Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Friday, June 15, 2007

Australia's Indigenous Heritage - Big Sky Country

Photo: Muloobinda Girls Dance Troupe

Considering the length of time that Australia's indigenous people occupied the land, it's not surprising that there should be so many signs of occupation across the country despite the impact of later European settlement.

For much of the European period, Australia's indigenous heritage was largely neglected. Fortunately this has changed in recent years as Australians of all backgrounds have come to recognise the importance of our indigenous peoples and their past.

Here I was pleased to see that the Big Sky Tourism people have developed a tour of Big Sky Country from an Aboriginal perspective, offering ancient and modern artforms, memorials, cafes, bushwalks, crafts and museums. In the spacious spread of country stretching from Tamworth to Tenterfield and out to Moree, indigenous history and culture has a distinct and diverse presence.

Here’s a town by town guide to the Aboriginal cultural heritage of Big Sky Country.

The Studio, Moree

The Studio is a working art studio and base for around 30 Aboriginal students practising art as part of their Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander Cultural Arts studies through TAFE. The student artists practice a range of art including painting, sculpture, woodcarving, wood burning, screen-printing and digital photo manipulation inspired by both Traditional and Contemporary Arts. Entry is free and the students’ works are available for sale. The Studio is open from Monday to Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm during school term, or by appointment.

Moree Plains Gallery, Moree

Amongst its extensive collection, this gallery showcases contemporary and traditional work, featuring local Aboriginal artists. Phone Moree Tourism 02 6757 3350. or

Myall Creek Memorial, Bingara

The Myall Creek Memorial was dedicated on June 10, 2000 in memory of the Aboriginal people who died in the massacre on June 10, 1838. A gang of stockmen led by a squatter rode into Myall Creek Station on that date and brutally murdered about twenty-eight unarmed women, children and old men.

Located on a knoll which overlooks the site of the massacre, the memorial includes seven plaques outlining the story, with illustrations by Aboriginal artist Colin Isaacs. The plaques are in English, with a summary in the Gamilaraay language. At each plaque, stone benches enable the visitors to sit and reflect on this tragic event in history. Accessible year round, during daylight hours. Phone Bingara Visitor Information Centre 02 6724 0066.

Wee Waa Museum, Wee Waa

This museum contains Aboriginal artefacts along with more recent historical items from the region. Open Saturday from 10.00am-4.00pm or by appointment. Phone Narrabri Visitor Information Centre 02 6799 6760.

Goonoowigall Bushland Reserve , Inverell

Situated about 5km south of the town, this is a unique wilderness area of 900 hectares with marked walking trails. The name Goonoowigall means “plenty rock wallabies” so you may spot some of these creatures. Within the Reserve is the Nhunta Karra Kara Track, commemorating the Aboriginal families who made the Goonoowigall area their home until the 1960's. Brochures are available from the Inverell Visitor Information detailing the reserve and its flora and fauna. Accessible year round.

Stonewoman Aboriginal Area, Tingha

The Tingha Stonewoman Area is a rock feature used by local Aboriginal people as a teaching and ceremonial site. A sign prepared in collaboration with local Aboriginal groups tells the story of a young woman punished for breaking traditional marriage laws. The carpark to access the 1km walk to the area is 6 km south of Tingha village, which is 22 km south-east of Inverell. Accessible year round. Phone Inverell Tourism 02 6728 8161.

Amaroo Museum And Cultural Centre , Walcha

Amaroo Museum and Cultural Centre has a range of locally designed Aboriginal products for sale, many of them made on the premises. They include clothing, homeware, unusual gifts, jewellery, arts and crafts. Look out also, for the unique collection of artefacts representing the local Aboriginal people's past and ever changing culture. Open Monday to Friday. Phone Walcha Visitor Information Centre 02 6774 2460.

Yinarr’s Classic Black Coffee Lounge, Quirindi

In the Kamilaroi language, Yinarr’s means Aboriginal women. The Coffee Lounge is an all indigenous staffed café owned by the Quirindi Aboriginal Corporation, offering traditional Australian as well as distinctive Aboriginal cuisine to cater for all tastes. The idea of this unique café originated when local Donna Sampson decided to run hospitality training for local Aboriginal people. Phone 02 6746 1755.

