Ranger Stacey started with an Acknowledgment to Country for the traditional custodians of South Bruny Island, the Nuenonne, before giving the growing group of families a background on short-tailed shearwaters and little penguins, the magnificent birds we were about to witness coming home that night. Some shearwater oil and a stuffed little penguin were passed around, morbid yet poignant reminders of the millions of birds killed for human use and amusement. I’m not complaining, I eat chicken…
As informative as the talk was, it made me reflect on how sometimes what is not mentioned in a story is as important as what is mentioned. There was no mention of Truganini or her people that managed to survive the genocide of the 1800s. Truganini was a Tasmanian Aboriginal woman who even in death, could not escape the brutal dispossession and destruction of her land and culture. Her bones were exhumed for public display shortly after her death in 1876 and some of her body parts were sent to different institutions for “scientific study”. It was only in 1976 that her request to be cremated was finally honoured.
As to what was mentioned in the talk, at 9.45 pm, the shearwaters made their precision landings into or near their burrows. Shortly after, a raft of about 15 penguins landed on the beach. With red cellophane on our mobile phone lights, we witnessed the graceful swimmers turn into bumbling waddlers. With mingled bird cries filling the air, penguin and chick and burrow were reunited for the night. My son whispered “Good night,” to each penguin he spotted while my daughter had to be sternly reminded by Ranger Stacey to stop jumping so as not to scare the penguins. It was 11 pm when we finally pulled out of the car park and into the dark roads of Bruny Island, smug with the thought of walking three bushwalks in one day, with kids.
Looking for child-friendly materials that promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness and don’t know where to start? Click here for a copy of Aunt Annie’s Sorry Day to start your journey.
Want to learn more about birds? Click here to visit the Birdlife website. Identify some birds in your backyard, read up on their current campaigns, and start your own bird survey family project. Click here to buy a copy of Adam Nicolson’s book on oceanic aviators. See below for his description of shearwaters.