The Beagle Editor, Since 'HuntFest' (in America referred to as an 'arms fair') is in the news, the Our Town Our Say forum thought it would be a timely reminder how the Aboriginal community view the event. Not only the Aboriginal community but also 81% of local respondents to a council survey opposing the sale of guns and ammunition at Huntfest (2014) - vastly different to the original licence application describing the festival as a 'photographic competition' in 2012 by the applicant, South Coast Hunters Club.
There was no community consultation with regard to the holding of Huntfest.
Here is a letter sent by Reverend Tom Slockee, Aboriginal Elder, to Eurobodalla Shire Council in March 2016:
Tom Slockee Aboriginal Elder Batemans Bay NSW
21 March 2016
Eurobodalla Shire Council PO box 99 Moruya NSW 2537
Re; Agenda item no FBD16/012 (22nd March 2016) - License for Use of Crown Reserve - Narooma.
I write this letter of support for the Animal Justice Party and their application to run a festival in Narooma. We hope our contribution will influence any decision to be made by Eurobodalla Shire Council.
I have spoken to several Aboriginal Elders and community people and there is agreement in our support for the Animal Justice Party. Also we have issues against the proposed HuntFest in Narooma.
As Aboriginal People we are opposed generally to guns and the gun culture.
Aboriginal People traditional are hunters and gatherers. Our survival and sustainability depended on our knowledge and ability of the land, the plants, the animals and shellfish and mammals and seafood to provide for our families from the environment in which we lived. We lived in harmony and had an affiliation with the land and all living things.
The gun changed everything for us. Maybe this story will give you a understanding of why many Aboriginal people oppose guns and the gun culture.
In about 1800 the government instructions were to fire at Aboriginal peoples until they were far away from British settlements. In 1816, Governor Macquarie announced that if any Indigenous peoples approached British settlements or were unwilling to leave British properties, then the settlers could drive them away with the use of firearms. Similar encouragement by the government was given in Tasmania and Western Australia and in most other areas of Australia.
Our Aboriginal peoples generally resisted the settlement of their land, but we had little resistance against the guns of the British settlers.
Our Aboriginal warrior, Pemulwuy, led the Aboriginal resistance around Sydney Harbour from 1790 to 1802 and was feared by many British settlers not because he had guns but because of his knowledge and use of terrain and his bushcraft. Like many other Aboriginal people using traditional tools such as spears, boomerangs, stone axes, bush rope, nula nulas and things like fire and bush shelters.
On 1 May 1801 Governor King gave orders to drive back 'hordes of natives' around Parramatta, the Georges River and Prospect Hill by gunfire. In November, troops were sent to Mill Creek on the Georges River and King offered rewards including free pardons for convicts and 20 gallons of spirits for their capture and that of Pemulwuy who was wanted 'dead or alive'. On 2 June 1802, Pemulwuy was shot dead and decapitated.
Aboriginal peoples depended on the land for their survival. Land is not just the ground but it is wholistic including all living things.
We lived in clan - family groups within an agreed area and lived and survived by respecting and honouring Country. Law and ceremony and the passing on of knowledge and wisdom were highly regarded. Sacred places were holy and revered. We sustained ourselves by fishing, hunting, and gathering. We used what Country provided seafood, animals, plants, and using other resources that the land had to offer for tools and shelter.
A lot of our people are semi-nomadic, meaning they moved around within the territory to sustain and survive. The land provided food and resources and medicine. The local Walbunja People were a warrior people who cared for and protected the Land and they used spears and rocks but were soon overpowered by people with guns In the Eurobodalla Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Study Public Report, it says "The Police use to chase Aboriginal people with guns, as a sport; the Aboriginal people being chased knew where the old walking tracks were over Gulaga and took refuge there. So you can see we are not in favor of guns or a gun culture that give acquiescence to kill.
Whilst we understand that the people behind HuntFest are about hunting feral animals we are against the chasing of animals with the intention of catching or killing them, usually for sport and for recreational reasons.
Tom Slockee (Aboriginal Elder and Community Leader) The letter above should have been considered by councillors. It wasn't. The Our Town Our Say group