Tim, I live in Yuin country on the East coast. The black and white communities here keep to themselves, in the main, and my contact with the locals is fleeting and superficial—a nod exchanged with the group who drink at a picnic table beside the carpark in Bega; a closer yet single-themed half hour a week I used to spend with kids in the literacy program at the school.
My strongest awakening, till now, was reading Kate Grenville’s The Secret River then stepping outside into an altered light, wondering for the first time what bloody events of dispossession may have occurred on my own half acre.
As for the present, the threatened dismantling of Aboriginal communities in Western Australia by Premier Colin Barnett struck me as ideological, cruelly pragmatic, disrespectful and racist, but I still didn’t get the full significance of what the residents would be losing. Not until I read Dodnun, 2006, your account of taking Ngarinyin elder Paul Chapman home to visit his country, in Island Home. ‘For him the trip is no sentimental return, it’s life support.’
I’m left with the roo-fat-golden glow of the King Leopold Ranges, the old horseman’s wiry arm lashing the Toyota onwards from the passenger seat, ‘and we bound up the farther bank roaring like raiders.’ But more, I get it—that abiding, soul-sustaining bond to country. At last, I get it. Thank you.
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