Hands on learning at Blak Markets at Bare Island Sydney

 spear making at Blak Markets

Raffles is pretty excited when we tell him we’re going to explore a real fort. When we add the bit about him making his very own weapon while he’s there, he’s just about ready to sign up for a job with Border Protection. I’m not sure he’d last long in the job though as he shares his  mama’s “bleeding heart hippie” ideals of equality and offering refuge, and rather than “stopping the boats” he’d more likely be whipping up the hungry passengers an omelette and a nice cuppa before joining them for a bit of a chin wag. I so like this kid.

Given our penchant for sipping on the aforementioned hippie juice, one might consider it odd that I’m actively encouraging my child to make a weapon, but the weapon that Raffles will make today is a very special one that has more to do with self-respect, responsibility and connection than with violence. But more on that in a sec…

We’re at Bare Island in Sydney’s La Perouse, named for Comte de La Pérouse, a French navigator who rocked up here just a few days after the first fleet of convicts had arrived in Botany Bay. Luckily for both him and the convicts there was no Border Protection around in those days otherwise they would all have been unceremoniously turfed out on their arses… given their watery arrival.

But I digress, we’re not here to discuss border policy, the arrival of the First Fleet or the fact that had the French only turned up a few days earlier we would all be running around singing Edith Piaf songs, eating croissants for breakfast and wearing Chanel thongs. Bugger. Je ne actually do regrette rien that. I’d quite like a French accent.

Bare Island is both a historic military fort and the host of the wonderful Blak Markets, a monthly market dedicated to Aboriginal crafts, skills and culture. The market raises funds for Aboriginal community programs to assist youth at risk and I implore you from the depths of my soul to take your children. It is fun, entertaining, unique and provides an unsurpassable opportunity for our kids to be exposed to and learn about local indigenous culture while helping Aboriginal youth become proud and resilient through that culture.

Dean and Rafferty with his spear at Blak Markets

Beyond great market stalls showcasing everything from Aboriginal art and handicrafts to homewares and fashion, visitor’s can enjoy mouth-watering bush tucker inspired food, Indigenous entertainment and witness a traditional smoking ceremony where native plants are burnt, producing smoke to spiritually heal, purify and ward off negativity.

Smoking ceremony at Blak Markets, Sydney

If you like things more hands on, there are bush tucker tours, a Catch N Cook kids fishing tour and great workshops with traditional Aboriginal teachers who’ll pass on the knowledge that has been passed on to them for generations.

Raffles is fairly preoccupied with eating his way through every one of the amazing food stalls in the courtyard. He goes back for seconds of the “deadly dumplings’, delicious chicken dumplings with warrigal greens served in a bowl of chicken broth, and the barbecued Kanagroo skewers.

Kids at Blak Markets, La Perouse

But it’s time to make that weapon I mentioned at the beginning of my ramblings… a spear to be precise. The Spear Making workshop with Dean Kelly of Warada Kinship is not only hands on but quite spiritual. Dean takes his culture very seriously and loves to share a way of life he says “was given to him by the old people”. Dean explains the spear’s history and how it has evolved. How the knowledge of this ancient technology was shared with him by the old people and how it can set the direction for life’s journey.

The spear Raffles will create will uniquely represent him and the hard work is not done for him. Raffles will need to make his spear from scratch. When choosing the trunk of a Gymea Lily (also known as spear lilies) he must choose the one he feels most connected to, the one that fits. Raffles must do the same with the timber spear head (these have been carved already) and he carefully picks each up and studies it until he finds the one that speaks to him.

And then it’s off to work. Manually removing the remaining leaves from the trunk and sanding it back. Painstakingly putting the pieces together and tightly winding twine around his spear-to-be.

Kids spear making at Blak Markets

While Raffles (and his dad, who is also making a spear today) work away, I take Sugarpuff off for some lemon myrtle lollipops and Davidson plum sherbet and we find a great mini cultural workshop where she too can make something of her own. She chooses to paint and decorate a set of clapping sticks with the lovely local ladies. The hot pink theme she goes for isn’t very authentic but she’s pretty chuffed with her handiwork, as are the lovely ladies who assist.

