Ex­plore in­dige­nous Syd­ney

Dis­cover Syd­ney through the eyes of in­dige­nous peo­ple, writes El­iz­a­beth Fortes­cue

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Jib­bon Abo­rig­i­nal Tour, group or pri­vate tours only, prices on syd­n­ey­coast­walks.com.au el­iz­a­beth.fortes­cue@news.com.au Twit­ter: @Ozartwriter

Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Week is on from this com­ing Wed­nes­day un­til June 3. What bet­ter time to start ex­plor­ing in­dige­nous Syd­ney? From learn­ing to make your own spear to dis­cov­er­ing bush tucker or tak­ing an Abo­rig­i­nal-led tour of The Rocks, there are some fas­ci­nat­ing ways to learn about Syd­ney through the eyes of the peo­ple who have lived here for 60,000 years.

Most of th­ese tours and events are on all year round, so mark them in your di­ary and let Syd­ney re­veal an­other of its many faces.


Dean Kelly makes spears that look ca­pa­ble of bring­ing down a large kan­ga­roo. But that’s not their true pur­pose.

“They’re not for killing things, they’re for point­ing us in the right di­rec­tion,” says Kelly, who runs spear-mak­ing work­shops in the old mil­i­tary for­ti­fi­ca­tions on Bare Is­land at La Per­ouse.

Kelly is one of the in­dige­nous peo­ple be­hind the Blak Mar­kets, which be­gan about a year ago, at­tract­ing up to 2500 peo­ple on the first Sun­day of each month to the beau­ti­ful Bare Is­land.

His work­shops, at which par­tic­i­pants can make a spear to take home and keep, are are a popular at­trac­tion at the mar­kets. Vis­i­tors can also browse the 25 stalls run by in­dige­nous peo­ple, of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from hand­crafts to foods based on tra­di­tional bush­tucker flavours.

Peter Coo­ley, founder of the Blak Mar­kets, runs Catch N Cook classes as part of each mar­ket day. The friend­ship be­tween Coo­ley and Dean Kelly goes back to when they were at pri­mary school to­gether. They have surfed and fished to­gether ever since.

Ev­ery time Kelly runs a work­shop, he of­fers some­thing slightly dif­fer­ent. It could be the type of spear the group makes, or the ma­te­ri­als used. The one in our pho­to­graph is made from the stem of a grass tree, painted with white ochre. The tip is made from red ironbark and it’s all held to­gether with grass tree resin, or “bush su­per glue” as Kelly calls it.

Kelly aims to in­tro­duce his work­shop par­tic­i­pants to the folk­lore and moral val­ues sur­round­ing the mak­ing of spears. “They walk away com­pletely un­der­stand­ing the story of the spear in a cul­tural sense, but they also walk away with the phys­i­cal arte­fact,” he says.

“It’s about life, sur­vival, not be­com­ing dis­tracted, get­ting to your goals,” he says. “There’s a whole story about cul­ture and life, and just do­ing the right thing, re­ally.

“There’s a lot of stuff I can’t share that the old fel­las have given me, but I can share sur­face cul­ture with­out of­fend­ing the old fel­las.”

Kelly’s work­shops run for about two hours.

“If I was in the bush with the old fel­las, you would prob­a­bly al­low a week to make a spear,” he says, adding that he would never re­veal how a spear is made un­der clan law.

Kelly’s grand­fa­ther was an arte­fact-maker, and Kelly be­lieves he in­her­ited the req­ui­site skills.

“I think it just came down (to me) through the lines of kin­ship, be­cause I had seen his work and one day it just came to me and I said, ‘This is what I do.’ ”

Peter Coo­ley set up his Catch N Cook fish­ing work­shops as a way of get­ting kids off the TV lounge and into the fresh air with, hope­fully, a fish on the end of their line.

“I teach them about the arte­facts I have and we look at the dif­fer­ent na­tive plants and bush tucker,” Coo­ley says.

“I share sto­ries of what it was like grow­ing up (at La Pero Per­ouse) when we were kids.

““I al­ways talk about the imp im­por­tance of sus­tain­abil­ity – thro throw­ing back what’s too sma small and tak­ing only what you need.”

C Coo­ley runs Catch N Cook on Blak Mar­kets days, or on d de­mand. It’s $25 a head, bait a and fish­ing gear in­cluded.

