By Auntie Beve
Special Guest Writer for Wake Up World
(Conclusion by WUW Co-Founder Andy Whiteley)
My Tribal name is Goolabeen. I am a fully Initiated Law and Medicine Woman of the Alleyerwere Tribe of Utopia from the Central Desert of Australia.
But I am better and more widely known as Auntie Beve, particularly in the Jails of NSW, where I have just retired after 29 years working with Aboriginal prisoners – being there for them 24/7 as an Elder, an Aboriginal Art and Culture teacher, suicide Counsellor and Mental Health Worker.
As I was born here in Woy Woy NSW 78 years ago, I speak as an Elder of the Darkinoong Tribe from the Central Coast of NSW. And today, I speak on behalf of all Central Coast Aboriginal women with the support of the Aboriginal men and of many non-Aboriginal people who know of the importance of preserving the Sacred Aboriginal Dreaming Track.
Bulldozing Our Ancient Culture
New Zealand based sandmining company, Rocla, is planning to build a mine on an Aboriginal Women’s Fertility Rites Songline and Teaching Place, in Calga on the Central Coast NSW. This Songline is part of the Sacred Dreaming Track, and its destruction would destroy with it tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal heritage. Her Majesty’s NSW Government has approved the company to go ahead with their stage 4 extension, which comprises a massive 30 metre deep hole gouged out of the ground that will take our Sacred Sites out completely.
My mission is to make all Australians aware of how significant this loss would be – to help them fully understand the Cultural importance of this site, and why it must not be destroyed by Rocla mining company and Her Majesty’s Government of NSW.
I, as an Initiated woman, wish to explain the importance of this site so that all Australians can understand how important it is for this site to be preserved and not destroyed – as Rocla Sand Mining intends to do.
I first ask for your respect and acknowledgement of the existence and importance of our Black History in white Australia.
Secondly, I would like it acknowledged that Black history and culture is recorded and taught in ways that are different from the White Fellas ways, but are no less important to its people.
White Australia has The Mitchell Library, given funded and maintained by the government, to house all your important papers, records, books, events, stories and artefacts. At the Mitchell Library, all your White History is kept safe from vandalism, kept safe for posterity.
We, the original custodians of this land, had no paper, pens or writing equipment like yours to record our history on. Instead, back then, we used our recall, our memory to re-tell our stories and the law, and to re-sing our songs of what came before us, what needed to be passed down, carried on, down through time for posterity – just like the white man’s way.
Our people also had the dedication and patience to carve those stories and laws into hard rock platforms, to build entire sites that record our history, our culture and our stories – where we hoped they would be preserved for posterity. Every symbol or line we carved may have taken months to complete, but how else were we to permanently record – for our children, and their children – the stories, the law and the history of the original custodians of the land? And this area is full of such sites.
Famous French Archaeologist Jean Clottes viewed some of these rock platforms when visiting the area, and said “This area of the Central Coast has the greatest diversity of Rock Art in the world that I have ever seen”
This diversity is part of what Rocla want to destroy – part of our Dreaming track, an important Songline – the Women’s Fertility Rites Teaching Place. This Dreaming Track goes right around Australia through every tribal country, and is a common space which all can use to walk, hunt and gather, visit relatives, attend important meetings and participate in special Sacred Ceremonies. It has very great significance in telling our History, how we lived here as Hunters and Gatherers, as custodians of the land, how we evolved, and what roles we played in life.
The Dreaming Track must never be broken. Its ancient history cannot be lost. It is our Mitchell Library. And like yours, it must be saved for posterity. Lose it and it is gone forever. And that would be a shameful blight on the history of this land.
Stop, Look and Listen well…
The Women’s Fertility Rites Songline and Teaching Place is complex and includes many ceremonial aspects that Her Majesty’s NSW Government and Rocla Mining Company have failed to acknowledge.
Aboriginal history is drawn on the rock platforms, painted in the caves and told by the stone arrangements we left in this area – and all over Australia – to tell our stories. We also told and sung our stories orally. Retold upon these sacred Songlines, our songs and stories were learnt by the boys and the girls as they grew up and were old enough to go through ceremony. Each Songline is part of the Dreaming Track, the sacred rites of passage for Aboriginal people. That is why the whole of the story, the whole of the Songline, and the whole of the Dreaming Track, must be preserved and re-told. Its ancient heritage must remain complete.
