The Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2023 will feature Australian Boat Builders and Designers. The Indigenous watercraft project expands upon previously successful collaborations with Sheldon Thomas – Indigenous watercraft builder.

Thomas, with the help of Chris Ganambarr, yolnga man and Aboriginal youth worker, alongside young Indigenous Tasmanians, have been crafting a traditionally designed watercraft over the past year, getting ready to participate in the AWBF 2023, and officially open the event.

Sheldon has been sharing his knowledge with young participants, passing on the traditional methods of the entire process. He will also launch the watercraft, and paddle through Hobart waterfront to open the festivities for the 2023 Festival.

The maritime environment is a crucial component of Country for many Indigenous Tasmanians, providing a wealth of food and transport pathways made accessible by uniquely designed and constructed watercraft. Knowledge of the native materials, preparation and construction techniques, rope making, and seamanship are part of this heritage.

The Tasmanian ningher Watercraft project has been funded by generous donors and supporters including the Festivals Australia, Federal Group, and Pennicott Wilderness Tours. The project also has support from South East Tasmania Aboriginal Corporation and Leprena.

“It is important for the Australian Wooden Boat Festival’s 2023 theme to include and showcase as many makes and models, builders and designers as possible – especially traditional Indigenous watercraft. We are proud to have been working with the team to create this wonderful representation, which will officially open the festival.”  States Festival GM Paul Stephanus.

At 4:45pm Friday 10 February, the watercraft will be paddled into Constitution Dock by Sheldon Thomas to commence the Welcome to Country and Festival Opening, on the pontoons in Constitution Dock. Speaking will be Greg Lehman, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Aboriginal Leadership and Nic Street, Tasmanian Minister for Hospitality & Events.

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