Local aboriginal culture

Acknowledging Local Aboriginal Culture

This article was written by Caryll Sefton for the Heritage Supplement in Kiama Independent for Heritage Week 1987 – Kiama's First Inhabitants

During the last Ice age 17,000 years ago when Bass Point was an inland ridge five kilometres from the sea an Aboriginal family group camped on the northern side of the ridge near a fresh water spring. They collected pebbles from the old shoreline and made stone tools to fashion wooden implements for hunting and collecting food.

At this period the Kiama district would have been very different to that discovered by the first European settlers. The coastal plain would have been considerably wider and the climate much colder and drier than what we know. Rainforests may have been more restricted and grasslands more extensive.

From this time Aboriginal people adapted their lifestyle to successfully exploit a changing natural environment.

The first European settlers in the Kiama district discovered an Aboriginal population who modified the vegetation by regular firing and exploited the resources of the land and the sea. The population was mobile and small family groups or bands moved along the coast and inland camping at specific favourite camp-sites.

An old Kiama boy reminisced in the Kiama Independent, 5th March, 1938 that the Aborigines once camped on the Minnamurra River and then would shift camp to the stream that flows onto Kendall's Beach.

Within the family group the women were the main food providers. They fished with hook and line collecting  shellfish, vegetable foods such  as fruit and berries and bracken root, wild honey, small mammals and reptiles.

Women were also responsible for the care of the children. A man's responsibility was the hunting of larger game such as kangaroo, spearing of fish and incorporating his family group within the wider structure of the tribe by his religious activities.

Although the economic bounty of the land belonged to all the sacred sites belonged to specific family or kinship groups and a child inherited his sacred site through his father.

Religious activities and ceremonies were extremely important in Aborigi- nal life in maintaining the close relationships of people often widely separated during most of the year and maintaining the religious relationship to the land.

People travelled great distances to attend the major religious ceremonies such as initiation ceremonies and many early white settlers were privileged to witness these complex ceremonies.

Queen Rosie, recognised as the last of the traditional Illawarra Aborigine, lived at Kiama and her last home was built in one of the disused Kiama quarries. Today Queen Rosie's descendants still live in the Wollongong area.

Click here for more information about Aboriginal Culture on the South Coast.