Meet the people making positive changes in the city and beyond, in the fields of the arts; civics; sustainability; community and culture; and food and drink.
Time Out is profiling the incredible people who are shaping the future of Sydney in this Future Shaper series. These remarkable individuals and organisations were nominated by a panel of expert judges including editor of Time Out Sydney Maxim Boon, celebrity chef and restaurateur Kylie Kwong, head of talks and ideas at the Sydney Opera House Edwina Throsby, NSW 24-hour economy commissioner Michael Rodrigues, CEO of IndigiLab Luke Briscoe, and NIDA resident director David Berthold. Read more about the project here.
A Yuin-Ngarrugu descendant with connections to the Yorta-Yorta, Dja Dja Warrup, Watchabolic and Gunai language groups as well as Scottish heritage, Dwayne Bannon-Harrison has spent more than a decade helping Indigenous men regain humility & growth through the concept of 'Bring back the warrior'. Overcoming trauma in his childhood, he has since made it his life’s work to bring about healing, with a strong focus on connecting to Country for First Nations men in particular, but also the wider community.
That passion has led him towards founding the Ngaran Ngaran Culture Awareness initiative, and to hosting the Bring Back the Warrior podcast. When he's not championing Culture, he's sharing his knowledge of bush foods. You may well have tasted his handiwork through his catering outfit Mirritya Mundya Indigenous Twist, but he also shares his knowledge of Indigenous ingredients with some of the country’s most celebrated chefs, including the likes of Ben Shewry and Kylie Kwong. He’s a busy man indeed, but one who loves to sit down and yarn.
You can follow Dwayne here: @naja2407
What is it the drives you Dwayne?
My background is a huge part of who I am. I’ve watched and learned from my grandfather – Uncle Max ‘Dulumunmun’ Harrison – from my Nana and my old people, the Elders in my community. And then from the Scottish side, you know, we’re multicultural in our own right.
We’re in a good position to be able to, you know the slogan, close the gap. It’s all about bridge-building. That’s a big concept I talk about in my cultural awareness training, as a person that is a descendant of different cultures. You can feel very isolated. You are too black to be white, to white to be black. So it’s about getting people to connect back to the universal principle, that we all know that we come from the same place.
Through your work with chefs and with catering, do you think food is a good way to connect people?
Yeah, it’s a big one. Alongside my colleagues like Mark Olive and Clayton Donovan have done an amazing job. When it comes to starting to learn about our food techniques, and the knowledge and the law systems that bind our food, there are many different cultural considerations. And even just coming out commercially in the last three years with Mirritya Mundya – which means ‘Hungry Blackfish’, which the amazing, beautiful Kylie Kwong was instrumental in giving us that start back in Carriageworks a few years ago – even along that journey, getting people to understand more. There are 6000 different foods, nuts, proteins, you know, in this country. We’re opening that conversation.
I think that when we’re looking at ethics when we’re trying to understand a tangible, holistic, ancient culture that’s been around for millennia, it takes time and respect. And I think a person who no doubt demonstrates that magnificently is my close brother Ben Shewry from Attica [in Melbourne], and Kylie. She’s walking the walk, as is Neil Perry too.
Your podcast addresses men’s mental health and reconnecting back to Culture. How important is that to you?
So important. It’s about bringing back the many facets of the warrior, not just the staunch protector. We also have the nurturer and lover, and embracing our feminine energy. It’s about creating that safe circle, just being there for one another and keeping that ego out the door, as we say, through humility, through the beginning, and through the ancient tradition. I’ve just been blessed to be able to give that opportunity to help men feel that space. And it’s not always Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. I work with a lot of cross-cultural men as well. It’s sitting there, looking at that deeper connection of who we are. It’s something that we are denied, really, in mainstream society. Because we’ve got many, many elements of masculinity through generations that have created this hard-nosed approach, which we know can end in tears.
You’re all about building those bridges Dwayne. So what does the future look like when it comes to connecting more Australians to Country?
It all peels back to communication. You know, if you’re in a long-term relationship, after a little bit it’s hard work. We need to work at it. We need to grow and let each other go through these trials and tribulations of life. And the same is true with our children. We have to maintain that communication.
It’s the same when we ask how do we communicate as a society? We're slowly creating space, having the dialogue, looking at understanding each other more. And I think that we, as Indigenous people, are in the best position to help lead that conversation, to demonstrate that and connect people back to our system.