Did you know that there were two giant eels and a message stick at Birrarung Marr, just behind Art play? And do you know why?
After listening to some of the interesting facts pointed out at the media preview of the Urban Koorie Tour, I felt pretty ashamed to have not noticed these aspects of Federation Square and Birrarung Marr before.
The Urban Koorie tour will officially open to the public from the 8th of December 2014 (please note that there will be no tours from the 19th of December to the 5th of January). The tour is run by the Koorie Heritage Trust and aims to educate and create awareness about the history behind Fed Square and Birrarung Marr, about how the aboriginal people utilized and lived in this land and how the 21st century additions try to incorporate this rich history within their designs. The tour is great for tourists as well as both new and seasoned Melbournians. There is something to learn for everyone and it will help you see the city in a new light.
The one hour tour will start outside the Federation Square Melbourne Visitor's Center at the flag and will run through Monday to Friday at 10am and 12.30pm. The media preview started here as well and we were taken around by the lovely Belinda Pringle and Len Tregonning. We kicked off with an introduction to the tour. The tour is designed to come around in a full circle, an important aspect of aboriginal culture. The contemporary aspects of Fed Square and Birrarung Marr was covered by Belinda whilst Len allowed us to catch a glimpse of a bygone era of when the land was used by the aboriginal people.
The tour is designed to accommodate disability access and takes a route that is wheelchair friendly. We were given some basic insight into the monumental Federation square, a collaboration between the winners of the Architectural design competition announced by premiere Jeff Kennet, Lab architecture and Bates Smart. It's a good way to understand the reasoning behind certain details of this famous civic space and see some aspects that incorporate Aboriginal culture.
After learning some more facts about Fed Square such as about the gallery spaces, the 24x7 big screen and its controversial conception, the tour headed inside to the next pit stop. Here, we were pointed out the shells embedded in the beautiful sandstone floor from Kimberly, Western Australia. It is interesting to know that we step on these fossils from the Jurassic period within this modern enclosure without even realizing. And that's why this tour is so great, it points out things that we pass by on a daily basis but fail to notice.
After further elaboration on the federation story and going through the information panels that tell the tale with the aid of maps and pictures including what Belinda calls the 'Instagram of the 1850s' , we headed outside. This part of the tour was a good way to get to really understand the dynamics of the Australian population and its inherent multi cultured diversity. If you feel like leaving behind your very own Federation story you can go online and write down your personal experience of Federation Square in the digital archives to be treasured for years to come.
The tour for us ended 'beside the Misty River' or better known as Birrarung Marr. I was surprised to notice all the artwork in this area that I hadn't paid attention to previously. Most of the artwork doesn't include written descriptions as the area is meant to be self-explored. Thus the tour is a fantastic way to get a good understanding of the various origins of these works before beginning your own explorations. We were told the meanings behind the artworks and Len gave a graphic description of how these items depicted in sculpture would have been used in real life. Len also explained very well about the various indigenous tribes and their histories. We also got to touch a possum cloak, get some information about other famous Melbourne buildings such as the Eureka tower and MCG and hear some wonderful aboriginal stories about Mimis.
I really enjoyed the tour and feel that I have a better appreciation of Melbourne and Australian culture. It was good to be updated and given a chance to be exposed to Aboriginal culture in such an engaging way as it was something that I wasn't very familiar with.