• A travel poster for Australia, showing Captain Cook landing with his soldiers at Botany Bay in 1770. (Hulton Archive)Source: Hulton Archive
The Chairperson of The La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council says Indigenous involvement in the redevelopment of the Botany Bay site of First Contact means we can "tell our side of the story".
Mikele Syron

13 Aug 2020 - 5:14 PM  UPDATED 14 Aug 2020 - 4:30 PM

The chairperson of the La Perouse Land Council, Noeleen Timbery, said today that the New South Wales government's decision to consult Aboriginal people in the redevelopment of the Botany Bay site is crucial.

The state government has pledged $50 million towards the project, and has engaged Indigenous artists and architects to help construct an exhibition space and café hub at the site in Kurnell. The government says the precinct would also provide a place to run "special education programs with an Indigenous influence".

Ms Timbery, who is also a board member for the project, said that it's essential to ensure an Indigenous perspective of history is represented. While there is concern within the community about whether the project is appropriate, she said that there would be some benefits to local Aboriginal communities.

'Our involvement means that we can tell our side of the story… Our connection to that land is ongoing, and as much as Cook wrote in his journal about the community, he and his crew became a part of our stories too," she told NITV News.

"It needs to be told with both sides of the story, which can only be done if we are a part of it."

Asymmetrical Relationship

Yugembir Goori man Dillon Kombumerri, who is the principal architect at the NSW government and a board member for the project, said that Indigenous people occupy three out of ten positions on the board.

A paper published by the NSW Government Architects office and co authored by Mr Kombumerri advocates for the inclusion of Aboriginal culture in the planning system.

Mr Kombumerri said the relationship was "asymmetrical" but that changes often had to be achieved through working collaboratively.

"They have the power, they have the funds. They make the decisions regardless of how we kick and scream, so to fight the good fight we need to sit in the tent with the decision-makers and remain firm in our beliefs, and that will influence those decisions," Mr Kombumerri said.

He also suggested that there will be employment opportunities for Aboriginal park rangers, staff, and other management roles, in addition to improved access to the area. He hopes this allows the community to spend more time connecting with country, and each other.

Mr Kombumerri understands the many perspectives about the site's redevelopment, including those who are critical.

"You don't want to hide any parts of history … Cook is no longer the boogie man to some of us, he was quite progressive for that time, and had some great qualities but his communication strategy with First Nations people was flawed," he said.

The development of the meeting place has commenced and is expected to be completed in 2021.

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