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Coming to terms with our shared history

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 3 May 2008 | Views [1014]

This road trip has torn open many festering wounds for me. Of course, to get the wound clean, you’ve got to operate. But its painful meanwhile.

When I’m looking for inspiration, I turn my face up and just let the question go out there. To the space that comes alive just by remembering its existence. And shortly, from somewhere, there’s a response.

Driving from Mt Isa to Cloncurry is supposed to be beautiful country. They told us it was. All the signs in the area. Enjoy the area! It’s the best area! Well, it seems to me the rocky piles of dirt they call hills looks like debris from the local mines. If they dig millions of tonnes a year, what on earth (pun for the slow coaches) do they do with the excess? They make hills with it.  They light up at sunset, its true.

And something bad. Something I didn’t want to have to say, and it makes me pause with consideration before I write. 

We came to a traditional border between indigenous people. The Kalkadoon and Mitakoodi.  It’s a commemorative stone wall decorated with lines of evocative words to express indigenous feeling for being run off their land. Senior government officials have their names engraved as the stamp of approval.  Bullets have been shot into the plaques and they’ve been damaged with vicious intent.

I stamp the earth. Dust rises up. It settles and I see the Jain smile. Let it go. Let it go. But I can’t. I am filled with anger, again.

How can I do or say anything when I am blinded by my passion? I know it. I ask for guidance.

(We later hear that the memorial has undergone a constant attack since being there. Someone even tried to explode it. ‘They’ keep repairing it, but ‘they’ keep destroying it.)

Later on I walk into the office of our caravan park. We need to plug ourselves in to use our laptops. The hostess of the park is laughing. She explains that she and her husband are laughing because every time they sit down for lunch, they are interrupted. 'Better than crying', I say. 'Ahh, we did that last year, but this year, we’re not going to let it beat us.'

Words of wisdom.

Of course its been said before, but a timely reminder is always welcome.

I come back to the van and I re-read the article by Steve Kinnane in the Lonely Planet Australia guide. In his final paragraph, he writes ‘This coexistence (of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians)  must have at its base a respect for our shared and difficult past, but equally, a hope for a more just and sustainable future that gives action to indigenous visions.’ 

I think about Glen Bambu’s statement ‘I’m proud.’

I think about the Jain smile.

I think about the Dalia Lama.

And I lighten up, a bit.

The past is a fact. The history is ugly and at times difficult to swallow. The word ‘shared’ is key, for me. We are already in relationship. We have a shared history. Difficult and hard to take. But share the burden of it. The responsibility. The knowledge.

And hope. Hope with action. For the future. I like that. It lifts me out of the despair of the dark shadow I feel laying long as we drive through lands we think are just ‘outback’ when safe in our cosy cocoons in suburbia.

Lighten up for one. Being angry and sad doesn’t help one bit. It just makes me get a headache.

Save the energy for learning and action.

And secondly, don’t let the bad one’s win. If the bad ones do something to make you cry, then they win. Cause you cry, and you make the people around you sad too, and it just keeps growing. But if they do something to make you cry, then hold on. Don’t let it in. Turn it around and find something to make it all ok. Hope. Smile. Action for the future. Make the people around you smile. Then you help the good ones grow in happiness.

Tags: allwelcome, ambassador van, t a j


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