Topics: Culture: North Coastal

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Women’s and Men’s Business that is all through this country

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Songlines that go across present day Sydney, into Queensland and across to Central Australia

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the knowledge that was taught to him as a child

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teaching the men to paint by drawing on their culture and heritage.

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work in jails teaching art and reveals one of his paintings that tells the story of Tiddalik the Frog

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sacred sites

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cultural connection (with their knowledge of the land and bush foods)

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land grant given to a non-Aboriginal person in 1813

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middens, burials, shelters

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a recent ceremony and re-understandings have brought them together again .

Before Cook - view

Koori people are living on the east coast of Australia. Observers of the first fleet note many formal ceremonies including burying and cremating the dead, and initiation rituals such as ‘era-bad-djang’ where the upper right incisor tooth of young males is loosened and knocked out (this called yoothsay in Cameraigal language). Koradji (clever men) carry out ceremonial rituals, often in the higher, sandstone country. Young girls have the first two joints of the little finger removed by pressure from spider web or wild string tied children. They become ‘mal-gum’ fisher women. Observers in the First Fleet also note the very large number of rock engraving (at least 180 art sites in the Hawkesbury River region). Some are secret-sacred sites for men and women, other are for the education of young people to be initiated. Subjects represented in carvings include Daramulan, the one legged god who is present at initiation ceremonies and Baiami, the sky-culture hero. Other subjects represented on rock platforms are mundoes (footprints), fish and ancestral beings and stories engravings. Koories also produce ochre paintings of animals and handprints. In both cave and on rock platforms, totemic figures were also reproduced in soil and sand during ceremony. (See NSW Department of Education and Training nd, http://www.rumbalara-e.schools.nsw.edu.au/publications/mypeople1.pdf ) Many blade and axe grinding sites are still to be found, mostly near running water. Trade items like chert stones from the Upper Hawkesbury are traded to make axes and for artefacts used in ceremonies. Also traded are stones for tool making, food, clay, whale blubber and ochre. Koori women and men use bone awls (needles) to sew possum skin cloaks, and fashion fishhooks by grinding sea shells. Inter-tribal fights and ritual spearings are not uncommon.

Before Cook - view

Other discoveries in middens include bone points with drilled holes or grass-tree resin glued to them, and small stone tools. Women collect shellfish. Men use spears for fish, eastern grey kangaroo, swamp wallaby, red necked wallaby. Men and women hunt bandicoot, echidna, goanna, snake and birds and many other species. Huts are made of grass and bark ‘Kokorre’ . A drink is made ‘Bool’ from soaking Banksia blossoms in water and allowed to ferment to make an invigorating drink. Koories carry out annual burn-offs in late winter to assist in the capture of grass-eating animals. The green pick attracts game such as kangaroos and emus so they can be managed in a sustainable way. They gather sometimes annually at sites where traditionally food is available, for ceremonial business or for settlement of grievances, initiation ceremonies, betrothal and marriage, corroborees for the renewal of the natural environment and benevolent spirits. Bora grounds are used for some ceremonies. Clan meetings attract large numbers from Manly Cove, Collins Cove and Farm Cove. (Attenbrow 2003)

Before Cook - view

The Cameraigal were considered by the first fleet author Collins  as “by far the most numerous tribe of any within our knowledge” (Collins 1975, p. 453). Richard Hill of the Aborigines Protection Board wrote that the “Cammera” people extended from the northern part of Sydney Harbour, “say from North Head to Lane Cove River or estuary, right away north to the Hawkesbury, and away east to the sea coast” (Hill and Thornton 1892). Cammeragal, therefore, seems to have been a collective name for a strong alliance of clans on the north harbour of Port Jackson. In the harbour area of Port Jackson, people may have called themselves Eora and the name for man or people was ‘mulla’ . This was recorded in vocabularies by Phillip Gidley King, William Dawes, John Hunter and Daniel Southwell. Recent research suggests that ‘Eora’ did not signify a definite clan or group. The consensus among linguists is to describe the language spoken in this region as the Sydney language as suggested by Dr Jakelin Troy. (Troy 1994)

Before Cook - view

The Guringai (Kuringai) speakers are thought to be the original inhabitants of northern Sydney and the inner eastern harbour regions. Guringai-speaking clans of about 40 to 60 people were made up of smaller extended family groups of perhaps a dozen people.

1788 - view

The Cannalgal clan (Camaraigal, Ga-mariagal) are the first Indigenous peoples to meet the English settlers in Sydney Harbour. The clan are coastal people living between Manly Beach to Dee Why in the north.

1789 - view

In talking about Arabanoo, Marine Captain Watkin Tench writes “Indeed the gentleness and humanity of his disposition frequently displayed themselves … When our children … used to flock around him, he never failed to fondle them.” (Tench 1996, p. 95)

1790 - view

Phillip notes “the weather now being very dry, the natives were employed in burning the grass on the north shore opposite Sydney, in order to catch rats and other animals, whilst the woman were employed in fishing: this is their constant practice in dry weather.”

1791 - view

Tench observes language differences: “Although our natives (in Sydney) and the strangers (Hawkesbury River) conversed on a par and understood each other perfectly, yet they spoke different dialects of the same language”. (Tench 1996)

1791 - view

On an expedition to the Hawkesbury River with Colbee, Marine Captain Watkin Tench notes that the dialect of the sea coast is also spoken at Parramatta.

1791 - view

David Collins identifies the north shore clan as Cameragal, “by far the most numerous. … most robust and muscular”. They officiate in ceremonies for many clans, in which the boy’s front upper tooth is knocked out”. Collins notes that the Cameragal had the best fishing spots around the harbour, North Head, Middle Head and the Spit. (Collins 1975)