13 December 2021

ICN NSW December Newsletter – The catch up

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The Catch Up Part 2: Scott Franks: Creating a connection with Country through Tocomwall

Scott Franks is a man of many talents and many businesses, including Tocomwall, Yamari Ochre and Glad Indigenous.

In addition to doing archeological and environmental impact assessments and working with local communities, Scott and the Tocomwall team have also been working closely with School Infrastructure NSW and architectural firms on Connection with Country reports. The reports involve research into the Aboriginal people who traditionally and historically lived in the area and well as consultations with the school, parents, and local communities. The reports help to improve and inform planning, design and ultimately the delivery of cultural elements into the built environment.

“We’re one of the go-to Aboriginal-certified companies for school infrastructure in New South Wales for developing Connection with Country reports for new schools. We research the history of the area and work with the school, the local communities, the mum and dads and the students to find out what they would like to see in the school. The architects interpret and incorporate the research into the school’s design. It could mean including yarning circles, traditional food gardens, song lines and incorporating specific colours and language,” says Scott.

“We have a really clear lens on understanding who and what was in an area before Europeans got here. As we all know, Aboriginal people historically are different mobs and have different language groups—they weren’t all the same. I’m from the Hunter Valley and I’m Wonnarua and in Maitland and Newcastle it’s Awabakal and Guringai people.

“On projects we’ll contact the local community – in Sydney it’s predominantly the Darug community. We will work with those representatives and elders in conjunction with the AEGC, the Aboriginal Education Advisory Group, which is the mums and dads of the specific school, the principal or the owners of the project, and the students or workers themselves. We’ll research what was important to the people in that particular area, like grass trees and cylindrical shapes or yarning circles, or whether it was prominently a women’s area with lots of hunting and gathering, or whether it was a men’s or women’s business site. We’ll make a recommendation in the CWC based on the historical and primary research and the architects look at how this can be incorporated into the design.

“One example is a school that we’ve been working on in Parramatta in Sydney. In traditional Darug language, Parramatta actually means Burramattagal, which means the place where the eel sets down [Burra = eel, matta = place, gal = the people of]. That school is very aware how important fish traps for eels are in this area. We’ve found samples of a traditional fish trap that was used in the Sydney basin. We then looked at the colors, how they were used and the weaving patterns. The school is looking to have big eel murals, a garden with vegetables and name plates, and tribal name signage. On the second storey they’re looking at having a hand railing that will replicate the weaving of a fish trap net,” says Scott.

“One of the other things we’re been doing is designing 3D models and rendering yarning circles, and we’re bring those into the 21st century. I mean a lot of people say yarning circle is a couple of seats in a paddock in a circle, but our people still here today and we’re evolving. We’ve designed a very top-end modern yarning circle where it’s actually an outside learning center that can be built with LED screens, cameras and can also record activities. Building an electronic community is a great way of making sure the connection with our people and history continues,” says Scott.

If you want to know more about Scott, his businesses and how he makes ICN NSW work for him, visit https://icn.org.au/news/icn-nsw-november-news-the-catch-up/

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