The Wiradjuri People of New South Wales

The Wiradjuri people are the largest Indigenous Australian nation of New South Wales, Australia. For more than 40,000 years, they lived in an area of central New South Wales, known as, ‘the land of the three rivers’ – the Wambool (Macquarie), the Calare (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidgee.

The Wiradjuri people were nomadic - hunters and gatherers. Their traditional lands provided everything they needed to survive as they moved around it, according to the seasons. Once their food source began to diminish, they would move on to another area. By allowing the land to replenish itself, they ensured a continuance of food and resources for the future.

There was no ownership of land. The Wiradjuri considered themselves, ‘caretakers’ of it, in accordance with their tradition and law. The Wiradjuri people respected and protected the land. In some parts, they prohibited hunting & fishing, to allow their food sources to breed, and they only returned to the same location once every two years, in permitted areas.

On the flood plains, there were rivers, creeks, billabongs, and lakes, which provided a plentiful supply of fish, mussels, crayfish, tortoises, ducks, ibis, and waterfowl. Alternatively, away from the wetlands, the plains were abundant with kangaroos, emus, possums, goannas, lizards, snakes, native grasses, and the roots and fruit of native plants.

However, they not only travelled around the area for food, but to also trade, and perform important ceremonies to honour their ancestors, their dreaming, and their relationship with the land. Certain areas were signposted with carved trees, marking ceremonial and burial grounds, and stone monuments associated with men’s business.

For shelter, they created a simple structure, called a ‘lean-to’, made by placing a pole along two forked sticks erected at each end, and covered with sheets of paperbark, or branches of leaves. A shelter was used not only to remain warm in winter, close to a fire site, but as protection from a hot sun in summer, when there was no tree cover available.

The Wiradjuri women wove delicately stitched baskets and engraved possum skin cloaks. Spears were crafted from sharpened quartz spearheads, attached to kangaroo sinews, and axe heads, from stone. Canoes were from the bark of trees, and many other tools and weapons were made from natural resources in their environment.

The Wiradjuri people lived in harmony with their environment. In reward, for the way they respected and protected it, the land provided everything they needed. After British colonization, many Wiradjuri people died in attempts to retain their traditional lands and way of life, or they were relocated to non-Wiradjuri areas of Australia.

Today, descendants of the Wiradjuri people are working tirelessly to teach current and future generations about the Wiradjuri culture, and its people from the past.

© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.


Australian Language and Cultural Diversity

Australia is known for the diversity of its language and culture. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘in 2001, the five most commonly spoken languages other than English were Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic (including Lebanese) and Vietnamese.'
However, according to the Australian Museum, before European settlement in 1788, there were approximately 700 Indigenous languages spoken throughout Australia, with an estimated population of 750,000 people of various unique cultures.
Today, Australia has an estimated population of 24 million, of which only 410,000 people are Indigenous (2%). This decline is due to the removal of Indigenous people from traditional lands and the impact from the establishment of cities and towns.
Prior to 1788, Indigenous Australians occupied all of Australia in areas of land based on geographical boundaries, such as rivers, lakes and mountains. This knowledge was passed down verbally by Elders to younger members of each tribe.
Of the 700 Indigenous languages spoken throughout Australia prior to 1788, there now exists fewer than 150 remaining in daily use, and approximately 20 are highly endangered.
The map (below) depicts Indigenous Australian traditional lands, representing the language, tribal or nation groups of the Aboriginal people of Australia. It was compiled by AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), and is based on resources available between 1988 –1994, to determine the cultural, language, trade boundaries and relationship groups. 

Please Note: This map was produced before native title legislation 
and is not suitable for use in native title and other land claims.

© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.


Bathurst 1000, Bikies and Boarding School

Car racing has to be by far one of my least favourite things. In fact, if I notice the Bathurst 1000 begin on the television I will groan inwardly and reach desperately for the remote to change the channel, or at least press the mute button. So what is the Bathurst 1000, and why do I have such a peevish dislike of the thing?

In short, the Bathurst 1000 is a 1,000 kilometre (620 mile) touring car race, held annually at Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia.  Back in 1960 it was called the Armstrong 500, although when it first came to my attention in 1972 it was called the Bathurst 500. Quite frankly, I consider 500 kilometres more than enough. I really can’t see why there is the need to double the suffering of having to listen to cars racing around and around in a circle. If you want to know more about it, you can check it out here!

More often than not, I keep my opinions to myself; ‘each to his or her own’, being a common phrase I try to guide myself by. But, why do I feel the need to air my dislike of the Bathurst 1000? It could have something to do with an aversion to any vehicle noises in general; give me the peace and quiet of nature, any day. It could also have something to do with the revving of engines which I’m convinced only  proves that the driver has to reassure everyone he can control the accelerator; or the incessant buzzing noises emitted as the vehicles tear around the circuit like giant flies trying to escape after being sprayed with fly-spray. However, there is usually an event which triggers a dislike of something, and perhaps in this case it was an incident in 1972, when I was a twelve year old girl at boarding school.

