April 15 - 28, 2018: Issue 356

Budawa Sign Unveiled: The first in a series to be installed here

Budawa Aboriginal Signage Group and friends. Left to right; Aunty Lois Birk, Jess Birk, Julie Janson, Lauire Bimson,  Neil Evers, Jeni Thornley, Aunty Clair Jackson.

A striking new piece of signage at Mona Vale Library that honours thousands of years of Aboriginal history and cultural diversity was unveiled at a ceremony on Monday 9th of April, 2018, with more than two hundred members of the local community and visitors in attendance

Mayor Michael Regan said the sign was a positive step towards acknowledging Aboriginal heritage on the Northern Beaches.

“Educational signs like this one will further raise awareness within the community about the rich Aboriginal heritage of the Northern Beaches, both past and present.

“Monuments and signs celebrating European history dominate the local landscape. This new sign acknowledges the Aboriginal people who have lived here for thousands of years,” Mayor Regan said.

Mounted prominently outside Mona Vale Library (1 Park St), the brightly coloured 600 x 450mm display acknowledges the Aboriginal clans belonging to the Northern Beaches, including the Garigal, Cannalgal and Kay-ye-my peoples, and references tens-of-thousands of years of Aboriginal history and continuing heritage.

The incorporated artwork features both contemporary and historical design elements, including a vibrant and colourful painting by contemporary local Aboriginal artist Jessica Birk. The artwork combines traditional ‘dot painting’ and Western techniques, positioned together on a surf-board motif in a gesture to today’s local lifestyle.

Ms Birk’s painting sits alongside an interesting account of the life of the Aboriginal man Bungaree, a prominent figure on the Northern Beaches in the early 1800s.

This sign, the first in a series proposed for here, was officially unveiled by Mayor Michael Regan and members of the Budawa Aboriginal Signage Group, which obtained a $2,000.00 grant under Council’s Community Building Partnership Program to undertake the initiative.

The launch on Monday commenced with a traditional smoking ceremony by Aunty Lois Birk, wonderful traditional songs and dances, in which students from Mona Vale and Newport public schools participated in the 'flathead' dance, and a Welcome to Country.

Councillors Kylie Ferguson, Sarah Grattan, and Sue Heins were also in attendance to support the first sign unveiling and pay their respects.

For those who could not attend, the Addresses given by Neil Evers and Julie Janson, Budawa Aboriginal Signage Group, run below and further are some images at the ceremony. 

Neil Evers:

Mayor of Northern Beaches Council, councillors, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, boys & girls - Good Afternoon – 

I am a direct descendant of the Garigal clan.

The Garigal clan are part of the oldest continuous culture in the world. 

I acknowledge and recognise the Strength, Resilience, and Courage of the traditional custodians on whose country we stand today.

I pay my respect to the elders past and present.

The ancestors would have said to us – All-a Giballee “Hello, Come together”. 

Just like we are today.

The old ancestors would be so happy to see what’s happening here today. I have one regret –  that Uncle Bob Waterer is not here with us to see this.  Without Uncle Bob NONE of this would be happening. He opened the door to our descendants. 

We showed Bob the prototype of the sign. Uncle Bob’s idea was to have the sign about 3 metres square and on that wall.

Thanks Uncle Bob. 

A lot of work has gone into this project. Four years ago on my back deck we had our first meeting. The comments were -- best of luck with that! 

It wasn’t luck that got us here today it was sheer determination.

We have something here - that no other place on the east coast has.

I don’t mean JUST the Northern Beaches Council.

We have all grown to love and care for this very special place which we have made home – the amazing scenery – the National Parks that surrounding us.

Walking anywhere along the beaches, bays and bush tracks you will see evidence of the vast history of Aboriginal occupation for thousands of years, their cultural and spiritual connection is here.

Remnants of shell middens, rock etchings, engravings, paintings. There are over 1,500 recorded sites in this area that point to the rich lives that were enjoyed by these people, well fed by plentiful seafood, bush tucker, possums, kangaroos, etc.

In March 1788, Governor Phillip and his small expedition came into Broken Bay in 2 boats and were immediately greeted by a group of native men and women whom he described as ‘very friendly and numerous’ in number who helped Phillip with fire and water. They were described as ‘extremely full of fun, laughing, mimicking and frisking about’. Like the Northern Beaches mob today!

As this sign portrays - We had famous Aboriginal people living right here. Bungaree born at Patonga. His son, Bowen a Police tracker lived and worked at Palm Beach. 