Each month the Blak Mar­kets of­fer a ros­ter of dif­fer­ent work­shops. You m might find, among oth­ers, th the Yaama Boys Dance W Work­shop ($20), the Kids We Weav­ing Work­shop with Kar Kar­leen Green ($45), or the Shell Work­shop with Max­ine Ryan ($50). In ad­di­tion, there are loads of craft and bush tucker food stalls, a smok­ing cer­e­mony, danc­ing and a wel­come to coun­try. And the set­ting, right on the rugged coast­line, is un­beat­able.

Blak Mar­kets, Bare Is­land, La Per­ouse; first Sun­day of the month (next one June 7), $2 (prof­its go to a Back To The Bush pro­gram for Abo­rig­i­nal youth at risk), book for work­shops at firsthand­so­lu­tions.org


Farm Cove, or Wog­gan­mag­ule as it is known by the Cadi­gal peo­ple, was and is an im­por­tant cer­e­mo­nial site, with di­verse food sources, fresh wa­ter and plenty of har­bour seafood.

To­day, the area is home to the Royal Botanic Gar­den. But vis­i­tors can gain an ex­pert in­sight into the in­dige­nous his­tory of the area thanks to the gar­den’s Abo­rig­i­nal Her­itage Tour. Clarence Sloc­kee is one of the Abo­rig­i­nal ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cers who lead the tours through the gar­den, dis­cussing im­por­tant plants and sea crea­tures, the role the har­bour played in clan

life, and the tools and weapons used by the orig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants.

“We ac­knowl­edge the place and the cus­to­di­ans, and put the gar­dens into con­text,” Sloc­kee says.

Abo­rig­i­nal Her­itage Tour, Royal Botanic Gar­den, City; Fri­days and at week­ends if there is de­mand, adult $38, conc $18, bookings es­sen­tial on 9231 8134, self­guided tour print-out avail­able at rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au


Taronga’s Abo­rig­i­nal Dis­cov­ery Tour, Nura Diya (mean­ing “this coun­try or camp”), re­veals Syd­ney’s glo­ri­ous har­bour­side zoo through the tra­di­tions and sto­ries of in­dige­nous peo­ple.

In­dige­nous guides like Shan­non Foster re­veal fas­ci­nat­ing glimpses into bush knowl­edge such as the bloom­ing of the Gymea lily which in­di­cates that the area’s whales are head­ing north.

Head­ing to the koala en­clo­sure, vis­i­tors can have an op­por­tu­nity to pose with one of Australia’s favourite crea­tures.

“We talk about sus­tain­abil­ity — noth­ing went to waste,” Foster says.

The eyes and brain of the koala were eaten by el­ders to strengthen them, the ten­dons were used to fix a stone head to a wooden han­dle, and the fur be­came clothes and blan­kets. Even the teeth and claws be­came body or­na­ments.

“There was a lot of dec­o­ra­tion that peo­ple don’t re­alise,” Foster says.

As well as au­then­tic in­sights like this, Nura Diya in­cludes all-day zoo ac­cess, a round trip on the Sky Sa­fari ca­ble car, and morn­ing tea.

Nura Diya tour, Taronga Zoo, Bradleys Head Rd, Mos­man; adult $99, child (4-15) $69, bookings 9969 2777 or email tourism@zoo.nsw.gov.au


Aunty Mar­gret Camp­bell es­tab­lished The Rocks Dreaming Abo­rig­i­nal Her­itage Tour in the lead-up to the Syd­ney Olympics in 2000 and she still runs daily tours of this his­toric precinct of down­town Syd­ney.

Aunty Mar­gret speaks of how — even in the city — she is al­ways “walk­ing coun­try”. On her tours, she walks coun­try with her vis­i­tors, high­light­ing what usu­ally goes un­no­ticed — the types of bushes that are in flower, for ex­am­ple, and how they were used for sus­te­nance.

“When you’re walk­ing salt­wa­ter coun­try, you need to know where the hy­dra­tion plants are,” Aunty Mar­gret says.

Near the Ar­gyle Cut, she points out the bro­ken shells still vis­i­ble in the mor­tar of a con­vict-era build­ing. Those shells came from a nearby mid­den, built up by Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple over count­less gen­er­a­tions as they fed their fam­i­lies from shell­fish har­vested in the har­bour.

