By Ellen Hill – Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism
Three launches, free activities, bush tucker, Aboriginal culture and a walk marked the opening of the annual Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) Festival of Walking last Saturday.
Held at The Gully historic site at Katoomba, the opening was attended by about 250 visitors including Gundungurra elders and event hosts Aunty Sharyn Halls and Aunty Merle Williams; other Gundungurra, Darug and other Aboriginal language groups; Aunty Sharon Brown who provided bush tucker; Blue Mountains councillors; Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage; Macquarie Federal MP Louise Markus; National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Blue Mountains City Council staff; Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute (BMWHI) members; and Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area chairwoman Joan Domicelj.
The event was organised by BMLOT in collaboration with The Gully Traditional Owners, Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association, NPWS, BMCC and other activity providers with funding support from Destination NSW.
As well as interpretive walks, Aboriginal art and cultural activities, the Blue Mountains Blue Wave 1813 explorers re-enactment walk team including John O’Sullivan and Uncle Graeme Cooper and Junior Rangers Choir, highlights were the launches of the Aboriginal Cultural Experience Guide for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, the iconic Grand Cliff Top Walk, a partnership between BMLOT, the council, BMWHI and NPWS; and latest series of Bush Trackers guides (walks for kids by kids) including one for The Gully.
BMLOT chairman Randall Walker said: “Thank you to everyone involved in the festival, the opening and the new products and experiences launched on the day.’’
Special guest Kimberly country Aboriginal elder Neville Poelina praised the festival as an inclusive outdoor activity and encouraged everyone – Aboriginal and non-indigenous – to explore country with an Aboriginal guide local to that area to fully experience the region.
In launching the festival, Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill thanked festival instigator Marie Wood and said it celebrated many World Heritage Area values including Aboriginal culture, conservation history in Australia and “the joy of walking in our land’’.
The Festival of Walking will continue throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region until October 13 with a program of activities for all interests and fitness levels.
Go to www.festivalofwalking.com.au for festival information and bookings.