Australian writer Kerry van der Jagt only began exploring her Indigenous ancestry in adulthood. But through shared experiences and conversations with other Indigenous people across Australia, she’s finding ways to reconnect with her saltwater heritage—and with her ancestral sea Country.
Silver gulls glide overhead while sooty oystercatchers play chase with the waves, their red lipstick and pink stockings adding to the mosaic of the shore. We tread carefully, eyes peeled for sea treasures; cuttlefish, sea glass, tendrils of curly kelp. Ahead, the beach is a white arc of stained glass water pressed against tangerine rocks.
As beautiful as it is historically tragic, this coast—named the Bay of Fires in 1773 by Englishman Captain Tobias Furneaux—was once the traditional homeland of the palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) people.
After the British invasion of Tasmania in 1803, and the systematic genocide of its First Nations people, only a handful of palawa survived, from an estimated island-wide population of between 3,000 and 10,000 people. Today, descendants of this matrilineal line of survivors are reclaiming their lands, birthright and palawa kani language (which is always written in lower case).
To learn more, I’ve embarked on the wukalina walk, Tasmania’s first Indigenous owned and guided multi-day hike through the Bay of Fires and Mount William National Park regions.