As the Elders and Women of High Degree, we taught every young girl Initiate our Sacred Oral History, word for word, brush stroke by brush stroke, just as we had been taught, so that they in turn could also pass it down to their children as it had been passed down to them by. This was important Ceremonial practice, our way of passing our History down through the ages. This was part of our Great Survival Pattern.
The special Songline of the Women’s Fertility Rites part of the Dreaming Track was very important to the young female initiates as they ‘passed through’ from girlhood to womanhood. This was their Learning Place, the place they were sung the story of the Women’s Fertility Rites and painted up (by way of explanation) to be put through their first initiation to become a Woman – following in the tradition of their Grandmothers, and their Grandmothers before them. The Women’s Fertility Rites is a big step for a 12 year old girl. This was how we taught the women to survive through birth out in the bush, with nothing but nature and our knowledge. We didn’t have any of your hospitals and clinics and Women’s Centres, just the gifts of nature, the ancient knowledge of our ancestors and our well-honed instinct for survival.
The Sacred linear stone arrangement that points the way to the Learning Place must first be acknowledged by the Initiate. It shows her Respect to the Woman of High Degree, the Keeper of the story of the Women’s Fertility Rites.
Next stop in the Songline was at the Junction of the 3 Creeks. This was where the women sat and ground and sharpened their tools on the rock beside the creeks. Here, they sung the story of the Women’s Fertility Rites Songline, while the painters of the story painted up the Initiate to show the story being told.
When the painting of the initiate was finished, she was then taken by the older women to the special rock engraving of ‘The Woman of High Degree’. She stands with her arms high and is cut with special incisions to show the many times she was initiated – and the special status that she holds. She is likened to the male Kadartchitta Man, or Clever Fella, who also is of High degree and is held in great respect by all Tribes. The Woman of High Degree is shown with very full breasts, which denotes that the woman is the main nurturer of the Tribe. She will feed any who needs her nourishment for as long as it is needed. This, again, is a practice of Survival. The Woman of High Degree’s feet are turned outward, which represents that she is the teacher and the keeper of this special Women’s Fertility Rites story.
She is saying “Stop, Look, and Listen well! And remember what you are being taught here today by your Elders”. This is what is expected of you as you go through your initiation to become a Woman.
Beside the figure of the Woman of High Degree is another symbolic creature, the Koala. Very special to our Women, we are not allowed to eat the Koala. She is the symbol of great motherhood and how a mother should care for her children. The baby koala hangs from her mother until it is far too heavy to do so any longer. The koala never lets that baby out of her sight. And so it is expected of the new Aboriginal mother to care like this for her offspring.
The last important feature of this site is a large figure of Durramulan (Sacred spirit) shown in his special head-wear, pointing to the very special Sacred Women’s site – which his wife (in Emu form) also guards.
By the end of the ceremony, initiates are taken away by the Special Women who are in charge of the initiation and “Put Through”. They then stay with the Special Women for a year, where they are taught all about marriage and what that entails in our culture. At the end of that year, when the initiate turns 13, they are then given in marriage to the man that has been chosen for them.
The Land of the ‘Fair Go’
As you can see, the Women’s Fertility Rites is a very important time for our young women and an integral part of my people’s culture. The sacred site that has hosted these rites for thousands of years, and witnessed the passage of generations of women before me, must be protected from the threat of mining. It is essential that this Sacred dreaming track and its Songline never gets lost or destroyed. The Sacred history of my people must be preserved.
We, the Elders, still take our daughters and nieces to this Special Women’s Fertility Rites site, and even though they may not choose to go through this ceremony today, they show respect for the Women’s law, its history, and its ancient ancestry. Well, we used to take them and visit this Sacred site… until Rocla Sand Mining and the NSW Government decided last year that Aboriginal Women could no longer visit their Sacred Place.
Being stopped from visiting our ancient sacred site upset our people very much. It reminded us of the time the White Fellas took our Languages from us and never let us speak it again, for fear of punishment.
It is not right that Her Majesty’s NSW Government allows a company to stop the Darkinoong and the Guringai people from practicing its ancient culture. And it is not right that a New Zealand company can destroy our sacred sites so it can take our land’s resources for profit.
Australia is supposed to be the country of the ‘fair go’. So on behalf of the Darkinoong and the Guringai people, I ask Rocla and Her Majesty’s NSW Government to give us. the sovereign caretakers of this land, a fair go too!
