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Survival Day on Sydney Harbour

The SSH organised a Survival/Australia Day harbour cruise in support of the Tribal Warrior Association. We’re happy to report plans for a similar event in 2010! reports Andrew Collis in the South Sydney Herald of February 2009.

As we made our way to the docks at the Sydney Fish Markets for our Indigenous cultural cruise aboard the Deerubbun, the rain started to fall. It was a chilly summer evening. January 26. There was nothing chilly, however, about the welcome we received from our hosts and crew – Dallas, Leon, Terry, April and Jake – members of the Tribal Warrior Association, a non-profit community organisation based in Redfern, initiated and directed by Aboriginal people with Aboriginal Elders.

The Tribal Warrior Association operates two boats on the harbour: the Tribal Warrior (which, famously, has circumnavigated the continent), and the Deerubbun. The rain continued to fall, in misty sheets, and we didn’t mind at all.

There were about 50 of us altogether – those with wet-weather gear happy on the upper deck, the rest of us huddled inside, or happily wet as we wandered from starboard to bow, from port to stern, enjoying the sights of the harbour, and learning a little of its history through Indigenous experience. Lady Macquarie, we learned, was a compassionate advocate of Indigenous people. The design of the Opera House was inspired in part by shell middens (shell-fish remains) left over many years by Aboriginal gatherings on the site.

Food on board was plentiful – barbecued steak, sausages, pasta, salad. The hours went by quickly. At about 8pm we made our way slowly into Cockle Bay where, to our surprise, we found ourselves part of an official Australia Day parade. We met up with the Tribal Warrior and the Young Endeavour and a fleet of other craft. Thousands of spectators lined the shore at Darling Harbour, cheering and waving. An audio-visual presentation reminded us of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, and the importance of maintaining commitment and action for Reconciliation.

Crew member Terry Olsen performed a smoking ceremony with eucalypts and a flaming tin can at the stern. He gestured to the crowd with enthusiasm, good will and a boomerang. On board the Tribal Warrior, a similar smoking ceremony was performed by Uncle Max Eulo – and beamed from giant video screens overhead. The smoke and the rain bore a gracious spirit – and we felt a sense of cleansing, acceptance, and even excitement about the future together.

Bidding us farewell back at the Fish Markets, Terry thanked us all for coming along – “Whether you call this Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day, or just a pleasant Monday afternoon,” he said with a laugh. 

Support the good work of the Tribal Warrior Association Inc. For bookings phone 9699 3491 or visit .

Photo/s: Andrew Collis- Scenes on board the Deerubbun

Source: South Sydney Herald February 2009