Day One - Sat 4 June, 2016 | Engagement

Thoughts from our Co-convenors, David Cross and Claire Doherty:

Today was about orienting ourselves, thinking about where we were. About orienting ourselves through different histories and voices. How we needed to understand not necessarily the history of the site but get a different set of voices in terms of orienting the history and meaning and the context of the site. So those voices today were Danny Gelai and Uncle Lenny. And it was very challenging – quite powerful to realise the contested nature of the site.

QVM Conversation: Danny Gelai, QVM Forklift Operator

“I live near the market, and often glance the forklift drivers glide across the terrain at nights moving dented boxes back and forth like an urban strategy board game. Speaking with Danny Gelai, one of the forklift business owners, he unpacked the game of driving that had built up its own culture and logic over the decades he has operated at the market.”  – Timothy Moore

Workshop: Uncle Lenny Indigenous Walk

   Indigenous Walk with     Uncle Lenny, Flagstaff Gardens.

Indigenous Walk with Uncle Lenny, Flagstaff Gardens.

“Day one of the Lab was about recalling histories. Danny has been here since the early 1970s and Lenny was uncovering local indigenous histories for us.” – Chief Curator, Natalie King

When we meet Lenny he immediately starts giving. We huddle together as a sea of coloured umbrellas under light rain and he begins to help us contextualise the land on which we stand, embarking on day one of our Biennial Lab journey. His eyes can see a landscape that has undertaken a radical transformation and he is generous in sharing his knowledge, uncovering this plurality for us, too.

Where the grass blades lick our winter boots was once a creek, a gathering and camping place for Wurundjeri people near fresh water. Up above was a hill with the best view of the bay in the area, elevated high on the landscape. Uncle Lenny shares that the Kulin seasonal cycle - six or seven seasons as opposed to Melbourne’s oft-discussed four - can be identified by the interactions and behaviour of plants and animals. Aboriginal weather knowledge is important because it dictates when and where to move, and how to use the land. Now June, it is Wombat season.

Today, that connection of people to the land is marred. Lenny points from a tall building to an area of grass that is being directly affected by its recent erection due to the way it stops natural sunlight getting to the area. He points from a large tree with dark brown drips of colour falling across its limbs, to the traffic, explaining it is the result of pollution from cars and trucks, now constantly passing by.

On this soggy, early-June Melbourne afternoon listening to a Gunai/Kurnai man from Yallourn, it is confronting to face the past in a public space that barely resembles Lenny’s yarning. He is dedicated to ensuring that ‘more people are supporting Aboriginal culture rather than erasing it’, and as an understanding of what once was unfurls in our minds, it is obvious this is something that everyone whose feet touch this ground should know.

(Day 1: Written recollection by Amaya Courtis)