It’s a suburban park without a playground or barbecues, but what it does have is just as important for establishing a sense of place in one of Canberra’s newest suburbs.
Gubur Dhaura, meaning red ochre ground in the Ngunnawal language, marks the end of the development of the Gungahlin suburb of Franklin.
Ochre is important to indigenous ceremonies – white, yellow and red are used in different ways by different members of tribes, both in the past and today.
This hill in what is now Franklin is one of the best sources of red ochre in the area and Ngunnawal man Wally Bell is delighted that the site will remain relatively undeveloped.
“It’s invaluable to us as Aboriginal people because this place has a spiritual connection to us as well. It’s not just an ochre site,” he said atop the windy hill.
In years gone by, the approach to indigenous heritage has not been so harmonious.
“A lot of people wouldn’t know about new Parliament House,” Mr Bell offered. “They took away a hill, Capital Hill, and that was one of our main ceremonial sites… Everything that was part of aboriginal way of life occurred on that hill.
That government agencies are now not just initially consulting with indigenous people, but continuing to do so throughout such projects, is a significant step forward in community education.
“[They] were quite willing to preserve [Gubur Dhaura] as a monument to Aboriginal past, and one of the things that assisted that was that it was also a part of European history as well,” said Mr Bell.
Into the future
While the indigenous connection to the place goes back thousands of years, the area has been significant in more recent times for different settlers.
European settlers mined ironstone and pipe clay, as well as farming, and this history is also reflected in the installations.
Displays are subtle, some of the equipment found as the area was cleaned up has been reinterpreted as fencing, and carefully cast information plinths blend with the long grass and wildlife habitat that remains in place as the land transitions from rural to suburban.
Doing it right
The ACT Land Development Agency are charged with taking land earmarked for new suburbs and making that happen through land sales – they’re often called the Government’s cash cow.
But on the top of a windy hill in Franklin lies testament to the fact that developing new suburbs is not just about making money, but making a place that people will live, love and learn in for years to come.
The Land Development Agency hosted a tour of the park as part of the ACT Heritage Festival.
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