The Ngunawal people are the Indigenous Australian inhabitants whose traditional lands encompass much of the area now occupied by the city of Canberra and the surrounding Australian Capital Territory.
When first encountered by European settlers in the 1820s, the Ngunawal people lived in an area roughly bounded by what is now the towns of Braidwood, Goulburn, Boorowa, Harden, Gundagai and Cooma. The Ngunawal people are neighbours of the Yuin (on the coast), Ngarigo (south east of Canberra), Wiradjuri (to the west of Yass) and Gundungurra (to the north) peoples. A more detailed account of Ngunawal history can be found under the 'Ngunawal People' tab.
As with many other Aboriginal cultures, the Ngunawal people passed down traditional knowledge from generation to generation through word of mouth and Dreamtime stories. Through this website and the services we provide, we aim to educate the wider community about the rich history and cultural practices of the local Ngunawal people, as well as impart the importance of preserving and protecting this culture from being lost or destroyed. We all can play a part in ensuring that Ngunawal culture exists for future generations.
Tyronne Bell is a Ngunawal descendant who grew up in Yass, learning traditional culture from his father Don Bell (senior). Challenging early experiences helped shape his lifelong passion for the advancement of Aboriginal issues. Tyronne has become a strong advocate for the recognition of Aboriginal culture and language, in particular the culture and language of the Ngunawal people.
Since 1986 Tyronne has been involved in many Aboriginal cultural heritage surveys to protect and conserve Aboriginal culture and heritage.
Collection of artefacts
Don Bell (snr) with a scar tree
Tyronne’s passion for his Aboriginal culture and heritage and his desire to share this knowledge with others led to the establishment of Thunderstone in July 2013 to promote awareness of the rich Aboriginal culture and history of the local region.
Thunderstone along with other local Aboriginal businesses, Culture on the Move and Yurbay have conducted many Aboriginal cultural programs, activities and tours across Canberra in schools, childcare centres, government and non-government agencies, corporate and community organisations.
Seeing an opportunity for expansion, Thunderstone developed the first ever Aboriginal tourism product in the Australian Capital Territory – Dhawura Aboriginal Cultural Tours. Dhawura tours will share Aboriginal cultural knowledge with the local, domestic and international markets.
In 2016, on two separate occasions, Tyronne and Glen Freeman had the privilege to assist Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull in learning and with pronunciation of Ngunawal language for his Closing the Gap speech and the Opening of Parliament. This was the first time in Australian history that a Prime Minister used Aboriginal language to address Parliament.
More recently, in June 2019, Tyronne along with AIATSIS linguist Doug Marmion assisted the current Governor-General, David Hurley learn the Acknowledgement of Country for his swearing in ceremony. Again, this was the first time in Australian history that a Governor-General had even spoken in Aboriginal language in his first address to the nation.
Tyronne has also been involved in a documentary with Professor Brian Cox to interpret the stars and explain the creation and balance of the solar system.
Tyronne was pleased to be involved with garden designers Jim Fogarty and Charlie Solomon in the creation of the ‘Mununja the Butterfly’ garden at the National Arboretum Canberra. The garden’s concept and design is based on the Ngunawal Dreamtime story of Mununja the Butterfly as told by his father and Ngunawal Elder Don Bell (senior).
Tyronne also has connections with the non-Indigenous community and has been deeply involved in many community-based activities and projects over the years.