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Will my boomerang come back?



30 November 2015

As a modern day D'harawal I am very blessed to know a lot about my Aboriginal family and culture; many Aboriginal people are not so fortunate particularly those from the initial point of European contact in the Sydney region. One of my favourite pastimes is googling my family, particularly my great grandfather, Tom Foster.

The author's great grandfather, Tom Foster. Image: National Library of Australia (nla.pic-vn6300423-v)
The author's great grandfather, Tom Foster. Image: National Library of Australia (nla.pic-vn6300423-v)

Born around 1890 (there is no record of his birth, just a ? on his death certificate), he has an online presence that could turn a Kardashian head or two. Amongst his many accomplishments, Tom was one of the key activists in the 1938 Day of Mourning protest; he held a Corroborree for the opening of the Harbour Bridge; has a sample of his boomerangs in the Powerhouse Museum collection and some of his written music is held in the National Library. With every search I do something new always pops up and I shouldn't have been surprised when I found that one of his La Perouse tourist boomerangs had been sold in an auction, in 2009. In an online world where nothing is off limits could it be possible to own a Tom Foster original? Do boomerangs really come back?

Boomerangs have always fascinated me. How do they travel in a complete circle and return? How do they stay in the air? Like the mysteries of the didgeridoo, I had always thought that it was the skill of the operator, which of course it partly is, but it can be mostly accredited to the applied physics in its ancient design. Now, I can fumble my way through an explanation of the physics behind boomerang flight, but as with most information these days google will provide you with multitudes of eloquently succinct answers.
Consulting google with the key words 'aerofoil' and 'gyroscopic precession' will get you started and hopefully explain boomerang physics in a way that it soaks in and doesn't just enter one ear and out via the other, like a boomerang (sorry!).

So about a week after my disappointing googling session, I was whiling away my time on Facebook, catching up on the latest social injustices and aimlessly checking out what exciting places people had chosen this weekend to sit and stare at their phones. I was marvelling at how much my great grandfather had achieved from his soapbox in the Domain where he petitioned, preached, educated and motivated people into action. Now we have Facebook to give air time to our opinions, but with it comes one of the greatest curses of modern times - the sponsored post - a sneakily disguised paid advertisement, which is creepily tailored to items you may have been interested in in an online capacity in previous searches. Well, for once having a snoopy Big Brother paid off and I thanked my lucky stars that my privacy settings were set low enough to allow Google to speak to Facebook and curate a range of advertisements just for me which had, of course, recently been auction houses selling Aboriginal artefacts. Facebook had kindly rolled all of my needs into one handy post for a company that was holding an auction of South Pacific Indigenous items.

The auction was due to be held online in one week and as we know, fact is stranger than fiction and Facebook is full of facts (?!). A quick search of the auction catalogue and what do I find? You guessed it, THE boomerang I had missed out on. Yes, I kid you not. Of course I had to bid and of course I nearly suffered a myocardial infarction as the final seconds of the auction ticked away and I realised someone was bidding against me. Finally the auction came to an end and yes, I was the winning bidder and my family's boomerang had returned!

One of the boomerangs that came back.
One of the boomerangs that came back.

It was an unbelievable moment when the boomerang arrived home and I placed it in my father's hands for the first time. We marvelled over where it had been and how it had returned. Tom Foster's trademark poker work images - the backward facing kangaroo and emu - peered over their shoulders at us, always looking to the past while still moving forward. After all, as my aunty says, you need to know the past to understand your future.

Now, what I wouldn't give to see my dad give that boomerang a good, hard, skilful throw. But then, what if it doesn't come back?