His mother Matora, her granddaughter Sarah had 10 children in the Pittwater area, 7 survived - one of the 7 was called James. 

James is Laurie Bimson and my great grandfather.

Many thanks to all the Budawa committee members for their work over the last 4 years in developing the concept of this sign. To the many community groups that have encouraged and supported us.

Thank you to local Aboriginal artist Jessica Birk for allowing us to use her amazing artwork that reflects so much of the layers of Aboriginal connection to our area.

To the help from Karen Smith from the Aboriginal Heritage Office. And the Meetings with Pittwater and Northern Beaches councils.

Thank you to Auntie Lois for the smoking ceremony, Scott, Matt and Hayden for the didge playing and dancing. And the catering service.

Jessica Currie, Council Project Manager for her many emails and constant communication. And to all involved on Council in finally being able to bring this sign to fruition.

This sign is now here      ---   and it’s about here!              

And it’s about time!

We live a beautiful place - don’t we?                     

Let’s begin to tell the story.

Budawa Group hope that is will be the first of many educational signs from Palm Beach to Manly.

I wish to thank the Northern Beaches Council for Acknowledging and recognising the traditional custodians.            

You can see!

When we – Giballee, Giballee     Come together …… we are strong. 

As a descendant and on behalf of the traditional custodians I wish you well on this very special occasion.  

And Welcome you to this beautiful country – Welcome.

Neil Evers on Monday

Julie Janson:

Welcome everyone to the launch of the Budawa and Northern Beaches Council sign. I greet you in Darug language: Quai bidja, quai bidja, jumna pailla jannawi. Come to together we speak. I am Julie Janson of the Darug nation.

I especially welcome the Mayor, Michael Regan and staff and thank Dick Perrson for his support of our sign.

We stand here on the Northern beaches on sites of Aboriginal dispossession and settler colonisation. Replacing Australia’s amnesia is never easy.

We have this sign because of the hard work of the local Aboriginal community, Budawa Aboriginal Signage Group, the Aboriginal Heritage Office and the Northern Beaches Council. It is a piece of restorative justice and it compensates in a small way for the erasure of Aboriginal Garigal occupation. These signs are symbols of reconciliation and recognition of Aboriginal history and antiquity in this area. In many parts of Australia, Aboriginal signs have been graffitied and defaced. Or in the case of northern Queensland, used for target practice.

The physical sites of dispossession in the Australian landscape are invaded by the names of our settler colonial past. These names suppress Aboriginal names and inscriptions. An example is Governor Philip Park at Palm Beach, an expensive sandstone memorial to a British colonizer who camped there for two days in 1788. Aboriginal people have been camping there for up to 20,000 years. At Lake Mungo for 70,000 years. 

I stood recently with elders in Avalon Rock Shelter where there is the treasure of a 3,000 year old burial. It is a woman with her hands crossed over a baby. This shelter is considered to be the most significant archaeological site on the eastern seaboard. As we stood in the cave we saw the graffiti of satanic images spray painted over the entire site. Tears were shed.

I want to pay tribute to the members of our Budawa Group: To Neil and Sue Evers, Aunty Clair Jackson, Laurie Bimson, John Lohan, Jeni Thornley, Jenny Harris and others, and to Jessica Birk whose lovely painting of the area adorns our sign. We pay tribute to Uncle Bob Waterer who was an inspiration to all of us in leading the movement to recognise Aboriginal history in this area. We miss him.  He was my dad Neville’s best mate in Borneo in WW II.

We need to decolonise our minds and acknowledge that Australia has a Black history. On the northern beaches, Aboriginal people are all amongst you. They are either descendants of Bungaree or Gai mari agal relations of William de Serve or Burruberongal Hawkesbury River like myself or those who have migrated from other parts of Australia who work tirelessly for Aboriginal cultural recognition. We are richer for their adoption of this area.

Control of naming of Australian landscape is vital to the old affirming of Terra Nullius and to the extinguishment of Aboriginal entitlement by tides of colonial history. We expect the council to carry out its pledge to counter this, by creating more signs with Budawa at Narrabeen, Dee Why and Palm Beach and other locations.

This sign and the Aboriginal Heritage Office sign at Manly are a part of restorative justice. Australian history is a contested site but today we recognise that we are on Aboriginal land. 

Julie Janson on Monday

Flathead Dance

Photos by A J Guesdon, 2018.