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July 20, 2017 Blak Markets is the Aboriginal gem of La Perouse

La Perouse is a south Sydney suburb that was and is important in Indigenous history, plus a third of its population is Aboriginal.

It’s home to Blak Markets, which features the work of renowned creatives like Kick Contemporary Arts, Better World Arts, and Black Olive. The markets are run by First Hand Solutions, an Aboriginal-led corporation directed by Peter Cooley, a former diesel mechanic.

Cooley was raised at the Aboriginal mission in La Perouse, and he’s the man responsible for the popular Catch N Cook program, which he founded and ran from La Perouse because,

“I want people to understand why Aboriginal people are so connected to the land here.”

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The markets is a micro-business hub for craftspeople selling traditional arts, and the event hires young Aboriginal people to run all food and drink outlets. The markets’ focus is developing skills; reviving ancient ones and learning new ones for modern jobs.

I went on a stunningly sunny day, but La Perouse is beautiful any day of the year. The wide grassy outcrop which cops all the ocean winds is surrounded by national park, and the bridge that extends to Bare Island is always packed with people. (Fun fact: Bare Island was used as a set for the filming of Mission Impossible 2).

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Boomerang-throwing demonstrations are often held on weekends, and Aboriginal guided tours run from Yarra Bay House during the week.

A native reptile show is another attraction at The Loop on Sundays. George Cann started them in the early 1920s and the tradition has been continued by members of the Cann family.

The site is important because of the little-known history of La Perouse, known as Gooriwal to the Muruora-dial people of the area. The Aboriginal Mission there was founded in 1880 and ran until 1967 when the Aborigines Welfare Board was dissolved, and it then became a self-regulating community known as the reserve, the mish, or LaPa.

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The Aboriginal community at LaPa is the only one in Sydney that has held onto its territory in the face of repeated threats of relocation. Some community members have an unbroken connection to the land for over 7500 years.

Members of the Timbery family living in La Perouse today can directly trace their ancestors back to pre-contact times.

‘Queen’ Emma Timbery was an Aboriginal matriarch of La Perouse who lived on the reserve, and was one of the first Indigenous people to work as a missionary. The La Perouse Mission Church on Adina Avenue continues to be an important historical site for the community.

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Blak Markets is held eight times a year at Bare Island in La Perouse, Barangaroo, and other pop-ups across Sydney.

Check them out on Facebook

Kate Cole
is a contributor for A•STAR