Culture runs deep for Josie Kurukulie. Brought up by her Australian mum in a Buddhist centre, then moving to live in a live music venue at aged 15 on the Sunshine Coast, she was well versed in diversity.
But when she got on a flight to Papua New Guinea to meet her father for the first time at aged 25, Josie says a whole new side of life, and her appreciation for the values of island culture, opened up.
Twelve years on she still chats in pidgin on WhatsApp with her sister still in PNG, and shares with us some insight on what it was like, that first trip to her father’s place.
“So I was 25 when I met my dad for the first time,” Josie says from a parents group with son Jack chatting in the background.
“And I spent a couple of weeks with him in Port Moresby and then he surprised me and said he’d bought me tickets to go back to the village!”
Some solid kilometres in the air, by car and on foot later, Josie says the experience was something else entirely.
“I was just blown away by it all, to be honest. It was a huge drive just to get there, over rivers and through rivers … it was incredible. I remember walking through this river, and being told that this is our ancestral river, it’s very important to the village.
“As we were travelling in, they had to do a lot of customs for me, so there were a few ceremonies that need to go on to introduce me to the spirits and keep me safe while I was there.”
And when she arrived, her family had a surprise strung up for her in the bush.
“They’d made a ‘Welcome home Josie’ sign on a sheet.
“It was so beautiful!’”
“It turns out, that from a matrilineal line, so when the women own the land for example, my great great grandmother was the ruling Matriarch. Now-a-days my father would be the chief –so essentially it turned out we were royalty in the islands!”
The experience of a matriarchy society was something new, too.
“To feel such a long line and lineage of women, and also men, in this one place, was incredible. I found that kind of space really beautiful. The women would stay together and cook and hang out and the men would be off doing their thing.”
As we get to discussing how meeting this whole new side of her family has influenced her experience since, Josie says it’s the collective focus on, and appreciation for, community, that really lingers.
“For me, a lot of Island culture is often about manners and family, I think.
“It’s about connection and family and sharing. Even just the little things like, no matter how little you’ve got there is always room for someone else at the table.
“What’s mine is everyone’s essentially. There’s always room for someone else if they need to sleep, the house is always overflowing, but there’s always room for someone to stay.”
“It’s also very big on social etiquette,” Josie says of the culture in her Father’s village.
“It’s huge and I guess it comes from having to rely so deeply on each other. It is all so interesting and it’s beautiful.”
As she navigates parenthood for herself, Josie says she’s passionate about creating that experience of shared community in her life in Australia.
“I think for me, a huge part of a drive for me now, is being a parent and realising how important culture is.
Id’ lost contact with that side of my culture and now I’m really feeling driven to connect with culture and allowing space in my children’s lives for culture.”
“You have to really work to create that sense of community here.”
For Josie, that work centres around her children and other mothers.
“At the moment it’s all about the kids, so I started a Facebook group in my local town and I started an exercise group in neighbourhood,” she says.
“So we get together and work out in the park or by the river. I’m a bit crazy like that."
“It’s like a community service, there’s not as many services down here as there are in the city. So we do have to make our own!”
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE LIVING A BIG, BEAUTIFUL LIFE:
“By the amount of love I feel. I feel like I’m bursting with love, when I know everything is right, love explosions! And feel good endorphins. There’s always downtimes but an overall feeling of consistently content,” Josie Kurukulie
Photos of the beautiful Josie and her gorgeous kids were taken by Hani Bee... check out her instagram page HERE!