Aunty Mar­gret ex­plains how Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple ac­quired their totems, some by birthright and oth­ers by al­lo­ca­tion from el­ders.

“We have the whale dreaming here. That’s your au­to­matic in­her­i­tance,” Aunty Mar­gret says.

Totems be­come part of the in­dige­nous con­cept of con­ser­va­tion, with in­di­vid­u­als as­sum­ing reson­si­bil­ity for pro­tect­ing the plants and an­i­mals with which they are per­son­ally as­so­ci­ated.

The Rocks Dreaming Abo­rig­i­nal Her­itage Tour, $42 for 90 min­utes; 0428 661 019 or dream­time­south­ernx.com.au


Step aboard the cruiser Mari Nawi (mean­ing “big ca­noe”) and dis­cover Syd­ney Har­bour along­side Abo­rig­i­nal tour guides who tell the sto­ries of the Eora, Cadi­gal, Guringai, Gam­merai­gal, Wan­gal and Wal­lumede­gal peo­ple.

The tour re­veals the Abo­rig­i­nal place names for Syd­ney land­marks, and in­tro­duces tra­di­tional fish­ing meth­ods and food gath­er­ing tech­niques.

Par­tic­i­pants also step ashore on ei­ther Goat or Clark Is­land for a guided walk with a Na­tional Parks and Wildlife ranger.

The cruise lasts for about two hours.

Dur­ing Vivid Syd­ney, from tonight un­til June 7, on var­i­ous dates, spe­cial cruises are on of­fer, tak­ing in all the lights in the city’s ex­trav­a­ganza of il­lu­mi­na­tion.

Tribal War­rior Abo­rig­i­nal Cul­tural Cruises, adult $45, conc $40, child $30, fam­ily $135 (Vivid Cruises, adult $30, conc $25, child $20, fam­ily $79), 9699 3491 or trib­al­war­rior.org


The Wilder­ness and Abo­rig­i­nal Ex­plorer Tour and Cruise of­fered by Syd­ney Out­back Tours in­cludes an Abo­rig­i­nal wel­come to coun­try at stunning West Head in Ku-ring-gai Chase Na­tional Park, north of Syd­ney.

This is fol­lowed by a bush­walk in which rock en­grav­ing sites are en­coun­tered, and sea­sonal bush foods are sam­pled, says founder and owner Paul Pick­er­ing.

A three-hour cruise then de­parts from Akuna Bay, with a tour com­men­tary by Abo­rig­i­nal guide Les McLeod.

A bush tucker-in­spired lunch — with kan­ga­roo sand­wiches, lemon myr­tle chicken wraps, tea and cof­fee — is in­cluded in the price.

“Once we’ve got them on the boat, they for­get about the real world,” Pick­er­ing says.

Wilder­ness And Abo­rig­i­nal Ex­plorer Tour and Cruise is $199 for adults and $149 con­ces­sion. Book at syd­ney­out­back.com.au


The Art Gallery of NSW dis­plays its lead­ing col­lec­tion of in­dige­nous art in its Yirib­ana gallery. The gallery of­fers a guided tour of Yirib­ana ev­ery day at 11am, ex­cept for be­tween De­cem­ber 24 and Jan­uary 1.

Yirib­ana, Art Gallery Of New South Wales, Art Gallery Rd, Domain; free tour, meet at the in­for­ma­tion desk


Syd­ney Coast Walks runs the half-day Jib­bon Abo­rig­i­nal Tour, where par­tic­i­pants take the ferry to Bun­deena, view Dharawal en­grav­ings, see a mid­den mark­ing a 7000-yearold Dharawal camp site, lis­ten to Dreaming sto­ries, taste bush tucker and hear about flora and fauna from an ex­pert guide.

Fash­ion and hand­crafts on sale at the Blak Mar­kets on Bare Is­land.

DeanDe Kelly, who runs spear-mak­ing work­shops at the Blak Mar­kets ( (main); Jib­bon Abo­rig­i­nal Tour (above); Clarence Sloc­kee (far left); a and plants on the her­itage trail at the Royal Botanic Gar­den (left); Tribal War­rior cruise (be­low). Main pic­ture:...

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