Tag Archives: Aboriginal land

Year of activism #34

On the cusp of spring, the winds and rains are starting to shift and the native trees and plants begin their dances to mark the new season’s arrival. The deciduous trees are beginning to wake up. It is a time of co-existence in the landscape, a mixture of howling banshees and musical notes from the nesting magpies as a constant reminder of our inheritance of the land and settler arrivals. Holding all space for all this diversity there are edges forming in the garden and in my heart. I am calling this the politics of grief.

Others have written and talked about the politics of grief in the phenomena of talking about war, September 11 and other acts of terrorism, the way trauma is used to weaponize public policy to justify budget spends on national security measures or more creatively and kindly with gun buy-backs (think Port Arthur). In the case of our common destiny in this land, there is so much unfinished business, I really don’t think we can move forward without some reckoning at the grief doorstop. To hold ourselves in sadness and notice, accept and recognise the losses. Nations who have lost their language, rituals, food sources, habitat; other species who are now extinct, or under the threat of extinction. There is mourning to be done.

I have deep personal experience of grief and there are so many layers. The layers of loss that come with the understanding and new learning of what you have actually lost takes you deeper and deeper into meaning of what makes you, what holds you and what carries you forward. There is an accounting to be done, a balance sheet to be examined, some kind of delving deeply into the price and values of the loss. There is a settling up.

In Australia this settling up is our unfinished business. We need to examine what is actually on that balance sheet and given those who have gone before us in the settlement business how might we be held to account? This week I had a handyman come and do some odd jobs for me. He is involved in a local biodiversity project and he couldn’t help but notice the art in my place and sign of respect for Kaurna on the entrance to my house. He told me that everytime their volunteer team start work in restoration on a new part of the bush, local Aboriginal leader offers a smoking ceremony for them. He told me he doesn’t understand why they are so angry, it was so long ago. I was taken back by his inability to see all of the connections and to join the dots of justice being seared into the experience of the volunteers. I offered up a few gentle thoughts and a couple of questions. These are the conversations of the politics of grief. To bring honour to the pain of the past and the continual stripping away of lacquered over pain in the now. It is a truth that I live on stolen land, there has never been a treaty, a settlement and there is reckoning to be had. There is payment to be made, my slight discomfort in having a tricky conversation is not even a downpayment. I get rewarded by my peers for doing these little acts …. really? This is my privilege. It is my responsibility.

Taking instruction from the landscape and tuning in to the elements is what I am feeling apprenticed to at the moment. The land and the people of this land have suffered, are suffering and ways forward perhaps will open once we, as settlers, feel the grief, wallow in it and discover all that there is in the layers being peeled back. There is a kind of root cause analysis that comes with the politics of grief that takes us to colonialism and racism, sexism and a lack of centrality for creation. In the reckoning just settlement might be possible but I can’t see us getting there without entering a time for the politics of grief to be leverage to create new ways ahead. Standing with the grief stricken, sitting in the pain, shifting and rewiring the tears to witness the birth of a new way forward feels like a precondition to justice to me.

Dancing with Speeches #32 Anna Meares

The 2016 Olympics have arrived and Australia’s flag bearer, cyclist Anna Meares addressed the Australian contingent. Her simple speech of pride, overcoming adversity and being tenacious was heartfelt and brought a tear to everyone’s eyes including the Governor General. Anna knows something about spinning round so this week’s speech does a pirouette with some of Anna’s sentiment.

To all the dignitaries and dignified in our band of merry sporting warriors I say welcome to Rio.

Over the coming days we will have our highs and lows, times when we just don’t think we can go on and time when the adrenaline is pumping through us we won’t know where that last ounce of energy will come from.

I am the daughter of a coal miner from sunny Queensland – a place where like Brazil we imported black labour to work our fields and those from far off shores have made their home no longer enslaved but still with gaps in health, education and achievements on the sporting field.

While I am here I am going to strive for my best, feel proud of the green and gold on my body and that spirit of Australia inside my body.

The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

It is not just about the competition.

Where I come from, Blackwater in Central Queensland is on the lands of the Ghungalu people. All of us in the team live on what has always been, is now and always will be Aboriginal land, get to know your country, walk it and let it talk to you, draw from its strength. I have learnt a lot from getting in touch with my own dreams – I never thought a girl like me from country Queensland would be at the Olympics – let alone more than once. Draw on your dreams and dig deep into the dreams of those who have gone before us. Call on the dreaming of our ancient lands to protect and inspire us as take our steps, strides, jumps, walks and throws with us into Rio. Open your eyes to the sounds and stories of this country too and in the Olympic spirit of friendship.

So while we are here lets show Rio our Aussie friendliness too and the Aussie fair go. When I am not on the field I am going to make it my business to find out more about this country we are competing in. I am going to break the rules like Dawn Fraser before me, I am going to visit a favela and I am asking Kitty to come with me. I am going to ride my bike through Santa Marta and see for myself what all the fuss is about. I am going to talk to the locals and listen to their stories of endeavor and survival. After all seven times more slaves came here than went to the US, so they must know something about struggle and survival. I am going to find out about their fights and battles and what gives them pride.

I am going to ask you all to come and join me in cheering on Team Refugee as well – and see if a bit of their spirit can rub off on me.

And in the Olympic tradition I am going to value this amazing opportunity and strive to do my best and cheer you all on to do yours. Lets make Australia proud on and off the field – we are more than green and gold.


Sydney Opera House lights up in Green and Gold for Rio Olympics