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Lia Pootah 



            (Southern Traditional Aboriginal Elders Council)



 The Tasmanian Aboriginal community has two main Elders Councils, serving two very different lines of descent that have resulted in two different communities.

 1.      LIA POOTAH Elders are descended from unrecorded Aboriginal women, who partnered with convicts, sawyers, soldiers, free settlers, farmers etc..  The Elders are representing almost all the original Aboriginal Kinship Groups.  Lia Pootah ancestors were never removed from the land of their birth they called Trowerner, now called Tasmania. 

2.      The PALAWA Elders claim their heritage from sealers and Manalaganna’s daughters.  Their members also claim descent from either Dolly Dalrymple, claimed to be Manalaganna’s granddaughter or Fanny Cochrane-Smith, one of the children from Flinders Island and transferred to the Orphan School before being sent to Oyster Cove.  All Palawa are linked to a Bass Strait Island heritage. 

In 1996 the united Tasmanian Aboriginal community was torn apart by the Palawa claiming they were the only Tasmanian Aboriginals.  For the next two years confusion reigned.  Court battles were fought to prove Aboriginality, by those denied their birth right by the Palawa.   In early 1999 a small group of Aboriginal people of differing ages, held a meeting to discuss what could be done about our people being told they were not Aboriginal.  At this meeting were people descended from the Teen Toomele Menennye (Big River Tribe), Tahuni Lingah (Huon River Tribe) and people descended from unnamed Kinship Groups (tribes).  As the most senior Elder at that time lived at Risdon Vale, we met there to discuss what could be done about recognition for our community heritage.  The people attending this meeting had always known that they were not descended from or had any blood ties connecting them with the Bass Strait Islanders group.  Until 1996 there had never been a problem with either our being Aboriginal or our Aboriginal heritage.  Historians and academics debated the history of the Tasmanian Aboriginal as we were nonexistent.  These historians and academics never asked us our heritage, preferring instead to support the Bass Strait Island claims of only survival.  Even though these academics knew the lie of the “round-up and extinction”. 

At this inaugural meeting in 1999 it was decided that we needed our own Elders Council to teach the remembered heritage and culture to empower the younger ones in the community.  The then Senior Elders Aunty Dot Bishop said “we should have a name representing who we are today and she chose Lia Pootah meaning Little River, because we were mostly descended from two big rivers and the name would be easily remembered by non Aboriginals”.  The separation of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community into two separate groups with separate Elders Councils was necessary, and so the name Lia Pootah Community was born as we attempted to separate out and publicly identify our different lines of descent.  After 1996 the Palawa were sanctioned by the government to determine who was Aboriginal and who was not Aboriginal.  They favoured their own group.  We lost our voice the broader public became confused.  

The Elders chose Wallantanalinany Lydidder as the name of the Elders Council as the name means southern land all around, and we have members all over the mainland of Tasmanian, land south Bass Strait.  Wallantanalinany Lydidder (Southern Traditional Aboriginal Elders Council) offer guidance to the Lia Pootah community in the traditional way of our forebears.  The Elders take no part in the academic debate about Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage.  Wallantanalinany Lydidder prefers to put their energies into the community by empowering our young people, rather than entering into the politics created by the Palawa.  Wallantanalinany Lydidder, have survived the shame enforced on us, and passed down by our Ancestors where our heritage had to remain hidden.  We have survived the government policies of the 1830s where family and friends of our Ancestors, living in the European alienated land areas, were removed, and taken away, because of their black skin.  Some of our ancestors are recorded to have lived within small Traditional groups until around the 1860s. 

In Traditional Aboriginal culture Elders act as the guides for the community.  It is the Elders who hold the history, stories and remember the Laws that govern the community passed down within families.  It is the Elders who bring the Law into the community to rectify any breaking of Taboo.  The Lia Pootah now are an urban people whose Traditional heritage was maintained through the Elders of individual families.   

We cannot turn back the clock.  The majority of the old Kinship Group names are confused or miss recorded and we do not know many of our Ancestral Kinship Groups, in many instances we only know the European name given to the areas where they lived.  Thus Lia Pootah is the modern name representing all the unrecorded Kinship Groups of the past.  

Wallantanalinany Lydidder acknowledge that our heritage has always been a vibrant living culture that adapted to every change.  In the past it was ice ages and sea level changes: later the invasion of the foreigners from far away arriving in great ships, forced the Ancestors to adapt to the changes that occurred.  It was the heritage of the past that was the foundation for the Elders Council.  The Elders decided that it was necessary to have the traditional Senior and Junior Elders according to age, and knowledge. Senior Elders are over 70.   

Today Uncle Keith Farrell and Aunty Kath Moran are the most senior of the Elders Council.  It has been important to maintain as much as possible the traditional ways and attitudes within our Urban Culture of today.  For this and other reasons Wallantanalinany Lydidder (Southern Traditional Aboriginal Elders Council) is a non funded non incorporated body.  The Elders believe that money is the basis of problems within the modern Tasmanian Aboriginal community and the Elders decided we did not need access to government funding to prove who we are.  

Wallantanalinany Lydidder have always known our Aboriginal history and they have always shared this knowledge to those who would listen.  Our oral traditional knowledge is combined with documentation of our ancestors recorded by the non-Aboriginal in the decades after the invasion.  Our pride of our heritage and culture has never been lost or forgotten it has only expanded and adapted as our culture always did with change.  Our families kept the Ancestral knowledge safe.  It was our Ancestors who survived by uniting with the invader in peace, and becoming part of the broader community where we live today.   

From the time of Bowen in 1803 the ancestors of today’s Wallantanalinany Lydidder and Lia Pootah Community maintained a dual cultural heritage within the community at large.  In 1803 it was ancestors of Teen Toomle Mennenyer (Big River People) who had a friendly encounter with members of John Bowens party at Risdon Cove.  In May 1804 it was the ancestors of Teen Toomle Mennenyer (Big River People) who were killed when drunken soldiers opened fire with cannon and rifles.  The 1996 division of the community resulted in the place today called Risdon Cove remaining in Palawa control.  Tragically for all the Tasmanian people, in 1999 the Bacon Government gave the TAC (Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre) managerial rights to the site despite the historical fact that they have no Dreaming or Cultural ties to a place of Lia Pootah Dreaming.  The Risdon Cove site, part of Lia Pootah land is sacred to Lia Pootah and holds great significance to the white community.  Both groups are denied free access to the most important site of both cultures in Tasmania, by Palawa who have no direct cultural connection to the area either past or present.  The Palawa took advantage after the split within the Aboriginal community, a division they instigated, to demand control of mainland areas not theirs by birth right. 

Until the 1970s the Aboriginal heritage of the Lia Pootah survived in shame, fear and secret.  Lia Pootah history was never scrutinised in the academic debates, or by white man’s laws of definition.  Our Aboriginality always was.  Today we take pride in who we are.  Wallantanalinany Lydidder is a non-political body that governs the Lia Pootah Community offering advice and support in the traditional way of our Ancestors.  The Elders are our educators, the keepers of our histories.  We have Elders in all parts of Tasmania who belong to many different communities and organizations.  Wallantanalinany Lydidder Elders are representing the continuation of Tasmania’s Aboriginal heritage. 

To contact Wallantanalinany Lydidder (Southern Traditional Aboriginal Elders Council) for further information please use any of the following. 

 EMAIL:  liapootah@taea.com.au

       FAX:   03 62438657

       PHONE:   03  62438606

                   MAIL:  PO Box 1437 Lindisfarne 7015




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