Raffles chats with Blak Markets’ Peter Cooley

Peter Cooley from Blak Markets with Raffles at Bare Island

Junior journo Raffles has a passion for Aboriginal culture that is matched only by his fervour for stuffing his face. This cultural hunger is one we’re more than happy to indulge and one of our favourite places to do just that is at Sydney’s Blak Markets.

This incredible market is dedicated to Aboriginal crafts, skills, food and providing an Aboriginal perspective on history. It also provides jobs for Indigenous people and raises funds to assist Aboriginal youth at risk. So in the lead up to NAIDOC week he’s chatting to the founder of Blak Markets, Peter Cooley, about the importance of embracing our local indigenous culture, Blak Market’s exciting upcoming events and, of course, eating!

Over to them…

Blak Markets has been running for more than two years, can you tell me why it started?
We started Blak Markets to provide a place of cultural pride for small Aboriginal businesses to sell their arts, craft and culture. We know the whole world is interested in our culture but it can be hard to find a place that showcases it.  We also wanted to provide a place where young Aboriginal people could learn from skilled elders about their culture through workshops in artefact making, shell work, weaving and traditional uses of plants.
It’s such a great idea.

Bare Island is such an interesting place to explore, what made you choose it as the location?
Bare Island is adjacent to both the old Aboriginal mission at La Perouse whose people were some of the first impacted by Captain Cook’s landing all those years ago. And Captains Cooks landing place in Kurnell. Bare Island was actually named by Cook’s Botanist, Joseph Banks.
That’s a lot of history.

Smoking ceremony at Blak Markets

Can you tell me about the smoking ceremony that is performed at each Blak Markets?
The smoking ceremony cleanses the island and also acts as a welcome to visitors to the island and our culture.
I really enjoy being part of it. It does make me feel welcome.

How important is it for Indigenous communities to stay connected with their culture and for elders to continue to pass on their knowledge to young people? 
It’s very important to teach Aboriginal youth about their culture, which is why we started the charity that runs the market – First Hand Solutions Aboriginal Corporation – all those years ago. We believe cultural reconnection, especially in urban areas, provides both pride and resilience to our people, which will help them stand strong and be successful.
I think that’s awesome.

Raffles gets a few expert tips on playing the Didgeridoo at Blak Markets, Sydney

Why do you think all Australian kids should be learn about Indigenous people and their culture?
My people can teach them how to look at the landscape in a whole different way and realise how all the things in our environment are connected. And hopefully this will make them make better decisions about looking after the environment and other people as well.
I spent time with some elders in the bush who taught me about the sustainable way the Aboriginal people have always lived. It’s genius. 

The markets provide jobs for Indigenous people, which is awesome. In what other ways does the market help the local Indigenous community?
We’ve got lots of young Aboriginal people working at the markets but we’ve also got over 30 Aboriginal people running their own stalls and teaching culture or skills. And they’re all supporting families. We also make sure that for the person buying from our markets that almost 100% of the profit either goes back to the person making that product or to an Aboriginal community organisation, which is important.

Raffles doing a spearmaking workshop at Blak Markets, Sydney

I was so, so lucky to do a spear making workshop with Dean at Blak Markets a while back and what he taught me about respect, patience and responsibility has really, really stuck with me. He taught me that we should only take from the earth what we need and not what we want, which I think is an awesome thing. What other workshops and tours are available at Blak Markets?
The workshops we offer vary from weaving, spear making and didgeridoo making, plant and artefact talks, to whale and healing ceremonies. We keep it varied so you can come back for something different each time.
Cool. I can’t wait to learn something new.

We loved trying the food at Blak Markets, I especially loved the deadly dumplings and emu sausages. What other bush tucker treats do you think we should try?
We’re at Martin Place this Thursday (19th May) and we’ve teamed up with a group called Bushfood Sensations who are bringing a whole variety of bushfood products to the market including cordials, desserts and chocolate. We’ll also have our very own Fred’s Bush Tucker demonstrating how to cook up fish the traditional way. And Australia’s most celebrated and renowned Indigenous chef, Mark Olive – also known as ‘The Black Olive’ – will be cooking up a feast. After that we’ll be at Barangaroo for NAIDOC week on Saturday 9th July then back home to Bare Island, La Perouse on Sunday 7 August and 4th December.
Lots of dates for our diary and lots of yummy food! I can’t wait.

Sharing the Blak Markets love with Essentially Jess for #IBOT

9 Comments on Raffles chats with Blak Markets’ Peter Cooley

  1. Julie
    May 17, 2016 at 1:43 pm (8 years ago)

    We visited the Blak Markets and really enjoyed it. I think our kids need more of a connection with our indigenous culture and books are not enough. Thanks Raffles. A wonderful interview as always.

      May 17, 2016 at 8:59 pm (8 years ago)

      Thanks Julie. I hope BJ liked it as much as I do. Raffles x

  2. Amy @ HandbagMafia
    May 17, 2016 at 2:08 pm (8 years ago)

    Oh I didn’t know this existed- will try to get to the next one- sounds amazing!

      May 17, 2016 at 9:01 pm (8 years ago)

      I wrote at length a few years back about the incredible experience Raffles had at their spear making workshop. Life changing stuff for a small boy.

  3. Janet aka Middle Aged Mama
    May 17, 2016 at 7:39 pm (8 years ago)

    I’d never heard of the Blak markets before but it sounds brilliant – definitely worth a visit next time I’m in Sydney! We took our kids to Uluru and the indigenous cultural centre when they were small, and they loved it. Miss 19 (who was 4 at the time) was obsessed about honey ants for quite some time after that and was always hoping to find some!

    Visiting today from #teamIBOT x

      May 17, 2016 at 9:02 pm (8 years ago)

      It’s so important to expose the kids to Indigenous culture in an authentic way

  4. Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields
    May 17, 2016 at 7:56 pm (8 years ago)

    I have lived in Sydney almost my whole life and I had never heard of Blak Markets. Thank you. What a wonderful initiative. I am putting the Barangaroo date on my calendar so I can go check it out myself. FWIW I will also share this on social media and maybe try to spread the word a bit.

      May 17, 2016 at 8:49 pm (8 years ago)

      It is a wonderful initiative Lyn We’ve been regulars for the past two years. We’d love you to spread the word. And do go to Bare Island for one of the events there as it really is an incredibly location. 🙂

  5. EssentiallyJess
    May 20, 2016 at 2:06 pm (8 years ago)

    I’ve never heard of this before but it sounds really interesting. How cool for Raffles to get to make a spear.


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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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