Culture from the skies

Culture from the skies

Smithton High School students Kelsey Williams, Hunter Woolley and Ashton Monson along with youth mentor Selina Colgrave, Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation’s Luke Grey, Lesley and Ros Dick and Cheryl Marshall joined Claire and Dean from Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania on the trip of a lifetime recently, taking a helicopter flight into remote, untouched areas of the west coast to view aboriginal landmarks not accessible by foot.

Leaving Smithton airport at 8am the group boarded two helicopters taking the coastal track to Strahan, first stop Mainwaring River where they visited rock markings, hut depressions and sighted shell, stone artefacts and bone, possibly one of the ‘village’ sites referred to by Robinson [Plomley 1966].

Claire explained to us how the tools were made, how they are classified and how to tell if they are tools or just random pieces of earth,” Kelsey said.

The group were then helicoptered into Sandblow Bay where they were dropped off to observe and walk south along the coast towards Toogee Beach.

Located along the shoreline are four panels of markings with at least 16 individual motifs ranging in size from 10cm to 14cm.

Sandblow Bay is also home to a large artefact scatter and shell midden, eroding from a dune some 500 metres south of the bay. The erosion appearing to be a result of the wind rather than the wave action. The site appears to extend for about 200 metres.

“The shell middens were so big, Hunter said. “They were like a big bin. Just a massive pile of shells.”

It’s the biggest I’ve seen in the three years I’ve been in the program,” Kelsey said.

“We literally had lunch right next to where our ancestors ate.”

The students were disappointed by the amount of rubbish that had washed up onto the untouched areas of the west coast.

“There were glass bottles, buoys, gumboots and plastics,” Hunter said.

“Even a wave crashing buoy tracked from South Africa.”

The group then arrived at Toogee Hill where the helicopter awaited them. Visiting a large hut depression located within the marsupial lawn above the cobble beach.

Stabilisation/rehabilitation works were undertaken by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council around 1993/94.

The hut depressions showing visible signs of wind erosion, exposing shell midden material, artefacts and the acting used to stabilise the site.

Kelsey says the trip was great for socialisation and being able to learn from each other.

“Seeing everything from above, the environment was so different, seeing the vegetation change, you could imagine how different it was 65,000 years ago pre colonisation,” Kelsey said.