached Noel because the grandchildren of women who survived the Holocaust were not able to pass on their stories.
Noel believes that the Jewish cultural connection and history are quite similar to his.

Noel Butler at Auschwitz in 2009

He was asked to help them tell their history and their stories. He agreed to go to Poland and meet a group of families at the gates of Auschwitz II–Birkenau.

Each family member shared and told their stories.
Noel held a healing fire ceremony at Auschwitz where he called upon the spirits of his people. He shared the fire, walking around performing the ceremony in a bid to help ease their burdens and pain.
After the ceremony, Noel and Trisha realised how haunting it had been.
“I was so glad and so grateful to have such a great spiritual connection with the Jewish community. It was a very special personal experience to have shared”
“Our aim is to bring peace, quiet, and healing. People come to us to connect with their culture.”
It was the first-ever Aboriginal healing ceremony, 65 years after the camp’s liberation.
Noels feels that if he can help anyone, he will find a way to do so.
“People need to accept their history in order to move forward. We are all human beings and we shouldn’t forget our past. If you don’t know where you come from you don’t know where you are going and you should not forget. It shouldn’t be forgotten and in our culture, we are still battling for acceptance.”
“Things in the past have to be recognised but also have to be accepted that people are still suffering. For some, it is still too hurtful and we need to treat each other equally, no matter who we are, where we live, or the colour of our skin”
Noel and Trish wished to extend their gratitude to the people of Shoalhaven for nominating Noel. This prestigious award covers the local Government areas of Illawarra, Shellharbour, Kiama, and Shoalhaven in NSW.

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