Armidale Aboriginal Cultural Centre And Keeping Place , Armidale

A community based gallery where everyone can experience the diversity of Australian Indigenous arts and culture. The Armidale Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place has a permanent collection and also holds exhibitions of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal Artists. The Centre houses the Green Valley Collection, an extensive display of Aboriginal artefacts, artworks and utensils from throughout New South Wales. It offers a number of unique experiences to groups or individual visitors, although these must be booked in advance. They include cultural talks, Koori painting workshops, story-telling by local elders, bush tucker, dance, didgeridoo playing and instruction, as well as guided tours of current exhibitions and the permanent collections by Koori staff.

Guided tours of local rock art sites and horse riding in the gorges with the Buglun-gula organisation can be arranged through the centre. The Centre also has a conference centre with a bush tucker experience available on request. A small library, archival centre and research room is available for researchers. Open Monday to Friday; Saturday and Sunday – by appointment. Phone: 02 6771 1249.

Gamilarart Gallery Co-operative Limited , Tamworth

Gamilarart Gallery was formed by a local group of students and teachers who came together in the pursuit of their love of art. By uniting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists they have been able to put true Reconciliation into practice. The Gallery is a Non-Profit Arts Co-operative and exhibits and sells both local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal contemporary art. Open Monday to Friday: 10.00am to 5.00pm Saturday: 9.00am to 1.00pm. Phone Tourism Tamworth 02 6767 5300.

Mount Yarrowyck Nature Reserve and Aboriginal Cultural Walk, Uralla

This is an easy, three kilometre self-guided walk that leads through one of the few remnants of natural bushland on the western slopes of the New England Tablelands. Visitors take in the cultural heritage of the Aboriginal people with signage explaining the various use of native trees, shrubs, rocks and caves. The rock art site, located 1.8kms along the track, is in red ochre and reveals a combination of circles and bird tracks.

The Mount Yarrowyck Nature Reserve, managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, protects both the Aboriginal site and much of the mountain and its natural environment. Accessible year round, during daylight hours. Phone Uralla Visitor Information Centre 02 6778 4496.

Woollool Woolloolni Aboriginal Place, Tenterfield

A protected Aboriginal Place situated in Basket Swamp National Park, 18km north east of Tenterfield, featuring a balancing rock which has religious and mythological importance. Phone Tenterfield Tourism 02 6736 1082.

Cumbo Gunnerah Gallery, Gunnedah

Cumbo Gunnerah was the legendary warrior and wise leader of the Gunn-e-darr people of the Kamilaroi tribe. This Gallery, opened in 1992, is of great significance for the local and outlying Aboriginal people of the district. It was set up as a Cultural Keeping Place for the curation and protection of local Aboriginal artefacts and culture. On display are stone artefacts, carved trees, weapons, shields and utensils. Open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm and after hours by appointment

Red Chief Memorial, Gunnedah

Dedicated in 1984, this is the first memorial to be erected in honour of an Aboriginal historical identity. The Red Chief was the name white man gave Cumbo Gunnerah, who was immortalised by Ion Idriess in his book titled, “The Red Chief”. Phone Gunnedah Visitor Information Centre 02 6740 2230.

1 comment:

walcharoyalcafe said...

Built in 1889 as the Royal Hotel, this magnificent building was gutted by fire on the 28th August 1938. Later on that year the building was rebuilt and named the New Royal Hotel. The current owner, Toni Heaney purchased the property in December 2006 and converted the hotel to a hip 60’s style café and accommodation country establishment.

Dine either inside the chic café, on the veranda or alfresco under the magnificent willow tree. If it is a quick caffeine hit you need, then the Royal also offers take away tea, coffee and delicious cakes, slices and biscuits.

Choose from nine well-appointed comfortable rooms or the semi self-contained cottage located across the courtyard and the back of the main building.

Whether you are celebrating a special occasion, looking for a weekend escape or just a fantastic coffee, the Royal Café and accommodation is the perfect venue to exceed your every requirement.