Bags of respect

IN what’s being touted as a small, but significant gesture, Fremantle Ports will this weekend publicly acknowledge the impact CY O’Connor’s iconic inner harbour had on the area’s Indigenous people and their culture.

The port authority sponsored artist Bruce Abbott’s installation Seawall Bunker at the Sculpture at Bathers exhibition, which wraps up this Sunday at 6pm with a fiery ceremony.

Mr Abbott said one of his work’s themes was the impact of technology on Indigenous culture, and particularly referenced the bar across the Swan River, which was an important feature in a Whadjuk Noongar Dreaming story.

Mr Abbott said he nervously approached Ports about having a part in the closing ceremony and was pleasantly surprised when the idea was warmly embraced.

• Noongar man William Hayward, who’ll lead Sunday’s ceremony, with Fremantle Ports’ Neil Stanbury and artist Bruce Abbott at Seawall Bunker. Photo by Steve Grant

The authority’s community relations manager Neil Stanbury will deliver the speech.

“Given the installation’s theme of ‘connection to place’ (Arthur Head and the river mouth) we think it’s an obvious opportunity for Fremantle Ports to acknowledge that while the inner harbour’s been an iconic economic and social contributor to Fremantle and WA, its creation more than 120 years ago also disturbed the landscape,” Mr Stanbury said.

“Most notably, that was through the blasting of the rock bar across the river mouth and the dredging away of the wide and long sandy spit, Ferry Point, near C and D sheds.

“We’re about to embark on developing an Indigenous Reconciliation Action Plan and the sponsorship of Seawall Bunker’s a nice early opportunity for us as an organisation to reflect and say we recognise white people changed the river mouth in the creation of CY O’Connor’s harbour, it was just done and it no doubt had an impact on Whadjuk Noongar people.

“Going forward, Fremantle Ports is keen to acknowledge that and tell the Aboriginal part of the overall harbour story better in future.”


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