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A Story About Aboriginal Identity
My story begins as a descendant of Australia’s original inhabitants; I am Aboriginal, of mixed English and Dutch heritage. During my infant and primary school years until the age of 8, I lived with my extended family in a place called “Blackman’s Point”. Like most areas of eastern NSW this was also the site of a massacre of Aboriginal ancestors and mothers which took place during the settlement of the coastal town of Port Macquarie in the mid 1800’s. “Blackman’s Point” is called “Goolawahl”. (Pronounce as gool-a-wall.) in birripi culture.
The many rivers that flow from the mountains from the west and the Greater David Range to our coastal ocean (Pacific Ocean) mostly have Aboriginal stories of “creation” attached to them. Just like the “Noongar” people of Western Australia/Northern Territory and the “Pitjanjarra” of South Australia have a “dream time” culture and beliefs. So also NSW, Queensland and Victorian Aboriginal bloodlines.
Australia Aboriginal people in NSW refer to themselves as “Goori”, “Boori” or “Murri” and relate in this way rather than the European version of “Koori”. The relationship we all shared in the 60’s was strong as I remember our old rented farm house at “Blackmans Point” had to suffer (just like us) three major floods in 1963 , 1964 and 1966.
Almost the entire town of Port Macquarie was under water at some point during those summer months when months of heavy rain caused a mass of water from the mountains to flow down the Hastings River (Dhoongang ) out to reach the sea just to be. pushed back in by the King’s tide from the Pacific.
It was during the flood of 1964 (the largest recorded for Port Macquarie) that our family lost sister Patricia as we were both in hospital since the onset of double pneumonia. Patricia was one year old, I was 3 years old. After the floods in 1966 and up to 1968 our extended families of cousins, aunts, uncles, aunts, uncles, mother, father, grandmothers, grandfathers had to leave the old farm houses (the two farm houses were which they had separated by a bridge over a tributary). to the river), they had done great damage as the floods raged and a wooden structure could not have stood as they did any longer when the bridge was washed away, the roads on washed away, the cattle, the sheep, the farmers’ crops and every other living creature that had no wings. Luckily Uncle Trevor Rumbel (he was a licensed fisherman) had two boats to rescue us as the Hastings River poured in through the front door at 2am in the morning. The front door was raised 6ft with wooden stairs down to the harbour. (river)
My sister Tanya was born in 1966 and Jo-anne was born in 1968, the Vietnam war was on television and there was little room for all our children (there were 13 of us) to go in front of the same black and white television. set. We had lots of swimming, fishing and tree climbing activities to do most of the time. After leaving Port Macquarie and the extended family, Dad, Mum, Tanya, Jo-anne and myself moved further north 160 miles or so to the town of Evans Head. Yes, another important Aboriginal place, of the “Bunjalung” people. Evans Head (Goanna Headland) is a mythical site from the “dream time”.
Corroboree and ceremonies were held on that peninsula (bora land) to honor their Goanna spirit totem as well as increase the supply of fish with their Bungalung tribal songs. Evans Head is today a fishing village with fishing trawlers and recreational boats moored at the Fish Co-operative along the Evans Head River.
Evans Head had large clay banks (used for ritual body painting). After we left in 1969, we returned down the coast to Sawtell, which is 10 miles south of Coffs Harbor (a thriving cedar sawmill) with a large jetty built for the ships to transport the rich cedar to England and Europe. 6th grade initiation was in a town called “Woolgoolga” (current pop 25000) about 15 miles north of Coffs Harbor (pop 100,000) on the NSW mid-north coast. Woolgoolga, Sawtell and Coffs Harbor are towns in “Gumbaynggir” or “Gumbangar” country. “Woolgoolga is a variation of the Gumbaynggir word for “Weilga” or native plum. My grandfather William “Goola” (koala) Holten (1923 – 2002) would tell me when there was a dispute between the tribes of the “Birripi” and “Dunghutti” nearby (crow people) happened to be the Gumbaynggir who mediated in disputes. Birripi and Dunghutti people have a long relationship with the Gumbaynggir. sand to be placed high on top of mountain “Yarrahapinni” (three koalas going down a hill – the legend of Gumbaynggir) as he shakes his big tail into the sand loom to escape from the attacks of the giant “Crows” (Dhungutti). “said the goanna big Birripi fire to the big crows (Dungutti) and that is why all the crows are black today.
During the European settlement of Port Macquarie as a penal colony in the 1800s there was a big battle between a European and the people of Birripi, Dhungutti and Gumbaynggir together at “Goolawahl”. The story of the battle tells how the River Hastings had turned red with the blood of the fallen.
My mother and sister live in Woolgoolga and my sister Tanya, Dad and Grandma died there. After the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in 1983 which gave Aboriginal people the power to claim crown land for their community members in NSW, there were many significant improvements in education, employment and self-determination for the Aboriginal people. Aborigines in NSW.
In 1993 the High Court of Australia overturned the “terra nullius” doctrine that Australia was empty when Europeans settled in Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). Elder Eddie Mabo of the Meriam people claimed common law title to their island of Murri off the North Queensland coast and asserted common law rights through the Queensland Federal courts for 10 years that his people had unimproved ownership and possession of it. their island and not the Australian government. better title than them.
Eddie Koiki Mabo (1936-1992) died before the decision was handed down by the High Court.
In 1997 the Native Title Act 1993 was almost watered down by the changes implemented by the Australian Liberal Government and then Prime Minister the Honorable John Howard MP. The so called 10 point “Wik Plan”
(The Northern Territory was called Wik, a Gulf of Carpentaria tribe) who were facing a scheme in order to be given native title they would also have to agree to allow landholdings pastoral existence alongside their native title claim in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria. Also the common law rights of all Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders who claimed native title were subject to the 10 point Wik Plan.
As expected the “Wik” people:
(who didn’t speak English and couldn’t understand a word) voted against proposed amendments to the Native Title Act of 1993 to allow pastoral leases over tribal lands to be shared with Native Title owners and for the remainder of the Australian Aboriginal race to assert Native Title in the Federal Court for all claims to claim Native Title rights.
I was told (names not mentioned) that it was because of the translator (appointed by the government) who presided over the 1997 “Wik” conference that it was sometime before Wik representatives were on their hands to be dropped from the call to vote. Apparently the translator had forgotten to tell them to stop voting. (tongue in cheek)
Since 1993 ten native title claims have been confirmed.
As at 2000 there were 561 candidate native title applications lodged in Australia.
As of 2000 there were 63 claimant native title applications submitted for the Northern Territory.
I have worked for and been a member of Aboriginal Land Councils since 1992. I was elected as a Board Member of the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council, September 2009.
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