Tasmanian Aboriginal Cultural Sharing Trip

Published 3 October 2016

A great day out

On Saturday September 24, 2016 a group of UTAS students studying at the Universities Cradle Coast Campus departed for a day long cultural sharing trip organised by the SRC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer.

The group left Cradle Coast campus early in the morning headed west for Sundown Point, a significant site for Tasmanian Aboriginal people, located within the Arthur-Pieman conservation area. This site is home to petroglyphs, hut depressions, middens, ceremonial stone arrangements, artefact scatters and burial sites. Leading us on this cultural sharing trip was our cultural guide, David Gough as well as Jacinta Vanderfeen both of which are well-respected members within our communities.

We arrived at Arthur River at around 11AM and stopped off at Parks and Wildlife to pick up some maps before heading out towards Nelson Bay. We took the bus as far as we could before getting off and walking the rest of the way in. At this point David Gough lit his fire-stick and the smell of burning tea-tree filled the air as we walked past Aboriginal living sites, remembering our people who once lived there. Around a few bends and over a couple of fallen trees and we had arrived at the mouth of Sundown Creek where the petroglyphs were. Dave and Jacinta kneeled near the water and mixed some ochre Dave had bought along in old abalone shells. An acknowledgement of country was given by Dave and each person had their forehead painted with a smudge of ochre. Dave and Jacinta explained the significance and age of the site in which we were standing and also pointed out the petroglyphs carved in to the rocks that poked out of the sand. After some time looking at the petroglyphs and sites around Sundown Point we turned around and started hiking back towards the bus. On our way we stopped along the beach where some people collected shells and others Bull Kelp which Dave would later use to craft water carrying baskets.

We were back on the bus and this time heading north, back over the Arthur River through Marrawah, West Montagu and into Woolnorth. Passing through the gates of the Van Diemen’s Land Company (which once blocked the road), Dave again acknowledged the original custodians of the land and explained the history of the area. Travelling into Woolnorth you couldn’t help but be blown away by the sheer size of the wind turbines and the property in which is privately owned by a foreign company. Dave discussed the ownership and consultations between the company’s directors and the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. The biggest concerns being the preservation of and access to sites of great significance to Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples. Dave explained that the company to date had been responsive and receptive in the consultations that had been held which is a great achievement in itself and offers hope for the future. We eventually arrived at a homestead where Dave signed us in before we continued through a number of gates to Cape Grim.

Getting off the bus and approaching the cliff face the entire group was quiet, lost for words, taken by the natural beauty of the site. The strength and speed of the wind was enough to take your breath away and there was absolutely no way of controlling your hair. Dave fought the wind and again lit his fire-stick, holding it as he told us all the story of the original custodians and the horrors in which had happened to them at Cape Grim and Suicide Bluff. We stood in silence, remembering and reflecting on the lives that were lost. Before too long though, it was time to get back on the bus, back-track through all of the fences and paddocks and then across the gravel roads headed home for Burnie.

UTAS Cradle Coast students at Cape Grim.