NAIDOC Week celebrations are held in the first full week of July and are a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements. The National NAIDOC theme for 2015 is We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate to highlight Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples’ strong spiritual and cultural connection to land and sea.
Like most settled places in Australia, Mordialloc has a shameful history regarding stealing indigenous land and for many years people believed the myth that the Boon wurrung, the local Aboriginal people had been wiped out. However, like most history written by conquerors this ‘fact’ has been proven untrue.
Yesterday, I arranged to meet my friend Fran, a fellow writer and local historian so we could attend one of the City of Kingston’s NAIDOC activities. The opening of Kingston’s indigenous garden by Boon wurrung Elder Aunty Caroline Briggs, including a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony was scheduled to take place at Attenborough Park alongside Mordialloc Creek, Nepean Highway, Aspendale on Sunday July 12 at 2pm.
Kingston Your City, the council’s newspaper, reported the garden’s indigenous plants are thriving, ‘including bush tucker and medicine plants displayed in an artistic array with the view to ‘linger longer’ and immerse yourself in the landscaped environment.’
The interpretive signs have traditional Boon wurrung language and express the relationship the Boon wurrung people have with the area.
Attenborough Park and Mordialloc Creek Reserve are significant Indigenous sites in the City of Kingston. Numerous shell middens and scarred trees have been found in the park and adjacent to the creek, a legacy of the Boon wurrung people, who are part of the Kulin Nation.
The Kulin term ‘Mordy Yallock’ means ‘near the sea’. This area was a favourite summer camp for the Boon Wurrung people who harvested eels, small marsupials and water fowl and collected shellfish along the shore.
This engraved tree, at Attenborough Park and others carved into significant sculptures and landmarks. The park continuously flies the Aboriginal flag, commemorating the Aboriginal reserve that was established here following European settlement.
Elders of the Boon wurrung tribe are believed to have lived out their last days in this area. Mordialloc Creek is on the northern point of Carrum Carrum Swamp, which forms a natural basin on the peninsula.
Named after early pioneer Thomas Attenborough, who settled in Dingley in the 1850s, Attenborough Park is also home to a group planting of large Monterey Cypress trees believed to be about 100 years old forming an important landmark. The trees are on the City of Kingston Significant Trees Register, due to their outstanding size and the contribution they provide to the surrounding landscape.
Mercurial Melbourne’s four seasons in the one day decided to just give us winter yesterday afternoon and non-stop rain. For someone like me who came from Scotland, and Fran who is Irish born, we assumed the celebrations would go ahead – marquees can be erected or umbrellas distributed. All the pictures above were taken by me using my smartphone, the rain constant, but not torrential.
The ceremony was to begin at 2.00pm, but as the title suggests, what was planned never eventuated. I arrived to find another woman walking up and down the path obviously looking for some sign of celebration. I approached her and she smiled with relief.
‘I thought I was going mad,’ she said, clutching the page from Kingston Your City detailing the event. ‘I’ve walked up and down this path half a dozen times – even walked to the high school in case it was moved there.’
Fran and I had also done the rounds of the park and rang the information line for Kingston Council, but to no avail. The other lady had driven from Dingley and was as disappointed as us and wondered aloud why the Council didn’t have someone present to tell people the event was cancelled.
‘They should have had a wet weather plan,’ said Fran.
‘You would have thought so,’ I said, ‘or at least made it clear in the advert that it would be cancelled if it rained.’
Our new friend introduced herself as Tatiana. We decided the best course of action was to seek the warmth and sustenance of a coffee in one of the many cafes in Mordialloc Main Street.
The next two hours were very pleasant as we discovered we had so much in common – three immigrants with a love and interest in indigenous culture as well as arts and crafts. Tatiana was Belo-Russian, born in China, but her family fled to Chile just after the Japanese invaded. Later, with her husband and two young children they came to Australia before the coup ousted President Allende.
We all agreed serendipity definitely at play and shared knowledge and life experiences. A member of the Handweavers & Spinners Guild of Victoria Tatiana showed us photographs of some beautiful bags she had made based on designs she had seen in South America, especially Bolivia.
Tatiana told us about the musk ox, which lives in the frigid Arctic. Its fur much warmer than wool or even alpaca. It’s a protected species in Alaska, and like bison, the American musk ox was once dangerously close to extinction. Fibre made from the musk ox’s undercoat is known as quiveut, or quiviut, and is extremely light and fine as well as being the most expensive ‘wool’ in the world. It’s also very rare, since it’s usually harvested by hand-combing the animals or collecting fibres from the ground after they’ve naturally been shed. These strands must be carded carefully to remove any coarse hair.
Before we went our separate ways, we returned to discussing the Boon wurrung, the environment, Australian history, climate change…
Try and imagine you lived long ago
when the Boon Wurrung gathered to meet…
Imagine their camp by Mordialloc Creek,
Corroborees celebrating plenty to eat.
Water unpolluted, no rubbish floating
Eels and turtles swimming with fish.
Kangaroos and possums in abundance
Bush tucker chosen to garnish each dish.
Plentiful food, their drinking water clean
E.coli unknown and oil slicks unseen.
The Boon Wurrung living off the land
Nurturing Mother Earth with great care,
No stripping the land or sea bare.
Long grasses to weave baskets
Seasonal plants from seeds sown
Living in harmony with nature,
Supermarket queues unknown!
Try and imagine you lived long ago
Free to travel everywhere, to and fro
Observing the Boon wurrung’s
Clever land management skills
Honouring all aspects of country
Conservation practised at will.
Today, imagination meets reality –
Extremes of weather we often see,
Mother Earth weeps and begs
For urgent action, from you and me
No need to look in a crystal ball
Global Warming our wake-up call.
The day didn’t turn out how I planned, but I made a new friend, learnt a lot of information I didn’t know about Moorabbin’s history from Fran, and was introduced to the delights of another craft by Tatiana as well as hearing her migration journey.
We may not have witnessed the ceremony planned, but we valued the sacred ground, shared a love of Mordialloc and we did learn, respect and celebrate the value of shared history, culture and the desire for knowledge.
Ningla- Ana, This our Land
Indigenous and Immigrant together.
HAIKU by Mairi Neil