coastal, colour, film, landscape

Fleurieuscapes Outtake: Petrel Cove

March 2, 2016

The beach  region of the Fleurieuscapes had a minimal presence in  the exhibition at Magpie Springs. Images, such as the one of Petrel Cove below,   did not make the cut with the  curators.   Petrel Cove is on the south side of Rosetta Head,   and it is a picturesque beach with rocky outcrops,  which,  despite a dangerous rip,  is populated during the summer by surfers, recreational fishers, families and photographers.

It represents the pleasurable, freedom  and recreation during the summer months without the stench of sewerage,  piles of discarded condoms, human faeces, life savers,   or racial conflict.

surfers, Petrel Cove

surfers, Petrel Cove

The  Petrel Cove beach is usually empty during the late autumn,  winter and early springs months apart from the odd surfer, dog walker, photographer,  or  lone fisherman. The place  has  a  history  of its  rip regularly claiming the lives of those people who ignore the warning signs that signify the potential dangers. So Petrel Cove is not an unspoiled place that has a spiritual significance. 

However, it was otherwise with the indigenous   Ramindjeri people,   who were linguistically linked to  the Ngarrindjeri people.  Ramindjeri country includes  Encounter Bay,  the towns from Victor Harbor to Goolwa,  the Hindmarsh and Inman Valleys and along the coast to Cape Jervis.  (North of Cape Jervis is Kauna country.The Ramindjeri called Rosetta Head  Kongkengguwar, but I do not know what they called Petrel Cove,  or what it explicitly signified in their Dreaming stories.   If Petrel Cove is considered to be  a part of Rosetta Head,  then it  is one of the  sites along the coast  where the  spirits  of the departing persons dive into the waters near the Bluff to make  their way to Kangaroo Island (Karta), which was the gateway to star heaven in the Milky Way.

Though the Ramindjeri dreaming has been overwritten by white colonial history and pioneer settlement,  it is continuous with the postcolonial  beach in the sense that  the beach is  an edge or boundary between land and sea, and as  well as  a threshold, or an in-between space. The  19th century colonial  history of these specific beaches around Rosetta Head is one  associated with the  whaling industry,  whilst the 20th century history of the sun and sand beach   is one of individuality and freedom (e.g., the recreational fisherman and  the surfer) of a white,  masculine culture.

family, Petrel Cove

family, Petrel Cove

If the beach at Petrel Cove has  historically been a nexus around which notions of masculinity, whiteness, Anglo  and Australianness have cohered and sedimented,   then this was initially  undercut by white families who  had come to accept their own bodies and were at ease in enjoying themselves. The nexus  was  further undercut by  non-whites—eg., Indians and Muslims–in the second decade of the 21st century. The emergence of the multicultural beach at Petrel Cove happened  without  the racial conflict that occurred at Cronulla in Sydney.

However, Aboriginal people are notable for their absence from the beach or  from beach culture. They are largely invisible. Recall Australia’s history: the identity of  white Australia didn’t include aboriginal people  for most of the both century.Recall that what underpinned  the Australian settlement was Terra Nullius. Australia was deemed empty and aboriginal  people were dispossessed and denied the fundamental rights that pertain to all humanity. That dispossession and the subsequent despair and poverty  continues to cast a dark, menacing and long shadow.

Would aboriginal people be welcomed on Petrel Cove today?

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