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Published September 11th 2018
Share in some indigenous knowledge & culture
Oatley Park is a beautiful area of parkland and natural bushland which adjoins the Georges River at Oatley in the south of Sydney. The park is situated on a peninsula and is home to a variety of native plants, birds and animals. It also features walking and cycling tracks, scenic lookouts, swimming baths and picnic areas. The park is a beautiful place to visit and enjoy.
To learn a bit more about the area, I recently attended an Aboriginal Cultural Tour of Oatley Park, organised by the Hurstville Museum and Gallery. During this tour, you are invited to share in the knowledge of the most ancient living human culture on earth. With the help of an Aboriginal guide, you can learn about the local flora and fauna in the park and discover how they were traditionally used in the everyday lives of the indigenous people.
There was a large group of over twenty people in attendance for the tour and we met at The Castle in Oatley Park. It was here that we were introduced to our guide for the morning, Les McLeod, a descendant of the D'harawal people on whose land Oatley Park stands.
Les introduced himself and told us a bit about his own background and that of his D'harawal great-grandmothers. Les then offered us the formal Welcome to Country. Les is passionate about sharing his knowledge, language and culture. During the talk, we learnt about the significance of totems - clan, family and personal - and we were able to look at and touch a number of tools, weapons and objects including spears, clubs (waddy or bundi), shields, coolamon (pronounced gulamon) and a possum skin.
Our guide for the tour and some of the items he showed us
The complexities of recording an oral language were discussed as Les explained the diversity of Aboriginal Australia, illustrated by the indigenous map which marks out over 500 different clan and language groups around the continent. This is why the same object may have a number of different names across the many language groups of Australia.
As we learnt about the various tools, weapons and objects, Les shared with us the correct pronunciation of each name in the D'harawal language, which is often quite different to how they are spelt and pronounced in English.
After the talk, the group was invited on a short bush walk along the peninsula. The natural landscape of the park is striking and while the scenery may look familiar, with many common trees and plants, it is interesting to learn more about them from an Aboriginal perspective.
Wherever possible, the group was invited to touch, smell and taste the plants or berries. After the walk, we were invited back to The Castle for morning tea.
Les was happy to share his knowledge and his own stories with us and happy to answer any questions we had. For me, the tour was interesting and informative and I learnt a few things that I hadn't known before. With over 60,000 years of living in Australia, indigenous people have a wealth of knowledge about the Australian environment and how native plants can be grown and used for food and medicine. This tour was an interesting, relaxed and enjoyable introduction to the topic which will whet your appetite and perhaps encourage you to learn some more.
This tour ran for approximately 1 1/2 hours and was suitable for active and mobile participants.
For more information about the Hurstville Museum and Gallery and their programs, please click here.
Oatley Park is located at 1 Dame Mary Gilmore Drive, Oatley. For the park opening hours, please click here.