31 May, 2017

Aussie Rules and the first Australians

As highlighted in my post about the Barwon Football Club from 2011, Geelong and the Barwon have long had a connection with Australian Rules Football (AFL) and last weekend, I noticed another connection in the media.
Round 10, 2017 was the AFL's Sir Doug Nicholls indigenous round. According to the AFL website, the indigenous round is aimed at "recognising and celebrating indigenous players and [their] culture" and is named after indigenous footballer, advocate for reconciliation and the first Aboriginal person to be awarded a knighthood - Doug Nicholls.
To mark the occasion, each club wore a jersey bearing an indigenous design relevant to the club and its history. This year, the jumpers worn by the Geelong Cats told the story of the Wathaurong people, the traditional owners of the land surrounding Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula and beyond, extending north west to Ballarat and east as far as Werribee. The design on the jumpers was created by artist Nathan Patterson of Iluka Design, an indigenous artist born in the Northern Territory but now residing in Torquay.
Guernsey worn by the Geelong players during the 2017 indigenous round
The jersey, designed to have a strong local focus, features a meeting place as the central design with the sun rising behind the You Yangs. In the Wathaurong language, Kardinia means "the first ray of light". In front of the You Yangs, the Barwon River flows to the sea.
Over the decades Geelong has had nine players of known indigenous heritage play for the club at VFL/AFL level. Of those players however, only one - Allen Christiensen - was raised in the Geelong region.
In recent years, the Geelong Football Club have developed a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which aims to promote inclusiveness, respect and other cultural values amongst all club members for both the wider community and in particular indigenous Australians. To this end, they are involved with the local Wathaurong community as well as the larger indigenous population across the country, developing programs to both educate and promote the reconciliation message.

14 May, 2017

Installing art on Redgum Island

Last Sunday, along with a number of other community members, I attended an event on Redgum Island at Fyansford to acknowledge the installation of a new artwork.
Sunday morning's event
For those who don't know, Redgum Island is the piece of land which lies at the confluence of the Moorabool and Barwon Rivers. It is divided from the rest of the land between the two rivers by a small ana-branch - a rivulet of only a few hundred metres which branches off the Barwon below Buckley Falls, joining the Moorabool to the south of Fyansford Common.
This little island has been significant to generations of locals for thousands of years. The original Wathaurong inhabitants referred to the area as "Bukar Bulac" the place between two rivers. They set up eel traps along the ana-branch, fished in the rivers, harvested the native flora and hunted along the riverbanks. With the arrival of European settlers, the island was used for farming, with extensive clearing The the native vegetation taking place.
In 1885, the island formed part of a 17 acre block of land which was purchased by William Francis Ducker, a former mayor of Geelong, businessman and one of the main backers of the neighbouring Barwon Paper Mill. The land continued to be used for farming purposes until as recently as the 1980s and whilst little of the original flora has survived, one of the spectacular River Red Gums for which the island is named did and can still be seen today at the northern end of the island.
The large River Red Gum at the north end of Redgum Island
In the early 1980s, after protracted negotiations between local council and the Geelong Environment Council largely driven by Tony Woolford, a land swap was arranged which saw Redgum Island pass into public ownership. It was Tony who then became the driving force behind The Friends of Buckley Falls group who for the last thirty years have been responsible for the revegetation of the riparian strip along the Barwon from the Geelong Ring Road to Queen's Park. In recent years, the lower reaches of the Moorabool River have also become part of their brief. Over the years, the members of the Friends of Buckley Falls have spent many thousands of hours planting, weeding, cleaning up and reclaiming the land along the banks of the two rivers, including Redgum Island, which today bears little resemblance to the farmland it once was.
This aerial shot of Fyansford c1920s shows most of Redgum Island lying
between the two rivers towards the bottom right of the picture. Image held by
the State Library of Victoria
The artwork which was the focus of our attention on Sunday is a collaborative effort conceived by the Friends of Buckley Falls and the City of Greater Geelong and designed by Mark Trinham and Glenn Romanis of Concept Design, Sculpture and Paving. The dry stone wall was erected by David Long and landscape design was undertaken by Gill Mexted.
Carved from a single piece of reclaimed River Red Gum timber, the seat and pole reflect elements of the flora and fauna found on Redgum Island. The birds represented are the Lorikeet and the Swift Parrot which rely on the River Red Gums and other plants found along the rivers for food and shelter. The leaves of the gum also form part of the sculpture. The accompanying seat shows two of the endangered species of native fish - the Southern and Yarra Pygmy Perch - which are found in the two rivers.
The artwork on Redgum Island
The basalt plains which are so dominant in the landscape through which both rivers flow, are represented by the basalt dry stone wall which partially encloses the work and by the paving which surrounds the wooden structures. The pavement, constructed from basalt and slate depicts a map of the region. Both the Moorabool and Barwon Rivers are shown flowing to their confluence with Redgum Island nestled between them.
A sign at the site provides a more detailed description of the installation and the surrounding environment:
The island and the art. Click to enlarge
For those who wish to visit, the art installation is only a short walk from the carparks on Fyansford Common (crossing the footbridge over the Moorabool, then that over the ana-branch) or from the end of the walking track on Lower Paper Mills Rd. A slightly longer walk from the lower carpark at Buckley Falls (about 1km) or from Queen's Park Bridge (about 1.7km), crossing the Barwon opposite the Queen's Park Golf Course takes in views of the river and The Deviation on Fyansford Hill. After crossing the bridge a short detour across the grass to the northern tip of the island will bring you to the remnant Red Gum whilst the path leads to the artwork and the bridge over the ana-branch.