Hobart Local Meeting, Tasmania Regional Meeting
Bruny Island was home to the Nuenone people who cared for this land for thousands of years, hunting and gathering.
We honour the traditional custodians by respecting the land and minimising our impact on it. We leave undisturbed all heritage sites. It is through these heritage places that Tasmanian Aboriginal people today connect with their ancestors and reconnect with the land. This connection is both our past and our future.
This country symbolises the continuing links between Aboriginal people today and a rich, ancient culture stretching back over 60,000 years and 2000 generations.
On behalf of our ancestors, we welcome you.
The weetapoona Aboriginal Corporation is a group of local Tasmanian Aboriginal people who work toward ‘reconciliation’. This is achieved by forming positive working relationships with local community groups to promote Tasmanian Aboriginal culture.
The wAC acts as the cultural advisory body to the Indigenous Land Corporation on issues of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and heritage with regard to Murrayfield Station on Bruny Island.
Successful land regeneration efforts at Murrayfield Station on Bruny Island are being studied by Parks and Wildlife rangers.
On Saturday 13th May 2017 some Quakers and friends went by bus to Bruny to weetapoona which is owned by Tasmanian Aboriginal people . We met Rodney Dillon who was our host for the day. He spoke to us, going across on the ferry, about how the Aboriginal Land Council acquired the land; also the purpose of the property which includes having a viable farm and to teach young people farming skills to certificate level.
A beach on the western shore is part of the extensive property. We ate a succulent native plant, which was growing at the edge of the beach, quite salty but tasty, part of the Aboriginal diet which is now being harvested as a garnish for a Hobart restaurant menu. On the beach quarry were many discarded tools, which had been fashioned from local chert by a harder stone, brought by reed canoe from the opposite shore. Some stones were especially interesting, hollowed to be used like a vice.
We were also shown a sheltered camp site off the beach. That area had a peat base – indicating it had been a pre-historic forest. Rain never lies on this surface, making it drier and warmer. Fires could not be lit in this area so they were always made on the nearby rocks.
We went to another area of the farm where there was a grove of grass trees (Xanthorrea) that could be many hundreds of years old. They were beautiful; I do not believe I have seen such a prolific growth of grass trees. A real delight!
The visit to weetapoona was inspirational. The weather was kind enough to us in the morning so that we were able to make the most of Rodney Dillon’s hospitality and illuminating talks, as he showed us parts of the property. It was fascinating to walk through the beachside quarry area and wonder about the stone tools lying everywhere – possibly for tens of thousands of years. I presume these were the ones that were discarded when other rock shards presented cleaner, sharper edges!
Next we viewed the extensive, fenced off protected grass tree area, the largest, most southerly stand in Australia. We would also have gone to see the church built in 1830 but weather did not permit. Rodney pointed out that the management of the property includes taking care of the landscape, the Indigenous heritage, and the early European heritage as well.
Morning tea and lunch in the shearing shed gave us the opportunity to learn about the sheep station aspect of the property – it has just received certification for Responsible Wool Production from the body based in New York that has inspected weetapoona. Training for Indigenous youth has led to successful careers in agriculture for several young people so far.
Rodney was generous with his time and knowledge, and warmly invited us to return and stay overnight – I think all who came would like to see and hear more. I feel I have a more nuanced and vivid ongoing experience of my life in this state with its long, long history of careful management by its Indigenous inhabitants.
My paternal grandmother was born on Bruny Island in the mid 1890s. I enjoyed visiting the quarry site and learning that its large surface is evidence of family bands of 70 or so people coming to the same place for tens of thousands of years. It brings new meaning to “Sense of place”. Human circadian rhythm and biological metabolism are linked to one climate, site and local diet.
I also enjoyed learning from Rodney that the purpose of people lying under the bushes, as still as possible, is to listen intently to birds – to discern which birds had returned, at what time of year, how many, or which calls were missing, or that ocean birds have come inland (storms) and that this was helpful hunting information.
Growing up, all discussions of Indigenous connection were hushed, shushed and subdued, if not denied, out of fear I suppose; fear of racism and how it was acted out in Australia. My father taught me to listen to the birds as a teenager, lying down under trees stone still, in the bushy dunes at Carlton Beach (river end), but I never knew its intensity had a purpose, or from whom he learned the listening.
The bus trip to Weetapoona took me closer to understanding the knowledge, life and ways of the Aboriginal peoples of Bruny Island. But for me it held a bonus from Rodney who shared some deeper understanding of an Aboriginal artefact given to my father in Alice Springs by an elderly Aboriginal man during WWII . After he died it was passed on to me and I carry it with me most of the time. It is a round wooden stick, with markings. It allowed people to pass through neighbouring lands, like a modern day passport, but Rodney added that the markings denoted the song line of this Aboriginal man and the stick could take him as far as the markings indicated.
This knowledge has added to the meaning of this “right of passage stick” and the preciousness that is being cared for by our family.
Hobart Meeting supported this visit as part of our journey of discovery of the Aboriginal presence here and now. As we become aware of the ways in which the Nuenone peoples (Mouheneener sub-group around Hobart) listened to and cared for the land we are invited to share and learn. We are also prompted to look more deeply into the knowledge that we bring from our heritages and rediscover the depths of spirit that the modern age has taught us to discount.