Tag Archives: Onkaparinga

2021 Meeting the Moment #17

Patches of sunshine, warm nooks around the garden, and the bush tomatoes are feeding a community of ants before I get a chance to pick them. Their sticky insides ooze onto my fingers when I gather a few of them each day to gradually build up my stocks of them to dry and grind. Along with the kangaroo apple that is also fruiting in the garden at the moment and I am beginning to acquaint myself with pig face and I have found a recipe for a warrigal greens pesto, and so my indigenous species gardening is starting to take shape. I still bought a fig tree today though as I have decided I am living in these two ways times and am akwardly connecting with roots in my story and in the land I am living on.

I live on Kaurna land, land that has never been ceded and we are in the windy season of Parnati. I live near Wangkondananko , the Aldinga Washpool also once known as Opossum Place where Kaurna would come and tan the hides of possums to make cloaks. This week Onkaparinga council established and Aboriginal Advisory group and this step forward I hope will help connect us all to the future from the past. This place is a food bowl and there is considerable evidence of settlement long before colonisation that even someone like me with little knowledge and experience can see. The names that have stayed and been incorporated into everyday use are the easiest pointers. The Aldinga plain, as it would have been known originally as Kauwi Ngaltingga, means fresh water at Ngalti, and you can clearly see it as a plain, a natural flood plain between the bush and the sea and a haven for bird life. Birds are returning, as are other creatures as habitat starts to regrow. There is desecration visible too, as I discovered recently, an important site in the Tjilbruke Dreamtime story, a spring site, at the southern, coastal end was badly damaged by dumping of soil and debris some decades ago. I pay my respect and deep gratitude to Aunty Georgina Williams and recognise her leadership over decades and generations.

It is hard to fathom how we got here – and I have so much to tune into, learn, understand. I am starting from a very low base. Knowing you are living on stolen land, land where there has never been an agreement, an understanding, a treaty, is in itself, a settler privilege. I haven’t the lived experience of theft or destruction of place and story, people, food, language – culture.

This week contained Earth Day and the theme was restoration. In Australia I can’t see restoration without reconciliation, restitution and some reckoning with First Nations. We all have one Mother and without the Earth we have nothing, without her waters we will die. First Nations wisdom might be all that can save us. I am making a humble start to come as a child to the exercise – wide eyed and curious, as kind a heart as I can muster and with a heart open to healing.

One Mob, One Land, One People

She is Mother Earth. She is the land of Oz
She is country, she is family. She is you
She nurtures and loves, she’s there when your tears fall
She laughs with you when you’re happy and the stars shine bright

She is your spirit of place, your mother, your land
She walks with you and your shadow guiding the way
Her love for you is the glue that holds you together
Your connection to country is your spirit of place.

Seek her on that road you travel a mother’s love has no boundaries
Unselfish in her giving her devotion is never ending
She is you and you are her no matter what road you travel
Hold your head high for you are who you are. Proud strong

Our communities are made up different from a long time ago
It’s important to remember we are one people, one Nation
Share the journey, share the joy. Be proud in the culture
Be upright and true, your identity strong never ending.

Hate and jealously. Not ours, never ours. A White man thing!
Join together be strong, stand proud. United we stand, divided we fall.
I am you and you are me. Our spirit of place, always deep within
Your life destined from time beginning, sharing the country, honouring the Lore

Now our roles defined to how we want them to be but culture is strong
Sharing and caring our identity as a people, share what you have is the Lore of the land
Each role we fulfil is for the good of the Mob learn what you will and pass on to the next
Don’t forget where you come from and the essence of life.

Be true to who you are, don’t forget who you are. Your belonging is the heart of you Aboriginal warrior man or woman be true to Mother Earth care for each other
After all we are one land one people one culture

We belong.

by Kerry Reed-Gilbert

Washpool, July 2020

Year of activism #28

A walk along the Onkaparinga River reveals lagoons that have sprung to life again with the winter rains and the pelicans are holding court on the dead branches drowned by a combination of drought, salt rising and water. There is a convocation in progress and some kind of initiation ceremony going on it seems, while a few ducks play to hide and seek in the reeds like toddlers at an adult party. It’s the last Saturday in the school holidays and a few families seem to be making the most of the last afternoon sun, as well as cyclists and dog owners, who are working their way around the tracks. There is one family a long way from home, with an adult child who has a significant intellectual difficulty, and they have found a large dead branch of a gum tree that they are carrying with them holding it up to his ears so he can hear the rustling, then brushing across his face to feel the crackling and over his head to notice the different patterns of light and dark. I am struck by the care of his slightly older companions, more sibling age, than parents, who are enjoying the moments as much as he is, for all the same reasons with the added joy of his joy. There is so much in this little nativity, and all the while the convocation continues, the ducks take up the meaning of their name and the reeds dance in the wind.

These are the scenes built on activism.  Before we could walk around this park, an engineer designed the setting to help the natural landscape shine through and be restored, and before that environmentalists and their friends made the case to elected representatives this was a place for nature to be visible and take its rightful place in the landscape, and before that, long, long before that, it was a place where the Aboriginal people gathered food, played and lived on the banks of the river. It was a place where children were conceived and where the dreaming stories of women were held close and shared, where the ancient river found it’s way to the sea and where the ibis flew in the skies and arrived to herald a new season. I am grateful for this inheritance and I have done nothing to receive it, I just turned up and it was all there for me to enjoy and partake in the harvest of others.  This is the gift of the activist, to have the fruits of their combined efforts available for later generations to receive and accept the invitation to continue the legacy.  Activists don’t always see the fruits immediately though, sometimes it takes a number of seasons before the ibis comes back.

The family in the park, invisible to those early conservationists, is gathering up the fruits of their vision and labour, and through their love, is opening up the park in ways that perhaps were never envisaged by those pioneers making this space for pelicans and the public.  I am struck that our efforts and activism, in whatever it is that calls us, holds the seeds for these fruits and while we may not be around for the harvest, only if the seeds are sown there is the possibility for a harvest. 

During the week I listened with friends to David Whyte’s poem Twice Blessed. All our efforts are on the verge between who we are and who we are becoming, and this is true for our activism as well, we can look, lift our gaze, seek to understand, see our reflection and the ripples on the water go far beyond our selves into a future not yet revealed and open the mystery of what might come from our passing this way.

So that I stopped
there
and looked
into the waters
seeing not only
my reflected face
but the great sky
that framed
my lonely figure
and after a moment
I lifted my hands
and then my eyes
and I allowed myself
to be astonished
by the great
everywhere
calling to me
like an old
and unspoken
invitation,
made new
by the sun
and the spring,
and the cloud
and the light,
like something
both
calling to me
and radiating
from where I stood,
as if I could
understand
everything
I had been given
and everything ever
taken from me,
as if I could be
everything I have ever
learned
and everything
I could ever know,
as if I knew
both the way I had come
and, secretly,
the way
underneath
I was still
promised to go,
brought together,
like this, with the
unyielding ground
and the symmetry
of the moving sky,
caught in still waters.

Someone I have been,
and someone
I am just,
about to become,
something I am
and will be forever,
the sheer generosity
of being loved
through loving:
the miracle reflection
of a twice blessed life.

Twice Blessed, David Whyte from his collection The Bell and the Blackbird.

Onkaparinga Conservation Park