Tom Barker is a descendant of Murrawarri on his father’s side, and Yorta Yorta on his mother’s side. Tom lives on Yuwaalaraay country in Lightning Ridge and follows in his father’s footsteps, as a craftsman of local timbers, making artefacts, weapons and traditional tools.
“I moved back here after my father passed away, and I wanted to carry on his work”.
Tom uses wood such as Gidgee, Mulga and Beefwood, and sources the timber locally. Tom finds the process of utilising the landscape and natural elements as a reward in itself.
“All the timbers I use tell a story of their own; they are connected to a particular use, medicine, food or dreaming, which informs the communities in which they grow”.
Tom learnt his skills from his father, who was a passionate collector of artefacts and established an Aboriginal Keeping Place in Lightning Ridge, a legacy which Tom carries on.
“Our timbers are the hardest in the world, and to use its natural shape to create is incredibly rewarding – it’s seen me through some tough times”.
The value of the hands-on craftsmanship work that is undertaken by Tom is extremely important in keeping culture alive. It is used as a platform to educate local kids, connecting them to their culture, and as part of the healing process.
“I’ll be making artefacts, like my Dad, for the rest of my life”.