The upside of lockdown
Like many business owners, Paul Freeman, the founder and
Executive Chairman of Tuggerah-based print management, procurement and software development company, E-Bisglobal, found himself with extra time on his hands during the recent COVID-19 lockdown period.
He used the time to pursue an interest he had put on the back burner in the 1970’s, which was to complete his family tree. Having hit a roadblock when he first began his research, Freeman was determined to fill in the gaps. This time he succeeded, and in his process discovered an Aboriginal heritage he never knew he had.
Paul’s great great grandmother was the last remaining native Australian woman remaining in the Liverpool district in the 1880’s. His family are members of the Cabrogal Clan of the Dharug Nation and they lived along the Georges River.
Believing his ancestry dated back to Scotland and convict settlement in Australia prior to the discovery, Paul said, “It’s mind boggling to know that the history of my family in that region goes back some 30,000 years, not to 17th century England as I had always believed”. Looking back today over his grandmother’s photo albums, Mr Freeman said it now makes sense why some of his relatives had darker skin. He has since learned that the gaps in the family tree existed because people were hesitant to tell their story, a legacy of Australia’s stolen generation.
Over the years there have been many uncanny references to the Freeman family’s heritage, which until now were regarded by everyone, including Paul himself, as nothing more than a keen interest in Australian history and Aboriginal culture.
The E-Bisglobal boardroom walls have for many years been adorned with vibrant indigenous artworks and the Freemans’ home is brimming with a collection of Aboriginal paintings and artefacts from didgeridoos to boomerangs, collected on Paul and his wife Ann’s many trips to central Australia. “Our grandkids actually thought I was Aboriginal because of the didgeridoos at home that they would love to play with,” laughed Paul.
Perhaps the most uncanny of all is the fact that their Family Trust, which owns the warehouse at Tuggerah, was named ‘Wirrialpa’ by the Freemans decades ago, an Aboriginal name meaning “Rocks in a water hole with plenty of raspberries.”
Clearly proud of his newfound connection to our nation’s first peoples, Paul was honoured to be presented with the Aboriginal Flag in July by Federal Member for Dobell, Emma McBride. Business-wise Paul is planning a gradual transition to embrace their Aboriginality as a family company and has engaged a team of consultants to help guide him on this journey, which will include offering scholarships and traineeships to young indigenous people on the Central Coast. Paul, who is planning to retire from the business but remain Chairman of the Board said, “I am proud to be Aboriginal and believe it is a wonderful legacy to leave to my children and grandchildren.”