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Prized ancient quarry recognised

The site, located on a farm owned by a Queanbeyan family in southern New South Wales, has been officially recognised as an Aboriginal Place. This is as part of a NSW Government program that sees Indigenous custodians and contemporary landowners financially reimbursed for hosting tours and visits to declared sites, while protecting their values.

In 2016, a member of the Watson family invited his friend, Aboriginal archaeologist David Johnston, to inspect the site. Johnston immediately realised that the basalt and dolerite boulders would have once been used to make stone axe heads. The axes would have been used to make everything from boomerangs and spears to shields and canoes.

Johnston told The Canberra Times that the quarry would have been a “prize” for the community that had them on their country – the then equivalent of the “local Bunnings store for the Canberra and surrounds region”. They would have traded the valuable commodity at big gatherCanberraings like the bogong moth festival.

"We've always known there was these wonderful axes, but we didn't know where they came from," Johnston said. "It's a wonderful spot. The hill there would have been used as a pathway and a spotting, vantage point.”

Johnston brought in local Ngunnawal elder Uncle Wally Bell and Ngambri elder Aunty Matilda House to visit the site. Since the discovery, a strong relationship has developed between the Watson family and the local Indigenous community.

The elders have insisted that they have no interest in making a land rights claim and they are keen to work with the Watsons to preserve the stone axe quarry for posterity.

Landholder David Watson is also keen to cement this relationship. “The whole family – my children, my wife – we recognise the wrongs of the past,” he said. “We see this as an opportunity to just make this small gesture towards reconciliation.”





More reading:
Council seeks feedback on land bordering Indigenous quarry 
Indigenous group regains Axe Quarry 
Council go-ahead for extraction after long drawn battle
Quarry returned to traditional owners 
Honouring Australia’s first quarrymen


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