Ceremony to acknowledge Aboriginal Tree Harvesting


Community News at the Henry Lawson Drive Project site

On 10 April 2024 we celebrated a unique initiative that marked a Sydney-first for major infrastructure projects. On Wednesday morning, two Elders held a ceremony to commemorate and educate our teams about the initiative to harvest bark and wood from gum trees at the Henry Lawson Drive project site on the traditional lands of the Darug people.

Quickway is currently delivering a critical intersection upgrade for our client Transport for NSW (TfNSW) which involves multiple road widenings, major utility relocations, and new lane creation. Unfortunately, this upgrade required the removal of trees, many of which were large, native gum trees.

Early in the community consultation process, the Quickway team was approached by a local Aboriginal Elder, Uncle Wayne of the Gadigal people, asking if he could harvest bark and branches from the large gum trees designated for removal. His passion and commitment quickly garnered support, and all necessary approvals were obtained to enable the harvesting. Of significance to this pilot program, it is currently illegal for anyone to remove bark from urban trees, this program is a way to help urban Aboriginal people to maintain their connection to the land.

The harvested materials were used to create numerous Aboriginal artefact items, including walking sticks and coolamons, traditional vessels used for carrying all manner of objects, are typically formed using the outer bark of a tree. The harvest took place over several days, and the Elders, Uncle Mick and Uncle Wayne, who are members of the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council, crafted over 100 Aboriginal artefacts. These artefacts will be taken into primary schools to share their significance and become gifts to the schools. Both Elders viewed this as a great opportunity to share Aboriginal culture with the site staff, and more importantly, to pass on their stories and wisdom to the younger generation and future Elders.

This opportunity for our staff to learn about this aspect of Aboriginal culture was widely appreciated. In a community survey conducted by Quickway, all local respondents also appreciated the trees being used for traditional purposes. Quickway donated or reused 100% of the remaining mulched vegetation, including a large donation to the George Bass School. Outside the personal time invested by Quickway and TfNSW employees, this harvesting project did not incur any costs beyond the original tree-removal budget. We view this as a positive and exciting outcome for the local community, our company, and our client.

The video link below showcases scenes from the ceremony and the array of people in the project & community who are invested in and interested in the Uncles’ initiatives, stories, and craftsmanship. We collectively acknowledge and celebrate the uniqueness of this project. The Elders also gifted some personalised walking sticks, message sticks, and coolamons to key participants from the team, including Community Consultation Manager Petra Campbell, Project Manager Niall Hurley, Senior Site Supervisor Danny O’Shea, Project Engineer Matthew Macinnes and Construction Manager Eimhin O’Malley. We extend our gratitude to the Elders, our client, and the entire community for their support, insights, and participation.

Quickway hopes to help facilitate this pilot project becoming a routine practice at similar-sized urban projects.

VIDEO: Quickway HLD Tree Ceremony 
Video credit: Kingsley Campbell

Henry Lawson Drive tree ceremony

Quickway Project Manager Niall Hurley with Elders, Uncle Mick and Uncle Wayne at the Henry Lawson Drive Tree Ceremony.

Quickway and TfNSW teams at the Aboriginal Tree Ceremony

Members of the Henry Lawson team and the community gather at the Tree Ceremony.