Understanding water: the developer and the elder

Here, in her own words, is a story my friend, Fran Bodkin, an elder of the Dharawal people, told me yesterday as we walked back from the opening of the garden for the Asylum Seekers Centre, Redfern, where Fran had advised on plants to provide food, and I’d provided a native stingless bee hive..

“ Okay, It was in the 1960s, the exact year I can’t remember, but it must have been before 1967.

His name was Mr. Thomas.  He was into transport. Can’t remember his first name.   The hole that had been dug where he was going to put the building was straight sided, and very deep.  I asked him why it was so deep.

He said that he wanted seven level car park under the proposed building.

When I worked for Jack Lang, he told me about Hyde Park before it became a park, it was actually a swamp.

I remembered my mother telling me about how silly the white people were in filling in the swamp that used to feed the Sydney people with eels, and that it was good water, which was still under the Park.  She said that they wouldn’t be able to build anything on it which was why it was now a park.  She said that the eels came down the Tank Stream, and the other small stream that now goes through the Botanic Gardens every year after the Flying Foxes gathered.

I worked out that if it was a swamp the guy was going to have a lot of trouble if he went down too deep, particularly if the water was still stored in the porous rock where he was going to dig.

So I told him that I would bet him that the hole would fill up with water.

He asked how much I was willing to bet, and I said $5,000 (with my fingers crossed).  He took the bet.

It poured rain shortly after that and the hole filled up.   He honoured his bet, and I used the money to pay my university fees for my graduate degree in geomorphology.”

Thank you, Fran.  I’m honoured to walk with elders, such as you, who tell me their stories.

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  • Michael Mobbs

    Michael is a former Environmental Lawyer who is uniquely placed to consult in four main areas:

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