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Takara Limuna - The Sheoak Walk- A Cultural Landscape

There’s a peaceful place across the river from Hobart’s busy CBD which can take you back a century or three. Read the beautifully crafted signs along this Short Walk or sit a while in the stone circle at the end and you can imagine what it may have been like before Europeans came.

The limuna Sheoaks are only found in this area

The largest, densest Sheoaks I have ever seen grow here and you can imagine them being used for shelter. Women would have been gathering roots or weaving baskets from the grasses while the men hunted game or crafted tools for the purpose. Mussels and other shellfish were abundant in the sheltered cove behind this promontory so before the arrival of Europeans, this was also the place where the Mumirimina people gathered to relax, celebrate and share their stories.

Finely crafted signs tell the story of the first inhabitants
Unfortunately, the sheltered cove was also attractive to Lieutenant -Governor Bowen, who’d been sent to Tasmania by the Governor of N.S.W. to establish a colony there in 1803, to stop the French from seizing it. With him were 21 convicts, some members of the New South Wales Corp and some free settlers – a total of 49 people in all. At first relations between the original inhabitants and the newcomers were cordial enough and Bowen went to great pains to keep it so, but in his absence a skirmish broke out between settlers and Aboriginal People and panicked soldiers opened fire, leading to the first known massacre of Aboriginal People. Risdon Cove as the site is known to Europeans, has since been returned to Aboriginal ownership and boasts a fine Aboriginal Children’s Centre along with a memorial.

Bowen’s settlement did not fare well either. It lacked good soil and sufficient water to grow European crops. In 1804, while Bowen was briefly recalled to New South Wales, Lieutenant Governor Collins, who’d been sent by the British Crown to establish a colony where Melbourne now stands, but had not found the area to his liking, decided to establish one on the Western bank of the Derwent instead. This rival settelement then became the City of Hobart.

They also tell of loss and dispossession

By 1820, the Mumirimina people had been decimated or had fled into neighbouring territories. A few were rounded up by George Augustus Robinson, who sought to protect the remaining Aboriginal people by taking them to Flinders Island. Here most died of disease or homesickness. As the signage recounts, Aboriginal People are part of the land and their land is part of them. Even now Aboriginal People suffer greatly when separated from their ancestral lands. "Milathina Pakana waranta Pakana milaythina, says the sign. It means "We are Country and the Country is us."  

The spirit of the Mumirimina remains strong here

 In schools in the 1950s and 1960s, Australians were still being taught that all Tasmanian Aboriginal People had died out. People with Aboriginal Heritage did not speak out for fear of being ostracised, and there was little evidence obvious to European eyes of  this unique culture which has survived in this  vastly different country for the past 60,000 years. Only in the last two decades has the breadth of Aboriginal knowledge, especially with respect to culture and land management started to be appreciated. 

Despite the horrors of the past and continuing injustices, the atmosphere here is serene and peaceful. The city sounds fade away and you no longer see the factory belching away across the river. Wait long enough and you can almost hear children laughing or an elder passing on stories.

You’ll notice that dual signage is being used in many important locations in Tasmania now. Kunanyi, for example, is the Aboriginal name for Mt. Wellington and now appears before it on signboards. This was the result of an Act of the State Parliament of Tasmania in 2020. So far 44 names have been formally acknowledged, but the process is ongoing and others are being used more frequently. The Aboriginal name for Hobart for instance, is nipaluna, which is sometimes used in news and weather segments on television. The Aboriginal name for the Derwent River is timtumli minanya  and the name for Tasmania itself is lutruwita. Name changes have also occurred in other parts of  Australia – for example Uluru, the monolith in the Centre of Australia which is sacred to Aboriginal People, has long reverted to this name rather than being called Ayers Rock as Europeans named it.

Spelling varies as Aboriginal languages were oral, not written and differed between tribes. According to The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander website, there were 8- 16 different language groups in Tasmania and over 250 in Australia. However, most of these have disappeared with colonisation along with any records, so Palawa kani which is spoken in Tasmania today, is a reconstruction based on several of these languages. Traditional languages are also being revived and taught in other parts of Australia. Read more here.

Although the recent referendum which was to give Aboriginal People Constitutional recognition – long overdue, and a Voice to Parliament - a say in all matters affecting them, failed,  this is at least one form of acknowledgement and recognition. It is also a way of keeping Aboriginal culture alive and making it tangible to non -indigenous people. 

There are unusual Eucalypts here too. Storm tortured they may be, but their spirit also remains strong

NB: Do not follow Google Maps to this location. If leaving from the City, follow the A3 North along the Derwent towards the Bridge, cross it and keep left in the Lindisfarne lane. This takes you to the East Derwent Highway (B32) and on to Geilston Bay. You can trust Google up to here, but as soon as you pass the school, TURN LEFT at Geilston Bay Road and head towards Geilston Bay Boat Club. At the end of this there is a small parking area where the track starts. Driving there takes around 20 minutes and the walk is a gentle 1.7 km or 60 minutes return. Cycling and Dogs on leads are allowed. The firepit may not be used by non -Aboriginal people. There are picnic tables and barbecues across a footbridge opposite the parking area.

Speaking of cycling, there's a nice easy dedicated bike/walking track which starts at the Domain in Hobart -just past the Port area in the City, and goes across the Bridge and all the way along the foreshore to Geilston Bay without having to deal with the traffic. According to Google, cycling takes 58 minutes on a good day whereas a buses 601, 624 0r  655 and 684 take between an hour and a half to an hour and 50 minutes.  Catch them at the City Interchange near the main Post Office.