Aboriginal and European history on the Northern Beaches

It’s hard to say where the inspiration for my project came from. As a resident of the Northern Beaches, I have lived my whole life in close proximity to sites of incredible natural beauty, many of which are of spiritual and cultural significance to Aboriginal people. However, ever since I chose Modern History as an elective in Year 11 I’ve had a huge love of European history (which was only furthered by a school trip there that same year, and through study at uni).
I don’t think that these were conscious influences on my project. It’s only by typing this that I’ve really come to realise it. Forefront in my mind as I developed my idea was our class field trip to the Quarantine Station, which I was fascinated to learn was a site devoted to healing in pre-European times. I found it incredible that both Aboriginal people and European settlers viewed the site as a place for the ill, and that really got me thinking – this is a place that two almost incompatible cultures have come to consider significant. How unlikely! I wondered if there were other places in the region that might also have a significance that transcends cultures.
My mind was all but made up when David Watts came to speak to us about his work at the Aboriginal Heritage Office, which sounded like a match made in Heaven as far as my project was concerned. I contacted David in the hopes that I could volunteer with the AHO as an Aboriginal site monitor, a proposition to which he agreed!
The first Monday of the mid-semester break was spent with Viki Gordon and other volunteers at Manly Dam, learning how to locate and protect Aboriginal sites in addition to discovering more about the varied projects the AHO participates in. This was a truly fascinating day, and I learned just how steeped in indigenous culture my local area is!
I have high hopes that my work with the AHO will help me uncover more sites of significance to Aboriginal people, and then research the reasons why Europeans may also find these sites to be worthy of preservation or if they are significant in a different way. Unfortunately I’m not allowed to share the location of the sites that I’ll be monitoring, but I strongly suggest coming up this way and wandering around the national parks or along the coastal walks, you never know what you might find!

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