Bila Park

Bila Park "The Gathering Place"
The Concept Recognition of Local Aboriginal Culture Project Benefits The Artists Planned Activities

The Concept
The “Bila - Park – Gathering Place” project of a parkland sculpture aims to revere and respect the local Aboriginal history and culture, by telling the traditional story in artistic elements within the landscape site. "The Gathering Place’ is located in parkland acquired in 2002 adjacent to the Tumut River bounded by Fitzroy, Merivale and Wynyard Streets in Tumut. The Gathering Place has a local and regional level of significance.

The major theme of the project is to acknowledge the meeting place of three tribes, being the Wiradjuri, Walgalu and Ngunawal, who traditionally met in the Tumut area before traveling into the mountains to gather and feed on the bogong moth.

Every year around November, up to about 1870’s, three indigenous tribes the Wiradjuri (Tumut area), the Walgalu (Victoria to the coast) and the Ngunawal (Canberra area) travelled here to Tumut (“resting place by the river”) to then go on together to feast on the moth up in the Bogong mountains. These great seasonal congregations were the time for initiation ceremonies, corroborees, trade, birthing and marriage arrangements, and dispute settlements.

Since colonisation and settlement the Aboriginal community from the Brungle Mission would gather at the location and park vehicle and horse when coming to Tumut town on business or going to the movies.

Currently there is no public place, cultural centre or keeping place in the Tumut Shire that recognizes the Aboriginal culture and heritage.

Recognition of Local Aboriginal Culture
The Council recognises the local Aboriginal Community is linked by intimate ties to traditional lands, and all aspects of life - physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural and social are linked and interdependent with the land. The Council also acknowledges that the legacies of colonisation has impacted the local Aboriginal community both socially and economically and actively endeavours to work with the Aboriginal community to address these issues and to improve interaction with the broader community while still maintaining their cultural identity and independence. The principle objective of the project is self-determination and reconciliation.

Interaction between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is a prerequisite to social harmony.  By developing cultural competency non-Indigenous people will have the ability to see beyond their own culture and understand people from other cultures non-judgementally and without bias.

The local Aboriginal artwork will celebrate and interpret the historical and cultural significance of the Bila Park area. Bila Park provides an opportunity for local Aboriginal artists to demonstrate their skills, display their artwork and develop new skills through training.

Bila Park will play a vital role developing cultural competency by educating local residents, visitors to the shire, and students about local Aboriginal culture and history, which will raise community awareness and social tolerance.

Project Benefits
‘The Gathering Place’ will be used by people from all walks of life for various events, such as special traditional ceremonies by the Aboriginal community; baptisms, weddings, memorial services, civic awards and occasions.

The project is in the spirit of reconciliation, building harmonious relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people. The spatial and spiritual journey will be marked out by various symbolical elements.

Bila Park will play a vital role developing cultural competency by educating local residents, visitors to the shire, and students about local Aboriginal culture and history, which will raise community awareness and social tolerance.

Visitors to Tumut and the region visit the park and adjacent Tumut Wetlands and River walk and will learn of the significance of the place and the Indigenous history of the region. Bila Park will be incorporated into Bushtucker walks and cultural education conducted by NPWS Aboriginal Staff.

The Artists
The project provides skills development opportunities for local Aboriginal people.The Land Art Project Team was formed and commenced planning the project in February 2002 for Bila (“river”) Park. The project team consisted of members/artists from the Aboriginal Community, including Elders, as well as local non-Indigenous artists. Concept design and plans were created by the Land Art Project team at weekend workshops over a six month period and were adopted by the Aboriginal Community and Tumut Shire Council.

The Land Art project team consisted of Tammy Tidmarsh, Sonia Piper, Sue McDonald, Lenard Connelly, Anita Wickey and Sonja Karl, with Councillor Sue Bulger involved as a Councillor and community leader. The artwork stage of the project will be completed by recognised local Aboriginal artists and Elders, assisted by TAFE art teacher, Sue McDonald and the Tumut Woodworkers Club.

Planned Activities
The planned activities involves creating a park that features local Indigenous artwork celebrating and interpreting the historical and cultural significance of the Bila Park area.

Three pathways (representing the three tribes and their geographical tracks) will lead into a large circular meeting place and amphitheatre.

Before reaching the circle, the pathways will go around three “fire rocks”– specially selected local rocks which will have a carved depression at the top, to be used for Aboriginal smoking ceremonies or filled with water for other events.

The paths will meet at a circular mosaic, featuring the Wiradjuri totem of goannas. This mosaic will be made from locally sourced natural quartz, granite and slate, cement and other materials.

A fourth path will lead from the top of the circle to an earth amphitheatre. The principle focus of the amphitheatre will be the three large wooden totem poles.

On each pole there will be carved and burnt-in images of the three tribal totems. The totems will be reminiscent of the traditional indigenous scar trees. There will be metal “bogong moths” in crevices and on top of the poles – the culmination of the journey. The sculpture will be situated in the Park beside Tumut river, near the old town bridge.

The park also includes modern and disable friendly furniture and toilet facilities. These facilities are intended to enhance the overall aesthetics of the park through their earthy colours and innovative design.

Funding for completed stages of the Project has been contributed by Tumut Shire Council, Australia Council for the Arts, and the Indigenous Coordination Centre (ICC).

The Project so far
In January of 2008 work began on the Bila Park mosaic. An enthusiastic group of local artists and volunteers from the community were trained in the art of mosaic by mosaic artist Anna Kearey over a three week period. Black granite, white granite, sandstone and red pebbles were arranged and affixed on a 15 metre circular slab to create the mosaic design adapted from the original concept drawings. Volunteers worked on a regular over the next few months laying the stones and the final stage of grouting the mosaic was completed early April.

The Bila Park Mosaic was officially opened on Wednesday 31 April 2008 by The Hon Dr Mike Kelly AM MP.

The next step of the land art project will be the carving of the totem poles and creation of the metal bogong moths.