The boarding school, named Marsden, situated on a hill overlooking the town and outskirts of Bathurst, must have drawn the interest of a group of bikies who had come to watch the Bathurst 500 that day. Unaware that there was a long line of motor bikes travelling along the road leading to Marsden, many of us were quietly enjoying a spring afternoon in the front gardens, either walking amongst the shrubs and rose bushes or sitting on the grass reading or talking amongst ourselves. I remember I had been able to hear the noise in the distance from the Bathurst 500 race underway, although it was thankfully reasonably faint.

All of a sudden, the noise of motor bike engines filled the air, and the House Matron on duty came rushing down the front steps of the main building, yelling at everyone to go inside and lock the doors. There was a mighty dash of girls racing inside, the last only just managing to close the massive door at the front building before the first motor bike came into view. The noise of motor bike engines grew louder as we huddled near windows, watching the bikies riding repeatedly around the circular driveway. 

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more exciting, loud thumping and the sound of someone yelling could be heard from the other side of the heavy front door, and hushed whispers of fear echoed through the building. Finally though, when the House Matron couldn’t be found, a brave boarder dared to peak through the long glass panel beside the front door. Suddenly, the door was unlocked and opened and the House Matron almost fell to the floor with exhaustion and relief as the bikies rode off with wide grins.

So, perhaps my dislike of the Bathurst 1000 stems from this memory, although over the years it has become somewhat comical in the re-telling. :-)

© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.


Battle of the Bards - Banjo Patterson

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson is probably the most well-known Australian poet of the colonial era. Although considered by the ‘realist’ poet Henry Lawson, to be a ‘romantic’, Paterson’s poems (like Lawson’s) predominantly focused on the rural and outback areas of Australia.

Born at his parents property, ‘Narrambla’ near Orange New South Wales in 1864, Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson QBE was the son of Scottish immigrant Andrew Bogle Paterson, and Australian-born Rose Isabella Barton (related to the future first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton). Paterson’s childhood years were spent on properties first at Monaro and then Illalong (near Yass). Although the move to the new area was due to a flood from which his father lost his property (income), the move to Illalong further inspired his writing through living close to the main route between Sydney and Melbourne. Passing Cobb and Co coaches, bullock teams, drovers, picnic races and polo matches also led to his fondness of horses.

Paterson was educated at home by a governess until he was old enough to ride a pony and attend the nearest bush school at Binalong. In 1874 he was sent to Sydney Grammar School where he matriculated at age 16. He then took up an articled clerk role in a law firm, being admitted as a qualified solicitor in 1886. During the previous year (1885) Paterson’s poetry was published in the Sydney edition of The Bulletin, under the pseudonym of ‘The Banjo’ (the name of a favourite horse). In 1890 his poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’ and a collection of his works were embraced by the nation, which prevails even today. Paterson was to become second in popularity to Rudyard Kipling, among living English writing poets in his lifetime.

Along with his notoriety as a poet, short story writer and novelist, Paterson became a lawyer, journalist, jockey, soldier and farmer. He married Alice Emily Walker of Tenterfield in 1903, and resided in the suburb of Woolahra in Sydney with their two children, Grace and Hugh born a few years later. Peterson’s most famous poems, including ‘The Man from Snowy River’ which inspired a movie (1982) and television series (1990’s), were:- ‘Waltzing Matilda’ which was set to music and became a popular Australian song; ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ – the tale of a Queensland drover; and perhaps his counter-poem to that of Henry Lawson’s, ‘Up The Country’ titled ‘In Defence of the Bush’ which incited the ‘Bulletin Debate’ between Patterson and Lawson in 1892.

The Bulletin Debate was a much followed dispute in The Bulletin magazine; a very popular publication at that time. The debate between the two Australian iconic writers and poets, Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson, came about because of a poem Lawson had written about the Australian bush which Patterson found disagreeable. Perhaps the reason for the debate in the first place could be summed up through Patterson’s words:-

In 1939, Banjo Paterson recalled his thoughts about the Bulletin debate:
‘Henry Lawson was a man of remarkable insight in some things and of extraordinary simplicity in others. We were both looking for the same reef, if you get what I mean; but I had done my prospecting on horseback with my meals cooked for me, while Lawson has done his prospecting on foot and had had to cook for himself. Nobody realized this better than Lawson; and one day he suggested that we should write against each other, he putting the bush from his point of view, and I putting it from mine…..  ‘Source – Wikipedia.

'In Defence Of The Bush' by A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson (in response to Henry Lawson's poem, 'Up the Country).
Poet of the People – Henry Lawson (including ‘Up the Country’).

Banjo Patterson died of a heart attack in Sydney in 1941, aged 76. His image appears on the modern $10 note, along with an illustration inspired by ‘The Man from Snowy River’, and the text of the poem itself as part of the copy-protection microprint. He was also the subject of a 1981 postage stamp.

© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.