Cabbage palm & banksia cob  (audio transcript)

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Photograph of Shayne Williams.
Shayne Williams, senior Gweagal knowledge holder, 2020

So the cabbage tree palm is very important to us, you know? It was also important to the First Fleet, too, because they used to bark to make tiles for their roofs. But for us you can climb up to the top, obviously you need to cut grooves in the trunk to get up there, but you can take the heart of the centre of it and you can roast it and eat it. It needs to be treated first with water. You can also use the branches and leaves itself for your shelters, so in summertime rather than make a shelter that's waterproof you can just make one that gives you shade.   

But it has a very deep spiritual connection to us in this way: in our culture, the Dharawal culture, when someone passes on, a big cabbage tree palm bends and your spirit crosses that, you know, to go to the other side.    

The cabbage tree palm forms a bridge that you cross over. So a deep spiritual connection to us in that way. We also have footprints engraved in the rocks, not here but in other parts of our country, and that's another way your spirit leaves, it follows those footprints and goes off.  

Yeah, a banksia tree. See those cobs there? 

If you go to Bunnings and buy barbeque beads, you know, for your barbeques, we use these cobs in the same way. 

If you go up the Georges River you might find one of the little shelters like that, so we used to cook inside of those. And also, you know the ant mounds? Our people used to dig the base of those out and make like little ovens out of them 

And they used to get these cobs here and actually burn them inside, because they hold the heat in, and if they wanted to cook a possum they just put it inside there, you know, whether it was a shelter or the ant mound, and just leave it. But it's a good way of cooking if it's drizzling rain too, you know? You're able to cook during bad weather. 

Recorded for Eight Days in Kamay project, State Library of NSW, 2020. Reproduced with permission of Dr Shayne Williams.