Despite the rain and competition from Clean Up Australia and Mardi Gras hangovers more than 700 visitors attended the first of this years’ Bare Island Markets. The next Markets will be held 6th April.

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Fort(Photos courtesy of First Hand Solutions –  L-R:  Notice; Weaving; Smoking; local legends -John Cann and Laddie Timbery; art pieces; Volunteers who cooked the kangaroo sausages; crowd)
Weaving past and present, Catherine Marshall, 8th March The Australian WHEN Bidjigal man Laddie Timbery journeys from his base at Jervis Bay to Sydney each weekend, he follows the travelling route of his ancestors. At La Perouse, on the northern fringe of Sydney’s Botany Bay, he pauses and reflects not on the arrival in the bay of James Cook in 1770 but on the people who had occupied this land for eons before, Aboriginal families for whom the appearance of sails on the horizon would herald a mighty confluence of cultures that shapes La Perouse to this day.
The suburb is now home to beach-loving Australians and migrants from Europe who came after World War II; it distils French sentiment in the La Perouse Museum, which sits on the headland as a reminder of explorer Jean-Francois de Galaup, Comte de la Perouse, who arrived in Botany Bay days after the First Fleet in 1788. But while many Aboriginal descendants of that early encounter with Cook still live in this community, their culture has been buried by the sands of modernity. As redress, Timbery and other Aboriginal artists have set out to revive local traditions at a program of weekend crafts workshops and indigenous markets. “With the passing of elders, Aboriginal culture is vanishing at an alarming rate,’’ says Peter Cooley, director of First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corporation, the charity that initiated the workshops. “This enterprise will not only reinvigorate the Aboriginal experience of a visit to La Perouse but the transfer of knowledge between the generations, using tourism as the tool.’’ On the first Sunday of each month, keepers of tradition present workshops on La Perouse’s Bare Island, teaching visitors things such as basket weaving and spear-making, shell art and Djaadjawaan dance. Cooley’s popular Catch ’N’ Cook cultural tours are also on the menu, with participants learning skills such as collecting bush tucker, fishing and that quintessential Australian pastime, boomerang throwing. This is a skill close to Timbery’s heart — his family has been practising boomerang-making for generations — and he expects the workshops not only to breathe new life into the art form but to expose participants to a history that largely has been buried: in 1910, Timbery’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Emma Timbery, exhibited her shell work in London; his grandfather Hubert, who could determine a species of fish from the ripples it made on the water, was a “lookout man’’ who would sit on the shore carving boomerangs and alerting fishermen to the presence of a catch. Hubert’s brother John was the first postman at Wreck Bay, and another relative, boomerang thrower Joe Timbery, performed on top of the Eiffel Tower and for the Queen in 1954. But the workshops have a more urgent purpose: highlighting social issues prevalent among vulnerable members of Aboriginal communities and raising funds for indigenous youth training programs that promote cultural reconnection. “Aboriginal youth are becoming dispossessed from their cultural identity and confused about their position in society,’’ says Cooley. “[This leads] to an array of social problems, including one of the highest rates of suicide in the world for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander youth, who are also 19 times more likely to be detained in a juvenile facility.’’ It’s fitting the desire to set things right has taken root on Bare Island, which sits in waters first breached by foreigners long ago. For weaver Steven Russell, it’s an opportunity to heal old wounds and ignite new friendships. “When black and white get together to weave they’re weaving their souls into the object. They start yarning. By the end of the day they’re good mates,’’ he says.
Checklist First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corporation’s tours, workshops and markets run on the first Sunday of each month from 9.30am at Bare Island, La Perouse. More: sydneyaboriginaltours.com.au/first-hand.
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