Keeping the Dharawal spirit alive
Another Aboriginal clan group in the Sydney area are the Dharawal people. John Foster is a Dharawal elder born in the 40's to an Aboriginal father and a white mother on a mission in La Perouse (a suburb in south-eastern Sydney).
Missions were areas of land set aside by the church and the state to relocate Aboriginal people and evangelise them.
"But my family and my community never let me forget my Aboriginal background and I've always been a real proud Dharawal Aboriginal man," said John.
John and his siblings were the only Aboriginal children at school and he says that discrimination can affect a child from a very young age.
"Discrimination was my education - it's made me who I am today," said John.
John said he had to do a lot of fighting at school to stand up against discrimination and his brother encouraged him to join the Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) to channel his energy into boxing. Turns out John was quite the athlete and even went on to play other sports like hockey.
John is incredibly resilient and he focused all of his efforts in his early life on working hard and he was eventually able to buy his own home with his wife.
"My education didn't start until I was in my 40's when I got an art certificate, which represented a trade certificate and it led to me getting my job with CRS Australia," said John.
John also became an ambassador for Aborginal people with disabilities and one of the last things he did when he retired was address the United Nations.
For over 80 years John has kept his Aboriginal culture and identify alive and his daughter Shannon is living proof of that success.
Photo: Dharawal elder John Foster and his daughter Shannon Foster.
Uncovering and celebrating Dharawal history
Shannon Foster is currently completing a PhD at the University of Technology in Sydney at the Centre for the Advancement in Indigenous Knowledges. Part of her research involves documenting her family's history and stories.
"For so many generations there's been no opportunity to tell our stories and the relief and carthardic process to see my elders finally tell their stories is really powerful," said Shannon.
Shannon and her family all live next door to her father John where they are also proudly keeping their culture alive in the home.
"It's a really surreal moment when we sit in our background and my dad is playing the didgeridoo, the kids are playing the clap sticks and my sister is singing. It's amazing, we're smack bang in the middle of Sydney and we're having our own corroboree," said Shannon.
Photo: Fred Foster, Shannon Foster's great grandfather and John Foster's father on the Day of Mourning protest.
Showcasing Sydney Aboriginal culture through art
On top completing her PhD Shannon is also a talented artist and is committed to showcasing the 'Sydney style' of Aboriginal art.
"The Sydney style is all about leaving our mark on a place. In the caves and shell middens around Sydney you'll find hand stencils everywhere," said Shannon.
"I also incorporate country into my artwork. I'll go down to the harbour and collect water, sand, grass and mud. I'm just there as a tool - as a way for that country to get on the canvas," said Shannon.
Shannon was also selected by the City of Sydney to create artwork for the NAIDOC week and her creation titled 'Naba Gumal' meaning 'Friends and Family' was beautifully displayed on banners around the city.
Photo: Shannon Foster's artwork 'Naba Gumal' meaning 'Friends and Family' was used for the City of Sydney's NAIDOC week banners around the city.