Out on Country
On the 5th of April the Year 11 Aboriginal Studies class went on an excursion to Kur-ing-gai Chase National Park which is where the Guringai people lived until severely affected by colonisation.
We arrived early and were lucky enough to stop by the Elvina Track engraving site where we explored the rock faces to find Aboriginal rock engravings. We saw engravings of the Baime/Daramulan creator spirit, whale and emu. The engraving of the “Emu in the Sky” is significant and often during autumn it aligns with the constellations in the sky telling the Guringai people that the emus are currently laying their eggs.
After this we met with Uncle Laurie who took us on a walk to the Basin Trail, listening to stories of his experiences growing up along the way. Before entering the space we painted ochre (made by Uncle Laurie) onto our faces, hands and feet. This is symbolic and tells the ancestors of that area that we come with listening ears and open hearts. Once we entered we all sat around a new set of engravings, learning about the meaning of the people and their roles in the community. One of the engravings was of a young girl who had an initiation belt on. The belt was made from a strand of hair from each member of their Nation. After learning about different punishments and traditions in the community we got the chance to take our shoes off and walk around the engravings, being conscious not to step on the engravings for preservation purposes. The engravings also illustrated where different sacred sites are, where women and mens sites are and of animals which are significant to the local area. We then got the opportunity to visit the women’s site with Mrs Hughes and Miss Samarasinghe. Both Uncle Laurie and Mr Lennon, stayed in the engraving area out of respect of Aboriginal traditional law.
The women’s site concluded our visit to the Basin Trail and we travelled back down to the picnic area where Uncle Laurie showed us his own handmade clapsticks, boomerangs and a rain maker. Once we finished our lunch, Uncle Laurie led us through a smoking ceremony. A smoking ceremony is a significant and heartfelt ritual within the Aboriginal culture. Both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are encouraged to participate and it is a time when we all cleanse ourselves of bad spirits.
After the Smoking Ceremony, we moved along to the Red Hands Track were we observed the Aboriginal hand rock art created with red ochre.There was a variety of hand sizes in this cave. Uncle Laurie explained how these were created, teaching us that Aboriginal people used to put the ochre in their mouths and spit it over their hands.
We finished our excursion at the West Head Army Track lookout site. Our class was stunned by the view and saw this as a perfect opportunity to take a whole class photo. Uncle Laurie then concluded the day as he talked about how the Aboriginal people used the bark from the tree to make canoes and coolamons.
Overall, we can confidently say, on the behalf of our class, that the excursion was immensely enjoyable and was personally one of our favourites!
Maria Treacy and Sarah Scott
Year 11 Aboriginal Studies students