Acknowledgement of Country - Pandemic Inspired Cycle Touring - CycleBlaze

April 16, 2020

Acknowledgement of Country

The world's oldest, continuing culture

Cycle Touring on Ngunnawal Country
I’d like to acknowledge that all of the rides in this journal to date have been on Ngunnawal country. The Ngunnawal people are the traditional owners the land where Canberra now sits. There is some debate about traditional ownership of the area. The Ngambri, the Ngarigo and the Walgalu speaking Ngambri-Guumaal also have a long history here, however it is generally accepted to refer to the area Ngunnawal Country. The key message is that Aboriginal people have been here and are still here on their own country.

Aboriginal people have been in Australia for an immensely long time. At least 60,000 years ago they arrived in the far north west of Australia and then gradually moved across the whole continent including Tasmania.

There’s archeological evidence that Aboriginal people have been living in the area where Canberra now is for at least 20,000 years. The rivers and grassy woodlands were a rich source of food and shelter. The sub-alpine areas provided seasonal feasts of fat-rich bogong moths which attracted Aboriginal groups from further afield to visit temporarily and share the abundant food source. Hence this area, in Aboriginal history, was known as a ‘meeting place’ a function which continues to this day as the national capital.

With the arrival, some would say illegal invasion, by the British in 1788 Aboriginal and Torres Strait people across Australia were hit with multiple, massive setbacks. Land theft, child theft, genocidal massacres, slavery, epidemics, suppression of culture and systemic racial discrimination decimated the Aboriginal and Torres Strait people. Until the 1960’s Indigenous people were not even considered, by the law, to be Australian citizens. Against huge odds, Aboriginal people and their complex, diverse cultures survived these waves of onslaught.  

Legally and socially the situation has improved greatly over the past few decades, however there is still much which needs to be improved. Structural discrimination still exists. Racism is still common. Inequity still occurs. A starting point for the ongoing reconciliation of the very damaging recent affects of European occupation, is awareness of the true history of Australia, and acknowledgement of whose land we are on, and acknowledging past and current Aboriginal people as the custodians of the country I am doing these rides on. 

Following are a few images taken on the recent rides which are relevant to acknowledging contemporary and past Aboriginal presence in the Canberra region. I’d encourage readers to find out more about Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples’ rich and complex culture. It is a defining part of, and foundation of modern Australian culture.

The Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islands flag. Flying near Parliament House.
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AIATSIS. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands. Located near the National Museum of Australia. A wonderful institution. It’s a centre for research, and a repository of accessible information, documents and images.
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Sign at AIATSIS
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Sign at AIATSIS
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Sign at AIATSIS
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Sign at AIATSIS
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Sign at AIATSIS
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Example of local signage seen on a recent ride
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Another sign spotted on a recent day ride.
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The world’s longest continuing protest. The Aboriginal tent embassy located across from Parliament House was set up as demonstration site in the 1970s. To this day it is a reminder we have to do to recognise and reconcile the gap between Indigenous Australians and other part of the diverse, multicultural Australian society.
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European history in the Canberra area began about 30 years after the British arrived in Sydney cove to establish a penal colony. This sign is on Black Mountain.
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Map showing the approximate locations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait language groups in Australia
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John SaxbyWell written, Graham -- thanks.

John
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5 months ago
Graham SmithThanks John. Over the past few years I’ve worked with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait people and have had the privilege of visiting their communities and learning much more about their cultures and history. I also have Aboriginal relatives.
Indigenous cultures are a fascinating and such a precious part of contemporary Australia. Our ancient and continuing living Indigenous culture is a distinctive feature of modern Australia.
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5 months ago
Susan CarpenterThanks Graham for the thoughtful and informative comments.
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5 months ago
Graham SmithTo Susan CarpenterThanks Susan.
A brief ‘Acknowledgment of Country’, and/or ‘Welcome to Country‘ are often done in Australia nowadays prior to the start of meetings, conferences, seminars, or similar gatherings.
A welcome can only be done by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island person on their own country.
An acknowledgment can be done by anyone.

A full Welcome to Country can involve a campfire and smoking ceremony by putting certain types of eucalyptus leaves on the fire, then each person in the gathering passes through the aromatic smoke. I’ve participated in quite a few of these ceremonies as part of my work in remote north west Australia. It’s a very moving and unforgettable experience.
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4 months ago