I have just returned from a Principal Formation Program in Tasmania. This program 'Sacred Land' included the Tasmanian Aboriginal story and the impact of white settlement in Van Diemen's Land.
Over the 8 days I had the opportunity to travel with 16 other Principals, Helena Goldsmith (Melbourne Archdiocese of Catholic Schools) and Father Iain (Jesuit priest). We began each day in prayer and reflection and concluded each day with a prayer and sharing of our experiences. On our final day we shared a healing ritual.
The program started with 'A Welcome to Country' and 'smoking ceremony' at the Long House in Hobart. Our evening meal was prepared and served by Aboriginals in the area. Rodney Dillon (Chairperson of the Aboriginal Heritage Council) shared with us the meaning behind 'Welcome to Country' and the 'smoking ceremony'.
We found out more about the impact of white settlement and the role and treatment of convicts at Port Arthur on the following day. It was challenging to understand how people could treat each other in this way. We cruised out to the Isle of the Dead in Carnarvon Bay. This isle holds the stories of many of the people of Port Arthur - in life and death.
Culture and Connections
Our immersion in the Aboriginal culture continued on the following day. Tasman (Aboriginal Tasmanian) led us on a walking tour at Mount Wellington. Mt Wellington (Kunanyi) is a special place where Aboriginal creation stories are passed down through generations.
Kitana then met us at Risdon Cove (Piyura kipli) to share the story of traditional food (palawa kipli) and the first recorded massacre of Aboriginal people. We enjoyed a lunch of mutton bird cooked over the open fire and made our own damper. The experience ended with us visiting the Aboriginal Kitchen Garden and finding out about the benefits and uses of certain plants.
Reflect, respect, rebuild - Tasmanian Aboriginal Histories
The next day we visited the Orphan School at St. John's Park to gain an understanding of the life of children at this time. We then headed to Fanny Cochrane Smith's church at Nicholls Rivulet. She was a proud and strong Aboriginal woman who practiced her culture throughout her life, balancing tradition and spirituality and passing down cultural knowledge to her children. The culture is now being kept alive by her descendents (one being Rodney Dillon).
On Country: toarra-marra-monah/Mariah Island
Our group caught the ferry to Mariah Island in challenging seas. Maria Island has a rich Indigenous and European history. Our Aboriginal guide (Luke) guided our walking tour around the island and shared history through story.
On Country: lunawanna-allonah/Bruny Island
Bruny Island is traditionally known by the Nuenonne band of South East tribe of Aboriginal people of the area as lunawanna-allonah. We went on a 3 hour eco cruise to explore the magnificent coastline of this island while spotting whales and seals.
Sacred Land - Cradle Mountain
While at Cradle Mountain we ventured out on 3 walks -
- Enchanted Walk
- King Billy Pine Walk
- Dove Lake Walk
During the couple of days in this ancient forest we reflected and celebrated Eucharist.
On our final day we finished with a 'healing ritual' before we headed to Launceston to arrive home.
I feel privileged and extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in such a spiritual program and look forward to bringing the story of Aboriginal People to Holy Family.
Julie David (Principal)