From little thing big things grow

Director or Koori Communications and Training, Peter Cooley, has been fishing for much of the 42 years he’s been around, but it was when he noticed that the Koori kids of today weren’t getting out there fishing as much as he did as a young kid, that he decided to start up a fishing program called ‘ Catch N Cook.’ 

“Growing up in La Perouse, us kids were given lots of cultural knowledge and taught important values such as respect through our peers and elders, but over the past thirty years, I have noticed this passing of culture and values is happening less,” Peter said.

“As a kid and being from a big extended family, we would all go over to the rocks and collect shellfish and go fishing. The mum’s would cook it up right there on the rocks and we’d walk along with our elders and they would point out what we could and couldn’t eat.

My people are ‘saltwater people’ so understanding the ocean is an important part of our culture. We need to be able to ‘read’ the sea – to know where and when to fish, to know when it is safe and when it is dangerous, and to know the rips, and how to collect the pippies and shellfish.

My mum would often ask us “Go and get a dozen mussels and some oysters” and me and my brother would go and get them off the rocks. If we brought back more than we needed we’d get into trouble for being greedy. It was wrong to take more than what you needed.

The sustainability of the environment and the food chain was always drummed into us – so that when we go back there is always plenty of food for everyone.”

Today, Peter’s Catch N Cook program teaches many of the same messages and he’s run it for Aboriginal children and their families all over NSW and Queensland. More recently he’s run this program as a camp where children and their families not only learn about fishing and pippying but they also get to participate in cultural dancing and storytelling and learning.

“Today I run my own business, Koori Communications and Training, and have developed a number of programs aimed at increasing my mob’s knowledge about their own culture as well as confidence in getting on with the things we need to in life, like work and being a good family person as well as confident about who we are and what we know,” Peter says.

‘I teach the youth to be proud of their culture and but also the need to adapt to things as they are today. For example our people used spears as one method of fishing, but today fishing rods are used. I also teach them the importance of working together and co-operation as an important part of the program.”

Peter has recently launched ‘Catch N Cook Cultural tours’ to educate others about the traditions of saltwater people at La Perouse.

Peter has been running Koori Communications and Training Pty Ltd for the past 6 years and he has been the recipient of a number of awards for the programs he has developed. You can read more about Catch N Cook and the other programs Peter runs at www.kooricommunications.com

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