Yarning with Joe

Written by Kim Harris

This edition of Home Project’s offers insight into Fraser Coast indigenous man Joe Gala.

We had a yarn under a Poinciana tree at Joe’s home in Hervey Bay on a sunny winters day.

Joe offers Alive readers inspiration and pointers for making a set of clapping sticks, which are traditionally known as ‘Bilma’. Making your own indigenous musical sticks may foster connection to spirit of country, enhance respect of indigenous Australian culture, or perhaps start a dialogue around important indigenous topics in your home.

Anyone that meets Joe Joe, as he is affectionately known, can quantify that his energy is big, and his smile is infectious. He is a joker, warm, giving, and playful. It is hard to pin down how old Joe (sometimes known as Richard) really is.

Joe is upbeat, energetic and moves swiftly like a young man. Joe’s cheeky jokes tell youthful tales of exciting adventures throughout Queensland, Northern New South Wales and The Territory.

He recalls stories of wadding through croc infested waters in Kununurra, camping during a wild storm at K’gari, and visits to family and mates he has seemingly everywhere across Queensland.

Some of the stories are not as light-hearted and they highlight a more serious side to Joe.

He tells of a visit to Lismore after the recent floods to help his mob. Joe’s eyes well as he recalls stories of loss of property and life. He tells of the trauma that Lismore people encountered and the sense of desperation with residents not knowing what to do or where to go.

Joe explained that he didn’t know how to mentally process the floods. Then switching the mood, he joked that he thought the answer was a boat … laughing and explaining that he bought three kayaks. Joe points to under the Queenslander home where the kayaks were.

I laugh along with Joe, it’s hard not to laugh when he does. His laugh feels like it fills space in a terrific way. I feel that Joe has learnt to laugh off, make fun of and even self-deprecate to lighten the mood to make others feel more comfortable.

Being incredibly proud of his culture, I asked Joe his thoughts on the best way forward for his people in Australia. He believes education of indigenous history and culture is the key!

Doing his part for education, Joe shares his knowledge through his work for Hervey Bay Eco Marine Tours, sharing stories like this column and working on projects with artists that approach him.

Joe is excited to be heading to Sydney to work on a cultural project with an acclaimed international photographer and artist Michael Cook.

During our conversation Joe showed me his ochre clay, and we applied three dots to our forehead. Joe explained that each dot was significant to spiritual law.

*Do what is good for the land, seas, skies.
*Don’t touch what doesn’t belong to you.
*If you have plenty, you must share.

My time with Joe Joe left me wanting to learn more. He is an inspiring character and valuable member of the Fraser Coast Community.

Joe Gala’s Clapping Sticks:

What you need:
*2 Hardwood sticks 10 – 30cm cm length
*Carving knife
*Natural Oil

Safely Carve your sticks into a smooth-edged shape
Sand off any rough bits
Soak sticks in preferred oil (Joe suggests anytime up to 6 months)


Joe recommends Black Wattle wood
“It is important to find material that feels right for you – use
wood local to your area”

Purchase dowel from the hardware store if unable to source local sticks

Joe suggested Goanna oil, other options include macadamia, avocado, olive, coconut oil

Wanting More?
Get involved with NAIDOC Celebrations
Connect with country in a way feels right for you

Start conversation about big topics in your home:
*Closing the Gap
*UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration of Rights for
indigenous people)
*Uluru statement from the heart

Listen up people:
Paul Kelly collaboration of ‘Little Things’ featuring Ziggy Ramo (Spotify)