Returning to the beginning

desert-sand-drift

Sand drift

simpson-desert-sand

Country

I have reached the point in the Grounded blog where I said in my first Australia post “I begin this story at the end”. That is, it was the evening of the 21st September, ie the evening of yesterday’s posting, and the evening when I was arrested for doing no more than inquiring after the welfare of a friend; my first blog posting in this leg of the residencies. If you are new to this blog and haven’t read that post and the ensuing day in court, you can link to the story here or to the ensuing day in court here, and to the response by Professor of Criminology, Philip Smith, here. These stories are a window into a strange and disturbing world that is a routine problem for Indigenous people.

But now my post that follows the night in prison and the day in court:

24 September 2014

It’s Tuesday and I have been struggling to stay motivated for the last few days. I am gathering my strength to remain positive and arrange some meetings for tomorrow, so for some light relief I book myself onto the backpacker shuttle bus for a trip to the Alice Springs Desert Park. Its 38 degrees and I will have five hours of walking around in no shade through the middle of the day – but I’m going.

I immediately feel depressed by the light and happy nature of the backpacker shuttle. Their world seems a million miles from mine, like they are floating somewhere between here and the sky.

The Desert Park is well laid out, informative and easy to navigate around. I record the birds and read all the signs.

There is a talk about survival in the desert, which I decide to attend. I sink a little when I see it is taken by a non-Aboriginal person. Admittedly this is not usually the case.

The talk is clear and informative and interesting. She knows a lot. But I am left with an impression that all the Aboriginal people of Australia are happily living connected lives; seamlessly negotiating both the Aboriginal and non Aboriginal worlds in which they find themselves; the consequences of their displacement brushed to obscurity. She tells me that Aboriginal culture is evolving when I ask.

The speaker explains how the land is sacred, that the sanctity runs below the ground too. It is all through the ground. When the park was created, she tells us, the Elders were there to sing to the land and heal it as the bulldozers came through to lay the sewerage pipes and the amenities. My heart sinks some more.

It feels like the King’s New Clothes. This woman talks with a smile; with knowledge and authority. Perhaps it is me who has it wrong; a visitor who knows very little, who’s barely scraped the surface of the complexities of life here.

But this place is the physical heart of Australia; the spiritual cog around which the wheel is turning. From here energy must travel the spokes of the wheel and reach that distant coast, with its back turned and eyes gazing out to sea.

I watch the tourists leave; smiling, interested and satisfied.

(A Guardian article titled, “Indigenous incarceration rates are a national shame” can be read here, and I have many other links on the Australia Digital Resources Page of this blog which can be linked to here. I have also just added to that page an interesting article on Aboriginal languages that can also be linked to here. And a link to the Alice Springs Desert Park site.

Don’t forget too, where we started in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland – the first posting of which can be found here with digital resources here.)

 

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8 thoughts on “Returning to the beginning

  1. I like it because it informs me, more than anything else I have ever read. This is your mission, I think, Judith – to let Australians know what is being done (1) in their name, and (2) to their fellow countrymen. I am so appalled I’m at a loss, in truth … how can this be happening ? Does nobody care ? Who was the relevant Minister at this time ? – what was that person doing for his/her salary ? It is horribly despressing.

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    • Hello Margaret Rose. I am so pleased that my blog has touched someone. It really makes it all worthwhile. We can write in this cyber world and never know what people are thinking – not like looking someone in the eyes at all. I’m not really a fan of the cyber world but we have to keep up with the times and communicate in the way that others are communicating. Thank you so much for being open with your comments.

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      • I get up a lot of noses, as you might will imagine. But I suppose all those followers must tolerate it … 🙂

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      • I think it is worthy to speak up! And from my point of view, I appreciate it. I understand that many people do not like to comment publicly on blogs too though. The cyber world is such a vast and infinite unknown. But I quite like, in life, to step out into the chasm and see what happens 🙂

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      • I do try not to be actually offensive; but I’ve never had the slightest interest in saying meaningless niceties. I’ll say what I think or remain silent. And often, of course, what I think is very positive ! 🙂

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  2. There is so much a person could say, so many aspects you cover so sensitively Judy – but today I was very interested in the Aboriginal language article. More and more as I get older I realise that language is not just a part of a culture, I think it’s actually essential to preserve a culture. A slightly light-hearted example occurred to me from our own Scottish culture. How would a person explain the expression “It’s gey dreich the day” to someone who had never lived in Scotland and experienced that particular kind of day? To convey all that “gey dreich” actually means to a Scottish speaker would take paragraphs of standard English, yet, to Scottish speakers its meaning is very precise. And having this particular phrase available gives speakers that very sense of place that you talk about in Place Matters, gives them that sense of community and belonging, that meeting of minds where the speaker knows that the listener knows exactly what the other means. In the midst of a very difficult world, it gives a little bit of comfort and security. Not to mention autonomy and dignity. Which is why language is the first thing an oppressor seeks to suppress. Your diaries here really do bring that out. . .

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