Moree indigenous people take part in first site identification course at Terry Hie Hie

A group of indigenous Moree people have been connecting with their culture through nature over the past fortnight as part of a special course that’s given them both practical and life skills.

Ten people have participated in a site identification course at Terry Hie Hie where they have learnt how to identify Aboriginal sites and relics and how best to preserve them.

The course, run by Len Waters from Len Waters Cultural Tours, is a result of a collaboration between the Terry Hie Hie co-management committee, NSW National Parks and Wildlife, Moree Aboriginal Land Council, TAFE NSW and the heritage division north west repatriation and conservation team.

Various experts including Craig Trindall, Steven Booby, Joel Hatch and archaeologist Pat Gaynor have also come on board to share their knowledge with the participants.

At the conclusion of the two weeks, the group will be qualified site officers which organisers hope will lead to job opportunities in the future, such as conducting Aboriginal heritage assessments for companies prior to development on particular areas, or they could become tourist guides.

As well as learning to identify and record a range of Aboriginal artefacts such as rocks, scarred trees and grinding grooves, the participants will be able to maintain Aboriginal cultural sites for generations to come by following specific Aboriginal protocols.

“We teach them what’s what and have action plans when they do come across a site, how do we manage that site. For example, if a road is going to go through and we can’t deviate, how do we repatriate that?” Mr Waters said.

“If there’s animals or stock trampling artefacts they can be fenced off, or if water or erosion is happening there are ways to stop or prevent that process.”

Participants have also gained a greater cultural awareness since undertaking the learning.

“This is a group that has really grown and their sense of identity has taken off,” Mr Waters said. 

“Spiritually they feel very connected to this place and very happy to be out of town doing something. It seems to connect people and give them that feeling of being in a place where their people lived and roamed.”

Terry Hie Hie is rich in Aboriginal heritage, and the course is just one part of the co-management committee’s plans to develop the area as a cultural tourism destination.

“This whole area is just littered with scarred trees,” Mr Waters said.

“There’s lots of ceremonial places around and a lot of rocks for different purposes such as stone tools for cutting or hammer devices.”