Monday, January 29, 2007
A Welcome fire ceremony
I inadvertantly found a good way to celebrate Australia Day. I had planned to go on an Indigenous "Walk through the landscape" the day before and after taking part in the event discovered that that was the best way to celebrate being born to this ancient continent. I took Aurora down to a place called Pt Nepean, which is the Northern arm of the entrance to port Phillip Bay.
Beach at Pt Nepean, looking towards the Heads.
The site has an interesting layered history. The Boonerwurung people have been here for a very long time. Even though the land is now coastal the Boonerwurung were originally known as river people. The Yarra (a river that flows into Port Phillip Bay) used to travel all the way to the site which is now the entrance to the bay. There the river flowed down a 90 meter drop, keeping the area around it in a perpetual mist. The marine mapping is revealing how the geomorphology of the region reflects the oral stories of the descendants of the people here today. The area where the waterfall was is now known as the Rip and is a very treacherous stretch of water. It is now the narrow entrance to a huge embayment, with massive quanities of water squeezing in and out with the movement of the tides.
Echidna who we passed by on our walk.
A military camp was first established near here in 1803 and denotes the first landing of the English to these shores. This first group found it very hard to subsist and eventually took off to join the colony in Tasmania. One man stayed behind and ended up living with the Wathaurong people on the other side of the bay for 30 odd years before the great land grab began in earnest, with the arrival of Batman and Fawkner. William Buckley was his name and I will post about him another day!
Magpie, also a local.
Many moons later a quarantine station was established at Point Nepean, followed by a Military training camp, which was decommissioned in 1997. All this has meant that an amazing site has been left fairly much to its own devices (well, except for all the unexploded ordinances, introduced pests etc, etc). But it is now being handed back to state control and being turned into a National Park. Indigenous custodianship of this transition is in place and there is hope to be able to set up an Indigenous Cultural centre there.
Walking group looking at a midden (a campsite used by the Boonerwurung people many moons ago)
The walk was great. After learning many things about the traditional uses of the plants that we were seeing and some of the implements, we ended up on a beautiful beach. Here we were given a traditional welcome ceremony by Carolyn Briggs, a Boonerwurung Elder. Each participant was given a gum leaf passport as a sign we were free to be in the area and welcomed by the Indigenous people present and their ancestors were acknowledged.
Aurora, checking out a cave on the beach , holding a digging stick.
So, what better way to celebrate our national holiday, that by one camp is called Australia Day and by another Invasion Day!?