Tuesday, 01 August 2017
NAIDOC celebrations are held around Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The week is celebrated not just in the Indigenous communities but also in increasing numbers of government agencies, schools, local councils and workplaces.
The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aimed to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.
FSC Australia saw NAIDOC week as the perfect opportunity to celebrate the important role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people play in the Australian community. The team at FSC Australia attended two NAIDOC week events including:
- The Footscray Flag Raising event including a welcome to country, smoking ceremony and flag raising followed by an afternoon tea with a Wurundjeri elder; and
- The Keelbundoora Scarred Tree and Heritage Trail including a guided tour of the Keelbundoora scarred tree and heritage trail led by Wurundjeri elder Ian Hunter.
The standout event of the week for FSC Australia was definitely the scarred tree and heritage trail led by the colourful and entertaining Wurundjeri elder Ian Hunter.
In keeping with the 2017 theme of celebrating Aboriginal languages, the day started out with a fascinating presentation on Aboriginal language, detailing its history and relation to local Victorian regions. Aboriginal languages are directly linked to specific regions and represent an association with an area of land with which it has a deep spiritual connection. Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first. Today only approximately 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.
The Wurundjeri Wilam people have a strong relationship to the land. They travelled the area in search of resources, fresh water, food and shelter, living on the tributaries of the Yarra River, along the Merri Creek, Edgars Creek, Darebin Creek and the Plenty River. As part of their culture the Wurundjeri Wilam people held cultural ceremonies and conducted business and trade negotiations in many sacred sites.
The scar trees on the RMIT Bundoora campus are a constant reminder to the sophisticated techniques used by the Wurundjeri Wilam people to gather resources for all facets of life. The bark of specific trees were carefully removed so as to not fatally damage the tree. The bark was then used in a variety of ways including, weapons, shelter, watercraft, tools and containers. Due to the widespread clearing of much of the native vegetation after European settlement, scar trees are now relatively rare and hard to find.
One tree along the trail held great cultural significance to the local women as it was a birthing tree. This tree was long dead but showcased an extremely important part of life. An interesting marker on this tree was the fusion of two branches, Mr. Hunter explained this process was undertaken when an established birthing tree was nearing death. The women would cut a small piece of the old tree and fuse it with a young sapling which would later become the new birthing tree.
The next tree on the trail was a black wattle, which was one of the most versatile trees for the Wurundjeri Wilam people. This tree which is in abundance on the edges of creeks and rivers are vital to the lives of the local people. The black wattle wood provides material for weaponry such as boomerangs and spears. Whilst the leaves contain a poison which can be used to stun fish but also when rubbed with water can be used as a soap.
Mr. Hunter put on a display in the proper use of the boomerang. Showing how the boomerang is not designed to attack prey but to distract prey. As a boomerang in mid-flight takes on the appearance of an eagle, it frightens birds to take flight and expose themselves to waiting hunters.
The scarred tree trail was a great experience in which Mr Hunter was able to pass on his immense ecological and cultural knowledge to those in attendance. The FSC Australia staff were grateful for the opportunity to attend and appreciative of Mr Hunter’s expertise and sense of humour.
FSC Australia recognises that as the nation’s original stewards of the land, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have historically maintained the health of Australia’s forests, and continue to perform this role through their unique knowledge of and continuing connection to lands, waters and communities.
In acknowledgment of this, FSC Australia is proud to have launched their Reconciliation Action Plan.
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