When we return we find the boys scooping up handfuls of orange goo, made from crushed rock and tree resin, taking only what they need to seal and paint their spears by hand.

applying ochre resin to a spear at Blak Markets

All in all they spend two painstaking hours working on their spears. Listening, learning, sharing and connecting.

My son is taught about the importance of taking only what he needs not what he wants from the land. To Aboriginal people, the land has a spiritual connection. It is their mother and they believe that everything is born from her and will return to her. It represents everything that is needed for living and they take from it only what they need to survive… a kind, responsible and sustainable way of living that I’m thrilled my son is being exposed to.

Raffles, who I swear is about to actually burst with pride, is now the owner of his very own handmade spear and generations of knowledge that has been passed on to him by Dean.

The boys with their hand made Aborignal spears at Blak Markets

My little boy has learned so much more than just how to make a weapon, he has learned respect, patience and responsibility and he will take that with him along with his spear… which he can use to stir the next batch of mama’s Kool Aid.

Blak Markets at Bare Island is open 10.30am-5pm on the 1st Sunday of every month. Workshops and tours range in price and entry to Bare Island, usually only open for tours, is $2 per person, with children under 5 free. http://www.sydneyaboriginaltours.com.au


18 Comments on Hands on learning at Blak Markets at Bare Island Sydney

      October 24, 2014 at 10:17 am (10 years ago)

      It’s on again next weekend Marta. Check out the website for all the fabulous workshop information and do go, it really is fantastic and a vital learning experience for our children.

  1. Ai Sakura
    October 24, 2014 at 10:21 am (10 years ago)

    What a marvelous experience! I love how much is taught at the spear-making lesson. We should all learn to just take what we need, not all that we want and think to leave some behind for the future generations.

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

      October 24, 2014 at 11:07 am (10 years ago)

      That’s what is it is all about! I wish every child had the opportunity to learn this in such a wonderful and memorable way 🙂

      October 25, 2014 at 7:58 am (10 years ago)

      I’m sure they would Jody, it’s a really fun day. We’re going to try the Catch N Cook experience next time. 🙂

  2. Rachel_OurTownBNE
    October 24, 2014 at 1:01 pm (10 years ago)

    What a fantastic experience! i would love to give my boys the chance to experience indigenous culture in such a meaningful way. Such a beautiful day out for you and your beautiful family Aleney! xx

      October 25, 2014 at 7:48 am (10 years ago)

      Thanks Rachel. If you’re ever in Sydney on the first Sunday of the month you should definitely stop by 🙂

  3. Fairlie
    October 24, 2014 at 4:33 pm (10 years ago)

    That is a fabulous experience. I’d love to visit Blak Markets. Hopefully it will be on when I’m next in Sydney.

      October 25, 2014 at 7:48 am (10 years ago)

      Totally. DO try, it’s such a fun day.

  4. Have A Laugh On Me
    October 24, 2014 at 8:09 pm (10 years ago)

    This is such a great experience and one that he’ll remember in years for sure. Boys do have a thing for weapons, they’re just born with it I reckon! I hope to show my kids more about the indigenous cultures of both Australia and NZ, my country of birth x

      October 25, 2014 at 7:47 am (10 years ago)

      They sure do, Em. Nice for them to have them put into context though. 🙂

  5. Blah Blah Magazine
    October 25, 2014 at 5:57 am (10 years ago)

    Oh, I’ve been meaning to go, but seriously had no idea it’d be that good. I’m there x

      October 25, 2014 at 7:45 am (10 years ago)

      It is! Check out the website for info on the workshops though. You may need to book as they are becoming really popular 🙂

  6. Grace
    October 27, 2014 at 4:32 pm (10 years ago)

    I’ve heard so many great things about the Blak Markets! I’d love to take the boys!

      October 28, 2014 at 8:19 am (10 years ago)

      IT’s on again this Sunday Grace. My two liked it so much that we’re going to head there again 🙂

  7. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    October 28, 2014 at 3:14 am (10 years ago)

    Honestly you find the best stuff. Sharing this with my friend who has two littleuns! 😀

      October 28, 2014 at 8:17 am (10 years ago)

      So great for kids and grown up Lorraine 🙂


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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