As part of Inquiry, Grade 5/6 classes visited the Koorie Heritage Centre for an educational walk to learn more about Koorie culture and history. Here are a few of their responses….
Koori Heritage Walk, by Thomas (Room 10)
More than 40,000 years ago Aboriginals arrived in what is now Australia. Getting out their seafaring canoes, they took the first steps onto the beach, the first ever Homo Sapien’s foot prints in Australia.
A few thousand years on, Aboriginals had formed into many different groups and tribes, each with their own customs and tools. Most tribes had substantial amounts of land which would be marked out by signs drawn on trees, by patterns of rocks, or by material barriers like rivers or rock formations. These plots of land were inhabited by family groups. You couldn't go into another tribe’s territory without permission, and if you went in illegally it would mean war.
Different tribes had diverse cultures. The majority had similar creation myths but had separate ways of expressing their culture and religion. Some tribes had their chests scarred when something major happened or they learnt something important, sort of like Brownie or Scout badges except more painful. Others carved art or daubed ochre onto cave walls and rocks to tell Dreamtime stories. The Aboriginals had an amazing culture which has now become nearly extinct due to the invasion of the British Empire.
As well as having an amazing culture, they were amazing inventors being very adaptable with the things they had. The majority of their weapons and tools were wood. One of the most iconic of these weapons is the boomerang. There are two types of boomerang, a weapon which flew incredibly well and came back if flown correctly, the first of which was smaller and more angled, and was designed for hunting birds. The second type was sharper, larger and heavier and was designed for killing larger animals such as emus, kangaroos and humans. Both were carved meticulously so the air would flow over the wing to keep them aloft. These amazing weapons made Aboriginal Australian’s the first pioneers of flight.
Another common weapon was the many spears, designed for hunting many different animals. Each group of creatures had spear types devoted to killing them. Larger land animals were hunted with a spear with a sharp tip, designed to puncture organs and kill nearly instantly. These were made only of wood. Another spear type was to hunt sharks and rays. It had three barbs sticking out backwards to ensnare the creature. This also was made of wood only. The third type of spear was the three or two-pronged fishing spear, it had thin, sharp prongs on the end of a stiff wooden pole to kill fish. It was usually thrown from a spear thrower which increased the speed and power of your throw.
To solve arguments, if all else fails, you would have to have a war or fight, and to do this they would need weapons. Some common weapons used in human combat were the club and the shield. There are two types of club, the war club and the multi-purpose club. The war club was to kill and beat humans and the multi-purpose club was used to climb trees, dig and kill possums and other small animals. The common shield was thick in depth but thin in width, it had sharpish ends and was sometimes engraved. It was vital to protect oneself and to keep oneself alive.
Another problem they had was water, traversing it when there was too much and preserving it when there was too little. Aboriginal Australians’ ancestors were amazing boatbuilders. Although they lost the need to make seafaring craft, they still made good boats such as log dugouts or bark rafts. These were both useful for fishing and crossing rivers.
Aboriginal Australians needed to keep themselves hydrated through the long summers. One way of creating something to hold a large amount of water is by taking the bark off a tree and hardening it over a fire, making it watertight. Afterwards this would be filled with water by children and sometimes covered and buried in the desert in case when they returned the waterhole had dried up.
Another need for everyone is sustenance. Aboriginals discovered many types of native fruits, plants and animals. Some of the plants and fruits that are edible include: pig face, which can be put in salads and has a salty taste; lilypillies, which are grape-shaped, bright magenta fruits with poisonous pips and delicious flesh; ferns, which are roasted on the fire to remove their fur; and bottlebrushes which can be soaked in water for roughly twelve hours to make the water into a nutritious “energy drink.”
Another important food group is proteins. Possums were hunted for their meat and their fur was highly prized, as nearly all garments were made of it. Kangaroos were eaten, their long sinews turned into thread and their arm bones turned into sewing needles. Other meats included crustaceans, such as crabs, and sharks and rays which I have talked about before.
Some of the more random foods include insects, such as the witchetty grubs, and their spits such as lerp, the sweet spit of a plant louse, and the nectar from honey ants, as well as more conventional insect products such as honey from native bees.
The original owners of this land were one of the most adaptable and inventive societies that this world has seen. They pioneered flight with their boomerangs and developed a rich culture and religion.