Stop the closures of remote Aboriginal Communities in Australia

Why is it so important that we stop the closures of remote Aboriginal Communities?

communities2

Australian Aboriginal people have given a new meaning to the word “country.” For them, it means a “spiritually enlivened” world, filled with different types of life, each of which has its own intrinsic rights to be there.* Aboriginal connection to country informs a culture with a proven record of sustainable habitation. By building relationships with country – the land, the other creatures, the sea and fresh water bodies, the ancestral spirits that formed these different varieties of life – Aboriginal peoples could remain in conversation with nature. Their place in the world was significant, meaningful; Aboriginal people had responsibilities to country and held it in an attitude of gratitude, for it had given birth to them, the people, just as it had birthed the landforms and other creatures. This is a loving relationship between subjects, or people, of different kinds, all of whom play their part in the biodiverse ecology of any place.

 Communities

This is the relationship we need to learn from, not break. We should not only be calling to stop the closures of remote Aboriginal Communities; we should be calling on increased funding, which would allow true self-determination, so that Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can continue to rebuild their timeless cultures, strengthen their connection with country, and teach us white fellas (or kardiya) the wisdom of their ways. We haven’t done a very good job of this since our own ancestors, the British of the late 18th century, landed here and declared the great southern land Terra Nullius, a Latin expression deriving from Roman law meaning “nobody’s land.” This means they assumed that the new territory had never been subject to the sovereignty of any state, or over which any prior sovereign had relinquished sovereignty. It’s a pretty poor take on the complexity of the Aboriginal people that inhabited the land, the complexity of their political systems and processes, the ingenuity of their technologies and ways of being with country.

 Pilbara Language Families

But that’s the past. Let’s not repeat it. Further dispossession on the basis of poor economic figures is unfair and unjust. Let’s fix this situation, by asking how the people themselves would like to see it fixed, rather than acting paternalistic – or even worse, acting ruthless – from the governments in the cities. This situation reminds me of the doco shown recently on SBS, Contact. This was the film about how the Murtu people were found living in the area where the rockets from Woomera were going to land in the 60s. Most of the tribe, including all the men, had left the traditional lands (presumably to chase work, though this wasn’t mentioned). A group of around 20 women and children remained and the scientists realized this with little time to go. They raced against time to move the Murtu along, in their trucks, which the children thought were monsters. The group ran away, hiding in caves, asking Yimiri the great ancestral Serpent to protect his people. They asked for a storm to “drive away the devils” who were chasing them; and it worked. A huge storm rolled in, and the rain washed away all their tracks. Ironically, this victory made them impossible to find; and horribly, the British and Australian scientists fired anyway. The rocket failed, however, breaking up in the sky, and falling on some other “unoccupied” land. With a little more time, the white fellas were able to find the group and dispossess them to Jigalong, further south in Western Australia.

 Jigalong sign

This isn’t the time to mention how much such dispossessions have cost all Australians, especially the Aboriginal peoples, in terms of their health and welfare, and their ability to care for country and to pass that knowledge on down the generations. But it does seem a fair time to point out how many natural resources are under the ground in WA; just in case there’s a link between mining futures and clearing the land of its native people.

Mineral prospects in Oz

This has been going on since large-scale civilizations began. It’s time it stopped. There is hope. At the end of Contact, those children, now grandparents, are showing the old film to the new generations; to show the kids their old families, but also to show them the “waterholes, where the stories come from,” so they can help to “keep the law strong.” Let’s help them. See the site at http://www.sosblakaustralia.com/  and show your support on the page at https://www.facebook.com/sosblakaustralia

* See Deborah Bird Rose on this.

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A little guide to Pinakarri; an Aboriginal way to calm yourself and connect with your body

Pinakarri

  1. Sit peacefully and feel where your body connects with whatever is physically supporting you right now; whether that be ground, chair or cushion.
  2. Feel the weight of your body and notice how the earth supports it. No matter what you are sitting in, it is made of earth in one way or the other. The gravity that holds you there was created with the beginning of the universe. You are now sitting in universal power. This holds you unconditionally. This is also known as unconditional love, as it accepts every part of your body, mind, heart and soul.
  3. Become aware of your breath. Listen to the difference to the in breath and the out breath. This tone is completely unique to you. This is how the universe sounds when it plays and sings through your body. You are completely connected to all that is, was and will be in the universe. You are at one.
  4. Become aware of the slight difference in temperature between the in and out breaths. This difference is what you give to the universal and instinctive act of breathing. But the heat involved in that change comes straight from the sun. It is warming up life through your body and you are a channel for this process. You are now the energy of the sun and the changes in the air; completely unique and absolutely universal at exactly the same time. There is no fundamental distinction between you and nature, but you are also that unique differentiation of tone and temperature.
  5. Now listen to the drumbeat of your heart. This began when you were a foetus in the womb. It continued when you were born and stays with you until you die. It beats out a particular rhythm and sound. This is you.
  6. Find the first point of tension you become aware of. Breathe into that spot and consciously relax it with the power of the sun and the universal energy you are now aware of. Breathe out the tension.
  7. Feel free to experiment and improvise with this exercise.

 

*NB: This process was provided to me by John Croft, of Dragon Dreaming, a very successful collaborative tool for project realization, especially in small groups. See the whole E-Book at: http://www.dragondreaming.org/dragon-dreaming-international-e-book/

 

John tells me that Pinakarri was used by the Mardu people of the Mandjilidjara (language) in WA and that they were the last group of Aboriginal Australians to be contacted, in 1964, when about 20 of them were found in the Western Desert, when firing was going into this target zone from the Woomera region of SA. The people were relocated (undoubtedly this is a much nicer word than what we should be using here) to Jiggalong, a mission station in the Pilbara region of WA. John Croft met them there in 1968, about 4 years after they had been relocated there, but he was only 19 and they were very shy and didn’t speak English. He learned the process of Pinakarri later, upon returning, when he had friends who were working with the Mardu and translating between English and Mandjilidjara.