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Manjaree ‘Bathers Beach’ Truth Telling program delves into the history of Fremantle

Rhiannon Clarke -

The city of Fremantle will hold a new truth telling program at the historic Whadjuk Noongar site of Manjaree, Bathers Beach.

Member of the Walyalup Reconciliation Action Plan (WRAP), Sharyn Egan, a working group and a local artist, said the truth telling program aims to raise awareness within the community.

She highlighted the significance of understanding the history of the place, including its connection to the prison and the roundhouse, as many people are unaware of these aspects.

"It's a long time coming. Not mentioning the past, hiding the past, even denying the past. It's just time," Ms Egan said.

"It would give us a sense of belonging, sharing our stories with everybody, not just Noongar people."

The Centre for Stories has joined hands with the city to establish a community initiative that will culminate in backyard truth telling events throughout Fremantle.

The aim is to provide hundreds of individuals with the chance to take part in these events.

To Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge, this marks the city's progression in its reconciliation journey.

"After the Voice referendum, we had a period of reflection and consultation with our WRAP working group and the group determined that we should shift our focus to another part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which is Truth and truth-telling," Ms Fitzhardinge said.

"Through this Truth Telling program, we are giving everyone the opportunity to understand and acknowledge the truth about our past so that we can walk together towards a better future."

The Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Fremantle showcases local Aboriginal art, culture, and history through exhibitions, workshops, film screenings, and tours centred around the six Noongar seasons.

As it approaches its 10th anniversary in May, the centre will focus on immersive truth telling experiences to encourage visitors to explore it.

Additionally, a mobile phone application called BoodjAR offers an augmented reality tour of Fremantle, featuring 3D renditions of Aboriginal artworks in six different locations.

This project is a lasting contribution from the 10 Nights in Port festival. Expanding on its existing Aboriginal collection, known as the Bibool Bang-ga collection, the City will utilise the Fremantle Library.

This collection consists of books that delve into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, history, art, life, people, and places. Notably, all fiction titles within the collection are authored by individuals of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.

The collection boasts more than 700 books, movies, documentaries, and audio books.

The Western Australian premiere of a series of films by award-winning writer, director, and producer Tom Murray will be hosted in Fremantle.

Alongside locally-made First Nations films, these movies will delve into the history of colonialism, Indigenous culture, and intercultural storytelling.

Director of Creative Arts and Community, Pete Stone said the program evolved organically.

"We have drawn on the resources we have within the City of Fremantle and also collaborated with external organisations and community members to develop this year's program," Mr Stone said.

"This is a program designed for mass participation, even if people only do one thing in the whole program, it's been worthwhile.

"Opening people's minds to the cultural history that exists in Walyalup | Fremantle by recognising and understanding First Nations people's connection to country and contribution to Fremantle's development.

"There will be something for everyone, from painting and weaving workshops for children to morning teas and yarning sessions for seniors.

"At the launch event on the beach, the smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country will be a bridge between One Day in Fremantle and our new Truth Telling program, and everyone is invited to come along and join us."

Manjaree 'Bathers Beach' Truth Telling program

10am Smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country.

11am Guest speakers including Reconciliation WA CEO, Jody Nunn.

11.30am-1pm Truth telling activities such as weaving, yarning circles and cultural tour.

12pm Traditional food for everyone.

More details of the program will be announced at the opening event on Sunday 24 March.

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