I had been to Australia before, but never to true Australia, the remote communities where the Aboriginal artisans live and breathe, and who better to take me there than the brilliant photographer, Russell James, who is Australian, an artist and pure of heart. It was the journey of a lifetime. I could write for days about the landscape alone, starting with the most gorgeous beaches and cliffs and rock formations I’ve ever seen. But it was the people that got to me. I came to truly understand their sense of culture, born and still deeply rooted in their ancestral lands, and how they express themselves.
I met artisans who create with their hearts and hands some of the most amazing pieces. I was introduced to elders, like Donny Woolagoodja, a “custodian” of culture, who invited me to experience sacred burial sites. I met Olive Knight, a warm and wonderful woman of the “Stolen Generation” who has played a large role in protecting Aboriginal youth. (Olive gave me my ‘skin’ name; I am ‘Nangala.’ Russell is known as ‘Jungala’ which makes him my ‘skin brother.’)
I visited schools and met the most enchanting and beautiful children. I worked with natural healers, and I traveled to hospitals – including one in Perth that I was supposed to visit and discuss our UZIT program, only to instead fly in early as a patient. I had broken my arm walking out of cave that held the remains of an Aboriginal tribe, some thousands of years old. The universe always has plans of its own.
In many ways, this was a journey of connecting the dots, and here was the most incredible connection of all: we met a man working with our friend, elder Richard Walley, on developing a Fire Tree fragrance/oil. His name was Steve, and I liked him immediately. He has long gray hair and sadly, also has cancer. It turns out he worked on my first fragrance with my husband Stephan all those years ago! Steve showed me Stephan’s original bottle, which he had in his home. We spent a very special night, talking of the past and of the future, as well as our mutual desire to preserve culture in Australia and world wide.