Why a record number of kids attended this year's Bowraville Memorial Cup

The Bowraville Memorial Cup is now in its fourth year, and it just keeps growing each time.

This year around 400 primary students from the Valley and another couple of hundred high schoolers from as far away as Kempsey and Orara slipped on their jerseys - a valuable keepsake that gets worn with pride for years to come.

Word of mouth has spread far and wide with more schools and services putting up their hands to be involved in the two-day carnival each year.

Bowraville Central School principal Dave Taylor has the mammoth task each year of coordinating with all the schools. His enthusiasm for the event is effusive: "I just love seeing kids be kids - they bring out the inner child."

The Valley 10 schools prioritised this as one of two culturally significant events in the school calendar to come together and strengthen inter-school connections.

"They want to be a part of the healing, and a part of the memory," one of the cultural activities organisers Waylon Boney said.

The Memorial Cup was envisioned by the families of Evelyn Greenup, Colleen Walker and Clinton Speedy-Duroux as a legacy event, but also as a day of fun for local kids, and as a platform for healing; to relieve some of the intergenerational trauma passed on as a result of the murders and the following systemic injustice.

"The trauma had a ripple effect across the Valley and the whole Mid North Coast," Penny Stadhams said, who is an aunt of Evelyn, and project officer of Jaanymili Bawrrungga (Bowraville Coming Together) - the community reference group responsible for steering the Solution Brokerage after the Parliamentary Inquiry Recommendations were handed down.

This is a way for the families to come together and speak about that trauma.

"Hopefully down the track the families will have a tent to educate others about their fight for justice."

Their passion is what drives this event, and each year they bring fresh ideas to the table.

This year they decided there should be more culture-based activities for children, elders and service providers to participate in.

Dhamu Paul Gordon - a respected elder and educator - was asked to speak about the tenets of leadership. And high schoolers were able to practise that leadership yesterday when they were tasked with refereeing the primary schools' touch footy games.

Dhamu Paul Gordon and Waylon Boney

Dhamu Paul Gordon and Waylon Boney

Neil Flanders was invited to instruct a workshop on Aboriginal sign language.

There was also a weapons maker, and Muurrbay was conducting Gumbaynggirr language workshops.

Students from Bowraville Central, St Mary's and Bowraville Preschool also performed cultural songs and dancing at the opening ceremony each day.

Photo taken by Megan Cochrane

Photo taken by Megan Cochrane

"The thing I wanted most out of this - bringing everyone here around culture - was for revitalisation," Waylon said.

"We can start the process of rebuilding if we start with building our knowledge."

Penny said the opportunities the event offers are perfect for showcasing the cultural connections that Bowraville has.

"It's also about reconnecting everyone back to country and culture," she said.

"And it's about one event bringing people together regardless of race, religion or age."

Looking around today, and yesterday, at the record number of smiling faces and the connections being made, it's pretty clear that it's succeeding in that goal.

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