Aboriginal Heritage of the Blue Mountains

As it is National Reconciliation Week, I acknowledge the recent publication ofAboriginal Heritage of the Blue Mountains: Recent Research and Reflections and the intense, crucial work that was done in its creation. This tome was authored by Bruce Cameron, Michael Jackson, Evan Yanna Muru Gallard, Grace Karskens, Wayne R. Brennan, Jim Smith and Eugene Stockton; edited by Kelvin Knox and Reverend Dr Eugene Stockton; and published by the Blue Mountains Education and Research Trust from Lawson. Its design and layout was by Allan Walsh of Hazelbrook and it was printed by Bennetts of Leura. This is indeed a truly local publication.

I acknowledge also that this book honours and respects the people who first inhabited the Blue Mountains and their descendants who continue to do so. In essence, this is the third volume accomplished by the Blue Mountains Education and Research Trust that focuses on Aboriginal history and archaeology. The first volume,Blue Mountains Dreaming: The Aboriginal Heritage, was published in 1993 and the second volume was published in 2009. As Reverend Dr Stockton says in his preface:

Given the great antiquity of Aboriginal presence in Australia, by far the vast majority of Australians who have ever lived have been Aboriginal people. Borrowing a biblical analogy, Romans 9:11, they can be likened to a venerable olive tree, deeply rooted in the soil, while the newcomers of the last few hundred years are like the branches of wild olive shoots, come from across the sea, now grafted on the old stock, sharing its roots and sap, so that the two form a single living entity on this continent.

Reverend Dr Stockton goes on to say:

These days there is growing concern for Aboriginal reconciliation. I believe genuine reconciliation will come about when we recognise and accept that both indigenous and non-indigenous history is part of Australia.

I was honoured to be asked to address attendees at the recent launch of this publication. I spoke of the requirement for compassion, respect and protection to be central to our acknowledgement of Indigenous heritage, particularly in a political climate in which legislation is passed for the flooding of wild rivers and the destruction of Aboriginal heritage by raising the Warragamba Dam wall, which has gone ahead without conferring with Aboriginal peoples. I ask my colleagues in this place to acquaint themselves with the words of Taylor and Kazan Brown and their Indigenous ancestors. I note the deep concern and distress that they spoke about at this launch and their distress at this Government's lack of consultation with the Aboriginal community about protecting heritage in the Burragorang Valley.

I pay tribute to the many authors who pulled together this fabulous publication. People have inhabited Australia for thousands of years. At the foot of the Blue Mountains, human occupation dates from up to 50,000 years ago. In 1788 the way of life for Aboriginal people living in the mountains irrevocably changed. However, their cultural heritage, handed down from ancient generations, has remained in the form of occupation sites, arts, artefacts, axe-grinding grooves, scar trees, stone arrangements and other traces of their presence in the landscape. That heritage also includes language, stories, memories and ceremonies. It is a beautiful, rich area and I pay tribute to the Aboriginal heritage of the Blue Mountains and the people telling those important stories. Finally, I pay tribute to the great Eugene Stockton. His pioneering archaeological investigations between Blackheath and the Nepean River have laid the groundwork for understanding the Aboriginal history of the Blue Mountains. He is a remarkable man and this is a remarkable publication.

[Download PDF]