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Storyteller, artist and tour guide — Ruth Davys

9 Jun 2024

Storyteller, artist and tour guide — meet our mate Ruth Davys from Albury

When you first meet Ruth Davys, she’ll greet you in Wiradjuri: “Yiradhu marang, Yuwindhi Ruth Davys” (Good day, I’m Ruth Davys).

The Wiradjuri people were the first to call parts of our region around Albury home, along with large stretches of land further north into New South Wales, across the Murrumbidgee River and past the Lachlan. They continue to maintain a deep connection to Country.

While she was born and grew up in nearby Wagga Wagga, Ruth now lives in Albury and has long had family connections here. Her face lights up when she talks about the region and shares her culture and memories. Her love of Albury Wodonga and The Murray is only outweighed by her love of sharing it.

“I think this is a very unique place, not just because I live here. It's unique because of what you're seeing around you and the access to other places as well.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking she’s a born-and-bred local, but we do count her as one of our own. Having family in the area meant countless visits for Ruth before her permanent move more than two decades ago. The landscape left an indelible mark.

“[It] made such an impression upon me that I wanted to move here as well, not just because of family, but because of the closeness of the river, the natural surroundings. We have plains. We have trees. We have mountains and hills. It’s such a variety of environments that we can expose ourselves to every day.”

When conversation turns to the old ways of the Wiradjuri people, she makes a comparison between buying rope at Bunnings and the traditional days-long process of stripping and soaking bark. It's clear Ruth is a storyteller at heart, and it serves her well day-to-day as the owner and head tour guide at Giilangyaldhaanygalang Wiradjuri Storytellers.

Ruth's history & art

Based in Albury on Wiradjuri Country, the tours take in part of the Wagirra Trail, weaving along the Yindyamarra Sculpture Walk. It’s here you’ll find fifteen feature pieces by Aboriginal artists, including one by Ruth herself.

She’s candid when it comes to her walking tours, saying “The sculptures are there, the sculptures are signposted, but what's in between the sculptures aren't. So I can talk and share the knowledge that I have about those bits in between.”

Since 2016, she’s led hundreds of locals and visitors looking for an authentic First Nations learning experience.

“We're immersing them in, not just the walk, but our Wiradjuri culture, heritage and language.”

Guiding tours and running workshops aren’t the only feathers in this proud Wiradjuri woman’s cap. As an artist, Ruth contributed her talent to the creation of one of the sculptures too. Bogong Moth Migration is a tree-like steel sculpture that feels right at home alongside Horseshoe Lagoon.

“I was painting or drawing, and my family knew about it. My friends knew about it, but the public didn't. It was not something that I easily shared with other people. And being approached by Albury City Council…I got rather excited about having a piece of work that I made or part-created that allowed everybody to be a part of it.”

Ruth submitted “Five, six, seven different designs. I really wanted to be a part of this because it's also here for a long time.”

The project also allowed her to share an important story for the Wiradjuri people, and an important part of her own story. The tree is a visual representation of the moth’s migration, travelling through and past the region on its way to the Australian Alps.

“…What was important for me was to display the fact that our culture still exists and we can share our stories, and our stories just aren't always about dreaming stories, but about how food, our items, our equipment, all of those things as well.”

While known as bushtucker food, the bogong moth’s importance goes beyond that.

“It also joins us together as tribes, as nations of Aboriginal people, because it's a continuous song line that the bogong moth travels to get to its final destination. When it gets there, it puts itself up on the wall and passes, over time creating a great big pile of bogan moths on the floor. That's what you see at the bottom of the tree [as part of the sculpture].”

Ruth glows with pride as she details the minute design features so anyone can identify the species at a glance with a circle up the top, a boomerang or horseshoe shape underneath, and a line straight down.

“That's a bogong moth.”
Ruth's Recommendations

When it comes to talking about other visitor attractions in the region, her love of nature and connection to Country is evident.

“I would encourage people to check out some of our natural sites. Like the Eastern Hill Rotary Lookout or Walla Walla, where old ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan, the bushranger, was — that’s all signposted, but if you’ve got your eyes open, you’ll see a number of clues to the history of Wiradjuri people in that area as well.”

She compliments the friendly staff at the nearby Mantra Albury Hotel, and Echuca Moama-based Green Pedal Cycles. “They’re pretty cool. I see the amount of fun they have on their bikes, riding along the river”.

Ruth also knows there are some Aboriginal tourism developments underway in The Murray, with “exciting things happening in the future that I’d really encourage people to keep their eyes out for”.

As for the Murray River itself?

“Galing, [the Wiradjuri word for] water, is the substance of our life. Without water, we wouldn't exist. And it's really, really important that we take care of what we have. So, if I can educate people about the beauty of — the use of — to do that, then my job is done.”
Mates of The Murray series

This is the first blog in our Mates of The Murray series, and we’ll be introducing you to five more of our mates over the coming weeks. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to discover more of The Murray, or subscribe to our emails and get the latest straight to your inbox.