Building a bark canoe in Ballina to bond the community

Friday 31 May 2019

This week, students and members of the Aboriginal community and Roads and Maritime Services staff built a traditional Aboriginal Bark Canoe in Ballina to symbolise Aboriginal people’s cultural connection with the water.

Roads and Maritime Executive Director NSW Maritime Mark Hutchings said the bark canoe project is part of a proactive Aboriginal engagement program to raise awareness of boating safety issues faced by Aboriginal communities.

“A traditional Aboriginal Bark Canoe is a symbolic reminder and celebration of Aboriginal people’s connection to Australian waterways,” Mr Hutchings said.

“This bark canoe was built by students from Southern Cross School of Distance Education and Roads and Maritime staff with assistance from local Aboriginal Elders and traditional bark canoe building specialists, using traditional Aboriginal boat and rope making techniques.

“Now the canoe is complete it will be cured and installed in a purpose-built cradle at Southern Cross School of Distance Education.”

Mr Hutchings said the Aboriginal Bark Canoe project aims to promote diversity across Roads and Maritime and build relationships with the community they serve, by teaching staff traditional boat and rope making techniques in partnership with the Aboriginal community.

“Unfortunately, Aboriginal people are over-represented in boating and water injuries and fatalities,” he said.

“Six per cent of people who died from drowning in Australia from 2004/5 — 2014/15 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, despite this community accounting for only approximately three per cent of the Australian population.

“In addition to building relationships the program supports and celebrates Aboriginal cultural revival and promotes the role of Aboriginal leaders in the community.

“One bark canoe is already proudly on permanent display at the Roads and Maritime Services Rozelle Bay foyer and the aim is to build more canoes across the state to foster stronger relationships with local communities.”

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