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Tom Gresford: Postcard from nipaluna/Hobart

Words:
Tom Gresford

Australia’s recognition of Aboriginal place names reinforces the importance of living in harmony with earth, fire, sky and water for Tom Gresford on a visit to lutruwita/Tasmania

nipaluna/Hobart seen from kananyi/Mount Wellington.
nipaluna/Hobart seen from kananyi/Mount Wellington. Credit: Tom Gresford

Dear RIBAJ,

I am in nipaluna, lutruwita, which is the name given by the Muwinina tribe of Aboriginal people for the land where Hobart, Tasmania, sits.  nipaluna/Hobart isn’t a place many people have visited even if they do know the traditional name for it.  It isn’t famous – huge, bustling and energetic – topping the bucket lists of must-go-to places around the world.  But I love it and have been lucky enough to regularly spend time here throughout my life.

Since my last trip, pre-pandemic, there is a much more visible acknowledgement of the Aboriginal people as the traditional owners and continuing custodians of the land they were brutally ejected from 218 years ago.

nipaluna/Hobart nestles snugly between the sheltering embrace of kananyi/Mount Wellington, and timtumili minanya/the River Derwent.  It is this extraordinary and picturesque location that gives it the character I so love.  Wherever you look you can see the mountain or the water, or both, and they dominate the city and the lives of those who live there as much now as they have done for the millennia in which they were the home for the Muwinina people.

  • Historic Salamanca place with kananyi/Mount Wellington in the background.
    Historic Salamanca place with kananyi/Mount Wellington in the background. Credit: Tom Gresford
  • An active fishing fleet operates from the city centre docks.
    An active fishing fleet operates from the city centre docks. Credit: Tom Gresford
  • Historic buildings use a mixture of the local sandstone, bricks and corrugated iron for the roofs.
    Historic buildings use a mixture of the local sandstone, bricks and corrugated iron for the roofs. Credit: Tom Gresford
  • The MONA museum sits on the river upstream from the CBD and is accessed by special ferries
    The MONA museum sits on the river upstream from the CBD and is accessed by special ferries Credit: Tom Gresford
  • Historic buildings use a mixture of the local sandstone, bricks and corrugated iron for the roofs.
    Historic buildings use a mixture of the local sandstone, bricks and corrugated iron for the roofs. Credit: Tom Gresford
  • The river forms the backdrop to the Victorian inner suburb of Battery Point.
    The river forms the backdrop to the Victorian inner suburb of Battery Point. Credit: Tom Gresford
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For me the recognition of the traditional names of Australian places is not only long overdue, but also timely because the Aboriginals lived in absolute harmony with ‘country’.  Wherever we live in the world we should be thinking hard about our impact on the planet and recognise that we may all need to return to a way of living that is in harmony with the earth, fire, sky and water.  The Aboriginal custodians of this land managed that balance for 30,000 years, and in only a fraction of that time we have, perhaps catastrophically, upset that balance. Let us hope that by recognising the Aboriginal names in this extraordinary continent we can recognise, at the same time, the changes we need to make in order to live in harmony with our planet for the next 30,000 years.                                                

Tom Gresford is director, Gresford Architects

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