Be proud of who you are.
These are the words of 26-year-old Jacob Ellis, a young indigenous mentor passionate about keeping Aboriginal culture alive.
For him, having the ability to learn about and share what is said to be the oldest living culture in history is pretty special.
And, underpinning it all is the concept of taking pride in your identity.
Jacob’s cultural ties stem from Gomeroi country, in Moree, and Ngemba, Ngyiampaa in North West NSW, commonly known as Karulkiya Mayi, or the Stone Country People.
He was first introduced to culture through an Aboriginal program offered to Muswellbrook High School, where he was taught by Uncle Paul Gordon, Uncle John Shipp and Uncle David Newham.
Intrigued by the program but ultimately a teenager, Jacob’s involvement slowly faded.
“I fell away from my teachings as I became a teenager, but always felt like there was something missing,” he says.
It was only after an opportunity arose with the Wakagetti crew at Ayres Rock Resort eight years later that Jacob found himself being drawn back.
“I was drawn back to culture in 2011, and I haven't stopped loving it since.”
After spending three years with the Wakagetti group in Yulara, north of Uluru, Jacob felt more needed to be done in the Hunter region.
“In 2015, we felt it was time to return home to share with the children of the Upper Hunter, as these children are our future,” he says.
As a career mentor for Opportunity Hub, Jacob is well-known throughout the Upper Hunter. He conducts educational workshops at schools in Merriwa, Denman and Muswellbrook.
“The high school workshops are heavily focused on wellbeing, belonging, connection, respect and humility,” Jacob explains.
“The Primary school workshops include dance, storytelling, language, art and tools and artefacts demonstrations.
There is no point in having knowledge if you aren’t willing to share it with others.Jacob Ellis.
“Each primary school I work at has its own Aboriginal dance troupe and the more they learn the more confident, happy and proud they become.”
Jacob’s pride in culture isn’t just confined to his career, and he has no intentions of slowing down.
He hopes to continue learning about, and sharing his culture, knowledge and passion with the younger generations.
“We are always taught to share, because there's no point in having knowledge if you aren’t willing to share it with others,” he says.
“Knowledge is the key; knowledge is power.”
Jacob pays respect to Indigenous elders and past generations for keeping his culture alive and allowing him to learn such a beautiful way of life.