The Women’s Fertility Rites Songline and Teaching Place, the carving of ‘The Woman of High Degree’, the Sacred linear stone arrangement, the Junction of the 3 Creeks, the figure of Durramulan … the sacred archaeology of this entire area must be preserved, and its Black History acknowledged and respected.
Please help me save this sacred area.
What You Can Do…
To voice your opinion on the proposed mining development and help protect this important ancient ceremonial women’s site, please contact the NSW Premier and the Ministers for Heritage/Environment, Planning, Aboriginal Affairs and Natural Resources:
(Contact details updated 18th May 2014 – Editor)
(02) 9228 5239
NSW Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and Central Coast. Assistant Minister for Planning
Phone (02) 9228 5253
Email: [email protected]
NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Phone (+612) 9228 4333
Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water
(02) 9228 5248
Black Fella White Fella Dreaming
White Fella and Co-Founder of Wake Up World
It breaks my heart when I hear Auntie Beve speak about this mining proposal. She’s a tough lady – that, you can be sure of! – but just the suggestion that the Sacred Women’s Fertility Rites site may be turned into a sand mine brings tears to her eyes. And there aren’t many things in this world that can do that. This place is truly special to the (ab)Original people, and to Auntie Beve, the last fully-initiated woman Elder of the Darkinoong – the traditional custodians of this land.
It is a truly powerful connection — the connection between the Original people, the land, the ancestral spirits, their sacred traditional sites, and each other. There is no White Fella word for it. But it is real. I’ve seen it. Felt it. I’ve even been protected by it. The Original people and the land they walk are one and the same. And so, by desecrating the ancient sites of the Original people – just as White Fellas in Australia have done for centuries – we aren’t just destroying an ancient culture, we are torturing its people at the same time.
Sadly, this sort of story isn’t new in Australia. White Australia has continued to disregard its Black history for over 200 years. But it’s time we wrote a better future, Black Fellas and White Fellas – together.
They call it Wirritjin. In the Ramindjeri tongue, it means “Black Fella, White Fella Dreaming”.
And the first step toward Wirritjin is for White Fellas to stop encroaching on the lands of the Original communities, and instead to start protecting their sacred sites…. learn about them…. preserve them…. celebrate their ancient culture. Then maybe, Black Fella may again live in accord with his ancient heritage, and White Fella may finally share in the wisdom of the world’s oldest human civilization. If only White Fellas had bothered to ask 200 years ago….
For now, in the case of the Women’s Fertility Rites site, the solution is simple — the NSW government and Rocla mining company can find another site for a sand mine. It shouldn’t be too difficult for them, after all, Australia is mostly one big desert!
Going forward, the NSW state and Australian federal governments must stop allowing the desecration of ancient sacred Aboriginal sites in the name of short-term corporate profit. And yes, I said sites… this isn’t the only one at risk! Instead, human decency demands that we finally honour the Original people of this land and protect the (remaining) sacred sites that form an integral part of their unique ancient history.
About the author:
Auntie Beve: Also known by her tribal name Goolabeen, 78 year old ‘Auntie’ Beve is a fully Initiated Law and Medicine Woman of the Alleyerwere Tribe of Utopia from the Central Desert, and is the last initiated Elder of the NSW Central Coast region.
Dedicating her life to supporting and uplifting the Aboriginal people of NSW, Auntie Beve recently retired after 29 years in the NSW prison system, working with Aboriginal prisoners (who are statistically over-represented in Australian prisons) as their Elder, Aboriginal Art and Culture teacher, suicide Counsellor and Mental Health Worker. She is also a long-time collaborator of Wake Up World and the Ancient Origins archaeology team, providing our crew with Original wisdom, ancient stories and spiritual guidance in our on-site research.
Sadly, Auntie Beve passed away in April 2014, following the publication of this article. The Central Coast community is still fighting to preserve this area from commercial development as at March 2015.
Andy Whiteley: Andy is a corporate drop-out, co-founder of Wake Up World, and an advocate for true systemic change. Andy believes we are on a path (albeit bumpy) to a new social model grounded in love, transparency, sovereignty, sustainability and spirit. Through his role at Wake Up World, Andy hopes to make a positive contribution to that transition.
Andy currently splits his time between Wake Up World and the beautiful hills of the NSW Central Coast.