The Canopy: Welcoming A New Era

The Canopy: Welcoming A New Era

For thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been performing smoking ceremonies as a way of cleansing people and places of bad spirits and treating sickness and ailments.

  • By Gamuda Land
  • 8 November 2023

The ceremonies promote overall well-being by embracing cultural traditions and emphasizing the healing properties of traditional medicine while preparing the environment and territory for a new era of purpose.


Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of experiencing a traditional Indigenous smoking ceremony, performed by the Bunurong Land Council.


Conducted as part of The Canopy on Normanby’s construction commencement activity, we were extremely grateful to come together to honour the site’s history and take an important step in preparation for its future.


The traditional smoking ceremony involves the heating of Eremophilia longifolia, or ‘Emu Bush’ as it is more commonly known, which produces smoke that has been scientifically proven to have antimicrobial effects.


The ceremony was conducted by Bunurong Land Council member and proud custodian of the land, Jungala Ellis, with assistance from his brother, Dayan Ellis.



“It’s a pretty significant ceremony as it cleanses our minds, bodies and spirits and cleanses spaces and land for new beginnings,” explained Jungala.


Following an acknowledgement of his ancestors who have walked the lands of the Bunurong region for over 65,000 years, Jungala explained why these ceremonies were historically important, and how they are predominantly used today.


“It’s always a privilege as a young man myself to come out and give a welcome to people of all walks and all races. Teaching people about our culture is the number one aspect that I think is the ultimate way to bring Australia together,” said Jungala.


Historically, Indigenous Australians have also used smoke and fire as sources of communication between tribes, signalling the entry to another tribe’s land and/or calling for help when necessary.


“Traditionally, if a welcome to country was not conducted, this would cause [significant] issues between tribes. In this day and age, it’s a wonderful feeling to be welcomed by traditional custodians on the land that we stand today.”


The practice of smoking to cleanse people and spaces is used in many cultures around the world and often involves the burning of herbs and other significant wood or bark. These smoking ceremonies traditionally take place at key milestones throughout one’s life and are specific to the individual’s nation and respective traditions.


An extremely important philosophy that guides our team’s decisions throughout a project’s entire journey, is respecting and understanding the history of each site we work with. In order to ensure that we were equipped with the relevant knowledge, we engaged the services of Qualified Cultural Heritage Advisory,


Contributing cultural perspectives to the urban design and landscape architecture of the project, the MURRI: YUL team greatly assisted the project to acknowledge the Bunurong people in authentic, meaningful ways and create strong connections to place and country.


The site of The Canopy on Normanby was once an ecological junction of wetland and woodland that was lush with native grasses, tea trees and wattles. To honour the site’s history, we incorporated endemic and native plants to create a resilient, climate-adaptive design throughout the project.


A major component of the project is the 3,000 sqm public park that will lay adjacent to The Canopy on Normanby and involve the permanent closure of neighbouring Johnson Street. Utilising the renowned Miyawaki Method of forest making, the park will be home to over 6,000 of these native and endemic species.


Not only will this provide a natural amenity for residents but will also contribute much-needed greenspace to the Fisherman’s Bend area, and create a connection to nature for the entire community.



We’d like to thank the Bunurong Land Council and advisors at MURRI: YUL for equipping us with the knowledge to effectively incorporate these indigenous narratives and concepts of restoration into The Canopy on Normanby.

Discover more about the project itself here.

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