Location of Objects:
The shield tree is displayed at the Moneroo Bubberer Gudu Keeping Place, located at Jigamy Farm on the Princes Highway north of Eden, NSW 2551.
Accessibility of Objects:
Moneroo Bubberer Gudu Keeping Place is open to the public, however contact Jigamy Farm on 02 6495 6343 for opening hours.
History and Provenance of Objects:
The shield tree originally stood in the forests of Green Cape, New South Wales. This remarkable tree was discovered by Uncle Les Mongta whilst walking through the forest where he used to cut sleepers many years ago. According to a verbal account that was given by tribal elder, Ossie Cruse (ABC South East NSW, 2008), who had known about this tree for about fifty years, his Uncle Les Mongta, passed this knowledge and story on to his children and grandchildren.
It's estimated that sometime around two or three hundred years ago an Aboriginal man attempted to cut a shield from the tree. It is said that this was a now tribal elder, when he was a boy, who was being taught by his grandfather how to cut the shield from the tree. This difficult task was done by shaping and cutting the shield from the side of a live tree. However, after shaping the shield it cracked before he could finish cutting it away. He then moved to the other side and tried again, but this one also cracked. The straightness in grain may have been what caused the wood to crack (ABC South East NSW, 2008).
Tools that were used to make the shield would likely have included stone axes and stone knives to cut out and smooth the shape and stone wedges to prize the shield out of the tree (ABC South East NSW, 2008).
The shield tree, which had since died, was saved from forest clearing in 1972 and preserved by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Les’s son Brian Mongta, accompanied by university students from Australian National University, actually cut the tree down and removed it. The shield tree was relocated to the National Parks branch in Cronulla for save keeping (ABC South East NSW, 2008). In 2005 negotiations began for its return to its place of origin in the Bega Valley, this process took approximately three years and was initiated by Graham Moore of the Southern Cultural Heritage Branch, working out of the National Parks Office Merimbula, Office Of Environment and Heritage.
The shield tree was returned in 2008 to the Moneroo Bubberer Gudu Keeping Place (translated as the people of the mountains and the sea), located at Jigamy Farm, Eden in the growing collection of Aboriginal cultural artifacts (ABC South East NSW, 2008).
The particular significance of this Object:
Aboriginal people were prevented from practicing their ceremonial and cultural practices and parts of their lifestyle in general and speak their native language. Members of the non-indigenous community did not allow these cultural practised to be undertaken, as they were afraid of the seemingly unknown culture and sought to ‘civilise’ Aboriginal people. These practices have consequently been lost to a degree as a result. Aboriginal people were thought to have been uncivilised; savages, and were portrayed to be a primitive, unsophisticated and unintelligent race.
The shield tree is a reminder of the incredible technologies and intellectual property that Aboriginal possessed and were passed down. Older people from the community remember being taken to the tree as children when it still stood in the Greencape forests (ABC South East NSW, 2008).
“This tree is a reminder to us that this level of technology was alive and well” (Cruse, O. 2008).
The welcoming ceremony and ongoing public display of the shield tree serves as a reminder of the deep technological knowledge and skill set used in developing these practises and tools that were possessed by Aboriginal people. The return of this tree to Jigamy Farm is important to the local community as the Keeping Place is a teaching place, a place where traditional skills are taught to younger generations, a place of repository for Aboriginal people. The trees return essentially links Aboriginal people with an era where these practices were lost to a degree; however Aboriginal people maintained aspects of their culture all through the Colonial regime which are the caring and sharing with each other and extended family (which includes Aboriginal people from all places). To see the return of the shield tree to its homeland links us with an era that was somewhat seemingly lost to Aboriginal people and provides Aboriginal children with links to their extended family; links with the past (ABC South East NSW, 2008).
The welcoming ceremony was a privileged opportunity to share in a unique cultural event and to witness the strong and continuing relationship between Aboriginal people and the environment (ABC South East NSW, 2008).
2. PEOPLING AUSTRALIA
Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures
Aboriginal People’s Cultural Heritage and Connections to Bega Valley Shire
3: DEVELOPING LOCAL, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL ECONOMIES
Environment - cultural landscape
Cultural landscapes within the Bega Valley
Learning the landscape of the Bega Valley Shire
Technological Innovation within Bega Valley Shire
Education and learning institutions in the Bega Valley Shire
Geographically associated places / sites:
Green Cape, Eden NSW 2551
Jigamy Farm, Princes Highway Eden NSW 2551
Contributors to this ‘library’:
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This Bega Shire Hidden Heritage project has been made possible by the NSW Government through its Heritage Near Me program.
Any further information about local World War I Honor Rolls, locally issued ‘farewell’ gifts, etc. or their associated histories will be GREATLY welcomed and will be added to the above library of information.
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References and bibliography: