Indigenous Mosaic

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Indigenous Mosaic at Gough Whitlam Park, Earlwood, near the Cooks River cycle path.

The Indigenous Mosaic is the fifth in a series of street mosaics commissioned by Council to promote one of the greatest assets of the City - our cultural diversity and our unique heritage. Since 1999, other mosaics have already been built at Earlwood, Lakemba, Campsie and Riverwood.

All of these mosaics feature a central theme of Respect. Unity. Peace and are a product of the close partnership we share with residents and community groups in these areas of Canterbury.

With this mosaic we recognised and celebrated the original custodians of the area, the Bediagal people, and we pay our respect to them.

This mosaic was designed by an Aboriginal artist, Danny Eastwood, and produced by Steven Vella, mosaic artist, as part of Canterbury City Council's multicultural mosaics program.

It is a tribute to the Bediagal people, the traditional owners of this land, and an acknowledgment of the continuing culture of indigenous people. It was unveiled by the Mayor of City of Canterbury Cr Robert Furolo on 22 October 2004.

Local Aboriginal Heritage

Evidence suggests that the people known as the "Bediagal" were the most closely associated with the Canterbury geographic area between the Cooks River and Georges River. They were a clan of Dharug speaking people who occupied the entire Cumberland plain from the coast to the Blue Mountains.

The people whose territory included the banks of the Cooks River were sustained by the fish and seafood available in the Cooks River. Signs of their early habitation remain evident in the rock-shelters, shell middens and artwork along the Cooks River and Wolli Creek.

Near the mouth of Botany Bay, which a few thousand years ago was a much wider bay than it is today, shellfish were gathered, and the banks of Cooks River were lined with heaps of oyster shells, the remnants of thousands of years of occupation.

Apart from the shell middens, the Bediagal people left us another reminder of their occupation of over 10000 years - white hand and foot paintings within the sandstone cliffs.

In fact at Undercliffe, we have the most important surviving artwork site in the environs of Cooks River. It contains 23 white hand stencils, two of them with forearms. There are also two foot stencils, which are rare in the Sydney region. There is also an extensive midden at the site. The site is on private property and is not accessible to the public. It is listed on the Canterbury Heritage Study.

Archaeologists have labelled this site as a rarity in the Sydney region and the paintings and etching are believed to be 1000 to 5000 years old.

Early settlers recorded very little information about the local Aborigines but two names stood out, that of Pemulwy, the most famous Bediagal man, and his son Tedbury.

Between 1788 and 1802 Pemulwy led a guerrilla war against the British settlement from Botany Bay to the Parramatta area. The Indigenous community regarded him as a courageous resistance fighter and after he was shot in 1802, his son Tedbury continued his fight for the land.

Mosaic Design

The design of the Indigenous Mosaic has been influenced by all these themes. Pictured in the artwork are Pemulwy and his son Tedbury, local middens with seashells in secret places, the stencils from the rock shelter in Undercliff and the Cooks River with native fish, representing their bush tucker.

Human figures in the right corner represent the spirit of the river and a big path on top represents the spirit of Bediagal people who used to live in the area.

The mosaic was designed by a well-known Aboriginal artist Mr Danny Eastwood based on historical materials obtained from the Local Studies. Mr Steven Vella, a mosaic artist who constructed the other four mosaics on display in our City, then transformed his design into a mosaic piece.

In creating a design and identifying a location for this mosaic, we have consulted the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council and the Gundagarra Local Aboriginal Land Council, whose assistance and guidance has been most useful. We thank them for their important contribution.

Acknowledgements and Thanks

This project was co-ordinated by Council's Team Leader Community Development.

We would like to acknowledge the following people for their contributions:

Danny Eastwood for a beautiful mosaic design and Steven Vella for his skilful fabrication of the artwork.

  • Allen Madden from the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council and John Lennis from the Gundagarra Local Aboriginal Land Council for their advice on mosaic location.
  • Chris King, for providing historical materials for the project.
  • Joanna MacMinn for the preparation of technical drawings and staff in City Works for constructing a mosaic wall.
  • Members of Council's Multicultural Advisory Committee for their input into the entire Multicultural Mosaics Program.