Our own desert places

I have succumbed to the July lurgy, so today: an invitation to join me in Stuff I Have Been Reading. Don’t miss the stuff below the cut. Jane Simpson is amazing.

Aboriginal Poets

We are tired of the benches, our beds in the park,
We welcome the sundown that heralds the dark.
White Lady Methylate!
Keep us warm and from crying.
Hold back the hate
And hasten the dying.

The tribes are all gone,
The spears are all broken:
Once we had bread here,
You gave us stone

Jack Davis, “Desolation’, published in The First-born, p. 36. Sourced from “Black Words White Page: Aboriginal Literature 1929″“1988” , chapter 8, Adam Shoemaker. Go read the link, it’s worth it.


See plain the promise,
Dark freedom-lover!
Night’s nearly over,
And though long the climb,
New rights will greet us,
New mateship meet us,
And joy complete us
In our new Dream Time.

To our father’s fathers
The pain, the sorrow;
To our children’s children
The glad tomorrow.

excerpt from Song of Hope by Oodgeroo Noonuccal.


Scoop NZ: Stolen Land, Invaded Children and Rugby Union

Te Kanikani Tangata Hara, ImagineNative Action spokesperson, compares the Australian seizure of Northern Territory Aboriginal lands to former policies in South Africa, and encourages those attending and participating in the All Blacks vs. Australia rugby match to show their solidarity and support for Australian indigenous people.

I didn’t watch the match, and the Australian news has ignored this. Were there any protests or armbands on show?


Herald Sun: Malice in wonderland

Christine Croyden relates her heavy heart after a visit to Uluru, a deeply sacred site.

After the sunrise experience, most were eager to climb the rock. We did not.

The Aboriginal people ask you not to climb and written on every brochure and sign in many different languages are the words: “Please don’t climb Uluru.”

Yet, up and over they go, every day of the year.

Tourists who take off their shoes to enter temples in Asia, cover their heads to walk around mosques in the Middle East and whisper in awe as they tiptoe around the countless cathedrals of Europe, ignore Aboriginal culture.

[…] the tourists don’t seem to notice indigenous people.

They walk past them in the streets of Alice Springs as though Aborigines are invisible, or shadow people whose pain no one wants to see.

The Anangu people don’t bar tourists from climbing Uluru, instead taking the approach of attempting to educate guests to their land in traditional culture and respect for their law, culture, and beliefs. Climbing Uluru is a violation of tjukurpa, Anangu Law, yet around half of visitors to Uluru still attempt the climb.


Transient Languages & Cultures: Gunboat lip-gloss

Jane Simpson opens with a quote from a doctor involved in the NT “health checks for children” push:

“So I think there may be a misconception that we’re here to fix things. We’re not. We’re here to examine as many kids as we can in two weeks and to send the figures back to Canberra, and also to give the figures to the local health service.”

She goes on to examine the ill-thought-out, poorly-executed government campaign against child sexual abuse in the Territory.

The gunships were sent off with only a mud-map, under the command of a taskforce which has no member professionally trained to work with sexual abuse victims. Without advice from Indigenous doctors or people who know about Indigenous health interventions, sex abuse or Indigenous children. Without paying attention to the advice of Pat Anderson and Rex Wild, the authors of the report that triggered the announcement. (‘Gunships’ and ‘swarms of locusts’ are Wild’s metaphors). And with no idea of how much the operation would cost.

Simpson points out that AMA calls for funding for Aboriginal health services have been ignored year after year after year, that the government has broken promises made to indigenous people and betrayed their trust. That the Little Children Are Sacred report still hasn’t been translated into Aboriginal languages. That the health checks are finding problems, such as anaemia, that were identified at least 37 years ago and have been completely ignored. That the government has no plans and no costing for any followup for health problems identified in the health-checks census. With chronic ear problems and deafness a major issue amongst Aboriginal children, Alice Springs doesn’t even have an ear/nose/throat specialist.

And about CDEP, the community development and employment schemes that are being defunded:

And the other thing that has completely disappeared from the news is what is happening in those communities where CDEP jobs and income stopped on July 1. Salacious stories of sexual abuse are so much more marketable than the way the Government has let successful CDEP programs die, or the consequences of the loss of aged care workers, meals-on-wheels, women’s centres in communities. Or the fact that the Fed made NO arrangement for the transition. It’s all been quite haphazard. Cape York gets CDEP places changed to real jobs. At Umbakumba 112 people now go back on the dole.

Simpson finished by referring to her post from nine months ago, Desert: forcing Aborigines off their land. It’s a rather chillingly accurate description of the government’s larger plan to move Aboriginal people off their “recreational lifestyle” in their traditional lands, in favour of fringe-dwelling in larger towns and cities. The process of doing this involves, among other things, “tightening up” welfare payments, abolishing CDEP, abolishing the permit system, and cutting funding for infra-structure and Land Councils. Sound familiar?

Categories: culture wars, indigenous, Politics, social justice

Tags: , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. Thank you so much, Lauredhel, for the post, poems and links. I’m writing about the NT events at the moment and it’s great to know that others are thinking about this stuff still.

  2. Great post, heart-breaking poetry. I heard this story the other day on the ABC and it was utterly heart-breaking. I recommend it.
    What kind of genius is it to be entirely self-educated and at least one hundred years ahead of your time in ethics? We should change the Queen’s Birthday holiday to a Fernando’s holiday. I’m not sure how many years it will take for this country to celebrate its Indigenous heroes.

  3. Beautiful, terrifying poetry. Noonuccal is a gorgeous writer, I haven’t heard of Davis before. Thanks also for the link to Jane Simpson – I’ve been wishing to read some serious critical thinking about the response to the NT issues, and yet too lazy/cowardly to do my own investigating.

  4. Jack Davis was my uncle. His plays are well known, of course, but not enough people know about his very powerful poetry. I should read some more myself.

  5. The Garma festival is on in Arnhem land soon and some women from Aboriginal Cultural Birthing and Parenting NSW have been invited to talk. As the email I received said, it seems a really important time for their work and experiences to be shared. They are doing some fundraising for the expenses of the trip but I’m not sure how/ whether I should share the details here. I’m giving them a donation as it is something practical that I can do to promote women’s voices, voices which have been marginalized during the whole NT debate, IMO. If anyone else is interested you could contact Aboriginal Cultural Birthing and Parenting NSW.

  6. blue milk:

    I heard this story the other day on the ABC and it was utterly heart-breaking. I recommend it.
    <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2007/1969712.htm

    that’s an AMAZING piece. I urge all the readers here to check it out.

    Jack Davis was my uncle.

    Wow, it’s a small world! Check out Shoemaker’s overview, I found it absorbing.

    The Garma festival is on in Arnhem land soon and some women from Aboriginal Cultural Birthing and Parenting NSW have been invited to talk.

    For that cause, you’re more than welcome to post more information in this thread. Or, if you prefer, email it to me, with a bit of elaboration, and I’ll do a stand-alone post. Thanks.
    tynic: Transient Languages and Cultures should be required reading! Superb blog.

%d bloggers like this: