Crocodile forgotten?

ARTIST Sandra Hill, who claims a direct lineage to the Whudjuk Nyungar people, says Fremantle city council is “spitting” on her heritage by considering a micro-brewery for Arthur Head.

The council is weighing up whether to allow Sunset Events to build the boozer in J-Shed, as well as an open-air concert venue for up to 1500 people.

Ms Hill, whose great-great-grandmother was Whadjug (her preferred spelling), says Arthur Head is one of the most sacred sites for Perth’s Aboriginal people.

According to the National Trust of Australia the Walyalup (Fremantle) Dreaming story tells of Yondock, an ancestral crocodile that travelled down from the north, causing floods and disturbances, creating Wadjemup (Rottnest Island), Gnooroolmayup (Carnac Island), Derbal Nara (Cockburn Sound) and flooding the Derbal Yaragan (Swan River) with salt water.

The Wagyl rainbow serpent—guardian of the fresh water—fights the crocodile, biting off his tail, placing it across the Swan River to stop salt coming up stream.

Ms Hill says the other part of the tail is the limestones rock at Arthur Head and underneath the new maritime museum.

“This area is of highly spiritual importance and even in contemporary times people from the north travel the song line from Kalgoorlie, down to Bather’s Beach,” she says.

“I’m absolutely ropeable what council is planning there. The council is spitting on our culture, history and heritage. And to build a brewery there is a slap in the face to my people.”

Fremantle council community services director Marisa Spaziani says “Aboriginal cultural significance of the area is an important consideration” and that “numerous engagement and consultation activities [had been] conducted with Aboriginal people and other stakeholders throughout the Arthur Head strategy and implementation”.

Ms Hill who was an artist at J-Shed for 14 years, says she wasn’t aware of any Aboriginal elders being consulted about the Sunset proposal.

“Consulted? We have been told, not consulted,” she snarled. “We need this stopped right now. It’s where the river meets the sea, which in our culture is very important.”

Ms Spaziani says the council is also consulting about an indigenous cultural centre at Arthur Head and will “continue to engage with Whudjuk people in regards to other plans for the area, including for the development of a business plan for J Shed”.

by BRENDAN FOSTER

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