24 February 2023

'Help us keep our dreaming alive': Moruya cultural heritage area gets unanimous support

| Albert McKnight
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Mary Brierley, Maureen Davis, pictured with Aunty Doris Moore

Mary Brierley and Maureen Davis, pictured with Aunty Doris Moore (centre), gave presentations on the proposed heritage listing for land around Brierley’s boat ramp at council’s meeting earlier this month. Photo: ESC.

Riverfront at Moruya’s North Head has been formally recognised by the region’s council for its cultural and heritage values after passionate presentations about the land’s history and connection to its traditional custodians.

Councillors in Eurobodalla Shire Council unanimously voted for a new heritage conservation area around Brierley’s boat ramp, which is off Bruce Cameron Drive, at their general meeting on 14 February.

Earlier, elder Maureen Davis had told councillors that everyone focuses on the boat ramp, but “there is more in detail that connects to the landscape”.

“The landscape engulfs our people – our early people, our ancestors,” she said.

She said the Brierley homestead, which was near what is now the Moruya Airport, was very important and “something that we relate to very strongly”.

“Our people lived there, our people worked the land … our people gave birth there,” she said.

Ms Davis also said they had burials there, “and this is what is very dear to us”.

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“We are a part of this landscape and I think it’s about time Eurobodalla Shire accepted that we are not going away,” she said.

“There’s much history here that goes with both sides – two cultures walking together.

“Are we walking together? No. There is a division and that division needs to stop. We need to come as one. We need to walk in unity.”

Mary Brierley also spoke to councillors, telling them about her family’s connection to the land and said, “Please help us keep our dreaming alive”.

“As Aboriginal people trying to assimilate into the colonial settlement, colonisation, and in the midst of a genocide, our family actually paid for the property at North Head [and] created a family business, which contributed to the local community and beyond,” she said.

“Since the loss of our land we have been dispossessed – dispossessed of our country, separated, affecting our cultural beliefs, disconnected from country, thrown into suburbs.

“My family and myself ask that you please protect the North Head’s Brierley’s boat ramp and surrounding areas of the property and list it as protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Listing, so as to educate present and future generations.”

Along with the cultural recognition, the area will also see a boat ramp upgrade, better facilities and interpretive signs explaining the history of the site.

Eurobodalla Mayor Mathew Hatcher said the new heritage conservation area was an honourable way to recognise and preserve Aboriginal cultural heritage at the site while encouraging ongoing public use.

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“The Brierley homestead used to sit on the elevated land next to the boat ramp,” he said.

“The house is long gone now, but we’ll be putting up some informative signs about that and others explaining the significance of this area to Aboriginal people.

“Then, we’ll be revegetating some areas with culturally significant plants – maintaining native grass and bushland so traditional cultural activities can be practised there.”

He said the next stage of the proposal would be to amend the local environmental plan to introduce this listing.

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