Artist Laddie Timbery's Corroboree Studio

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Sydneysiders have the chance to learn ancient Aboriginal Arts and Crafts on the first Sunday of every month.

Launched on March 2, the interactive craft workshops join Sydney’s Black Markets on La Perouse’s historic Bare Island. The first of these markets were held in December 2013 and deemed such a success that they are built on in 2014 with a regular program.

Traditional Aboriginal teachers like Laddie Timbery share their talents in basket weaving, spear making, shell and boomerang art, as they teach the workshops. The idea is to offer an authentic Aboriginal tourism experience whilst supporting the traditional inter-generational passing down of knowledge from elders.

CEO of First Hand Solutions, Peter Cooley, says, “First Hand Aboriginal Workshops and Black Markets came about after we noticed a gap in the market for an authentic Aboriginal tourism experience in Sydney. Our motivation to fill this gap came when we realised that by reviving the Aboriginal tourism experience that used to attract international visitors to La Perouse right up to the 1950s, we would also be providing local Aboriginal people with an opportunity to be involved in the local economy. As well as providing [an opportunity for] Aboriginal youth to learn about their culture.”

First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corporation is a registered charity supporting solutions to issues faced by Aboriginal peoples.

Cooley says, “After 20 years working on the ground with Aboriginal youth, I realised their sense of disconnection was largely due to the breakdown in our communities, something which is stopping Aboriginal elders from passing knowledge down to the young.”

The social enterprise is hoping to inject funds back into the local Aboriginal community.

Cooley continues, “The beauty of paying to participate in these workshops is you are not only learning from skilled Aboriginal people but are also part of a social change that is enabling Aboriginal youth to learn about their culture, which increases their resilience,” he says.

“We set up the Black Markets as Bare Island provided such a great space to do this with its tunnels and parade ground. We never would have predicted the response we got from the local community, providing them with a marketplace so close to their homes.”

The location of the markets holds historic significance to the locals.

Jordan Ardler is an Aboriginal artist from the Dharawal people at La Perouse, who has a dot-painted jewellery box stall at the markets. She is very involved in her community.

Ardler says, “The markets for me are such an exciting event. It’s a time when I get to see a lot of the people from my community in one place. I also get to meet so many people from around Sydney who come and experience the culture I love so much.”

The young artist feels the markets are a wonderful way to encourage youth to engage with her “beautiful culture”.

“I think the markets are so important [for] the promotion of our culture. Everyone knows that La Perouse has a strong Aboriginal history but this event shows that our culture is still here and very much alive today,” says Ardler.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons comprise 2.4 per cent of the population, however they currently make up 22 per cent of the Australian Prisoner population. Cooley believes this is partly due to a disconnect amongst Aboriginal peoples from their culture and identity.

“There is an array of social problems, including some of the highest youth suicide rates in the world. Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander youth are 19 times more likely to be detained in a juvenile facility.”

Cooley is not concerned about any protests to ancient cultural knowledge moving outside Indigenous Communities.

“We’ve had no issues, in fact it has been quite the reverse. On our Bare Island Market days you have Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the same room learning from our skilled teachers and the rooms are abuzz with everyone learning together. When black and white get together, they start yarning.”

Cooley continues, “I think what people are realising is that our workshops and market days are not about Aboriginal culture at the end of a microphone. This is about having real conversations with Aboriginal people – all together.” (GF)

First Sunday of every month, Anzac Parade, Bare Island, La Perouse, $2-100, sydneyaboriginaltours.com.au/first-hand