The upcoming 2019 National Reconciliation Week (NRW) provides an ideal opportunity for residents of Stockland communities around Australia to reflect on some of the traditional cultural and spiritual aspects of their communities.
This year’s NRW theme of Grounded in Truth: Walk Together with Courage focuses on the race relations dimension of reconciliation, encouraging all Australians to understand and value each other’s cultures, rights and experiences.
Promoting greater understanding of the heritage and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a key component of Stockland’s Reconciliation Action Plan.
This commitment is reflected in many initiatives and programs that Stockland undertakes to educate residents about the historic cultural values and practices of the lands that make up our communities.
Archaeological excavations carried out on Stockland’s behalf prior to the commencement of work at some new projects, in consultation with local Aboriginal community members, have also been instrumental in uncovering educational information about traditional land uses and practices.
Penny Austin, Sustainability Manager at Stockland, said investigating previous land uses was one of the first activities undertaken by Stockland when planning the creation of a new residential community.
“We regularly conduct cultural heritage values studies to understand more about the cultural, spiritual and environmental significance of our community locations and how these areas may have been utilised by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Ms Austin said.
“It is hoped that this information can then be incorporated into the future planning of urban design and features of Stockland communities, such as local storytelling opportunities,” she said.
Here are some initiatives across the country where the traditional uses and Aboriginal heritage of the land have been brought into the community.
Stockland’s Cloverton community at Kalkallo in Melbourne’s north provides an example of how historic cultural practices are shared with new residents and visitors to the community with play areas designed around traditional land uses.
Cloverton residents can discover the history of Lomandra Baskets, made from the long leaves of a plant called Lomandra and used by local people for thousands of years to carry all kinds of bush tucker, such as seeds, nuts and berries. They can also learn about how the local Wurundjeri people would catch eels in the near Merri Creek with long, woven traps.
Understanding both the craft and principles involved in weaving techniques remains important today as it is evidence of an on-going link to traditional cultural practices.
Another feature highlighted at Cloverton is the traditional food source of murrnong, also known as yam daisies. The yam daisies had big yellow flowers with fat tubers buried deep underground that could be eaten like carrots.
Elsewhere, an exciting new initiative at our Willowdale community at Denham Court in Sydney involves the creation of a bush tucker trail, bird hide and 62 metres of boardwalk along the banks of a rejuvenated local waterway running through Willowdale’s newest park.
About 315,000 trees, shrubs and groundcovers native to the local area, including Forest Redgum and Sickle Wattle, are being planted to form the unique bush tucker trail, along with educational signage. The plantings will yield a wide assortment of bush tucker including edible berries and finger limes throughout the year in addition to flowering locally native species.
Prior to the commencing work at Willowdale, archaeological excavations identified a number of Aboriginal site types that had not previously been investigated in the Sydney area. These sites and associated archaeological objects provided new insight into Aboriginal culture and practices in the East Leppington region.
Some locations selected by the Aboriginal community for conservation have been retained in the Willowdale community to assist with future understanding of the long Aboriginal occupation of the area.
The Stone Ridge community at Narangba in Queensland included the creation of seven unique outdoor classrooms on viewing platforms alongside a dedicated ecological corridor. The classrooms were designed for use by local schools and included information on animal footprints, traditional tracking methods and traditional Aboriginal communication symbols.
Aboriginal Elders identified a significant cultural marker in the form of a Scar Tree. Most scarred trees have a section of the bark removed at a higher point in the tree trunk for the creation of canoes, shields and containers. This elliptical shaped scar, however, is to the base of the tree suggesting it’s removal provides a visual form of communication usually symbolising a ceremonial or place marker.
National Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and at Stockland we look forward to continuing to explore ways we can contribute to reconciliation in Australia.