Traditionally known as Car-rang-gel, the area around the ICMS Northern Beaches campus – the North Head Sanctuary – has enduring significance for the Gayamagal People and occupies a notable place in the narratives of our indigenous people.
As part of the ICMS commitment to acknowledging and recognising the often-forgotten history of the Aboriginal people in Australia – and as a way of welcoming our Aboriginal students to the ICMS community – ICMS staff and students were invited to join a guided bushwalk around North Head.
This is an historic site and was the backdrop for some of the earliest interactions between Aboriginal People and Europeans.
The Aboriginal clans who once occupied the area left important evidence of their past and way of life before colonisation. This site is of significance to the Aboriginal people because it is a valued link with their traditional culture. Aboriginal people are part of the oldest surviving continuous culture in the world.
Joining the bushwalk were ICMS students of Aboriginal descent. Zali Offer grew up in Western Australia and later moved to Roma, a small town in the Maranoa Region of Queensland. Zali came to ICMS as part of the Accor Hotel’s Indigenous Careers Program. Accor Hotels have a high quality indigenous engagement charter that focuses on career and development for our First Nations Peoples.
For Zali it’s especially important to acknowledge her Aboriginal heritage as a way of healing the trauma of the “Stolen Generations”, the scars of which have been felt by her own family members. (“Stolen Generations” describes the Aboriginal children forcefully taken away (stolen) from their families between the 1890s and 1970s on the misguided assumption that the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would be improved if they became part of white society.)
Nathan Wright, also an ICMS student, also joined the bushwalk. Nathan is from Dubbo in regional New South Wales and is a proud descendent of the Gamilaraay people.
Sharing her knowledge and experience of the local area and Aboriginal history and culture with ICMS staff and students was Karen Smith, an Education Officer from the Aboriginal Heritage Office. Karen is a descendant of the Buruberongal clan of the Hawkesbury area. Her family has been living in the Manly area for many years.
Karen explained that there is great scientific value in these sites. By studying the shells, stones and bones, we can learn a great deal about past environments, what plants and animals were used by people, what tools they used and how they survived.
The Gayemagal lived in the Manly area and thrived due to the abundance of food resources like fish, shellfish and animals. Evidence of these can be found in the middens all over the coastal area.
Manly was named by Captain Arthur Phillip, the British admiral who settled Sydney in 1788. He stated that “their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place”.
Because the Manly area was one of the first point of contact between the Gayamagal People and the English colonisers, the indigenous people of the area bore the brunt of this first contact. Having no resistance to the thirty different European diseases that came in with the boats, within a year at least half of the indigenous population in the area had died. Many who remained, including Arabanoo, Colebee, Bennelong, were removed from the area or locked up. As a result, many of the stories and the local history were lost. We only have the brief history of the indigenous people from the first fleet.
Karen surprised the group by explaining that, contrary to popular belief, the Aboriginal people were not only hunter gathers but also farmed large sections of grasses for use. Feather Grass, for example, was used to pad pillows and bedding.
Karen pointed out the few remaining slow-growing Grass Trees which used to cover the whole North Head area. Some of the beautiful and useful indigenous plants which can still be seen on the North Head Sanctuary include: Paper Bark Trees, whose soft paper-like bark was used to wrap food and swaddle babies; Grevillea, whose flowers were used to make a type of bush cordial; and the white flowered Tea Tree plants, which were useful for their healing oils.
For Zali and Nathan the bushwalk gave them an insight into how integral the bushland was to the everyday lives of indigenous people. They learned how important it is for us today to continue to preserve and protect the bush. “The bush is a tangible connection with the history of our people and it’s great that it’s so close to where we live on campus,” said Zali.