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You do not easily adapt to change. It took years before you settled into Torquay. You hated the suburban life preferring the holiday feel of the coastal village down the road. It is surrounded by a national park, heathland , and the uninterrupted expanse of the Southern Ocean. It is a true – Gods Waiting Room. It is filled with old folk. Most of the people living there only need to know three telephone numbers; the doctor, the ambulance, and the undertaker. As for the rest they spend a few weeks each year escaping the madness of the city in their holiday house that sits alone in the scrub week – in – week out. It too hates change.

You know deep down it has changed in the twenty years of your retirement. The old fibro homes, ( the homes made of asbestos fibre sheets), have almost all been demolished. The sharp architecturally designed buildings replacing them have bought a cardre of youthful tradies, builders, plumbers, electricians, plasterers, glaziers, and concreters to town. It has all happened in a mere heartbeat since the town was cut out of the tea tree. Before then the former visitors left little evidence they too came and went for centuries.

They were the Wadawurrung. The first people of this country. If your roam along the cliff top walk above the ocean you will find evidence they found the land plentiful. The middens they left are the feasting spots of old. In these places hundreds of generations of people sat and celebrated the generosity of the sea. They ate their fill of shell fish and discarded the shells and formed mounds of shells where they ate. Their presence today is all we need to be reminded of them.

Concurrently in the twenty years of my retirement our civic leaders have recognised our indigenous past. Civic functions commonly commence with a Welcome to Country celebration. I have thought it tokenism until now because it is new. Twenty years is no time at all. Even things that happened fifty years ago are new to me. To accept new things I find hard, almost impossible immediately. And here is notice: I, me, you, do not embrace change – so spend a moment and accept sometimes others have good reasons to rebel when change is foisted on them.

Your lifetime is but a blip in universal time. Double the length of your life and the Wadawurrung lived on this land uninterrupted as they had for thousands of years. Your predecessors were granted leasehold or ownership of the land without consultation with any of the tribe. This tribe, the dozens across the state, and the hundreds of different tribal groups all over this land never gave sovereignty to the people who day by day, year on year, took ownership from them.

It is well documented at hundreds of sites across the country people were massacred. The wells they drank water from were poisoned. The man who killed the sheep, a timid beast unrecognised as a native animal and was easily slain, that man was hunted by the squatter and he and his family were shot. The warrior that stood his ground and threw a spear to defend himself was driven off a cliff. These things were often sanctioned by the state. A state that listed its native people as Flora and Fauna until 1967.

This happened despite these people generously enlisting as soldiers in foreign wars to fight for the country. Their reward was to be ignored when they returned from conflict. Despite this Australia has throughout the years acknowledged hundreds of our original inhabitants as great countrymen and women. If the person : boxed, ran, swam, or played football, we acknowledged them. We did/do the same for artists. We honoured former footballer and preacher Doug Nichols as a state governor. These stories we absorbed in the media and in lessons without question.

Our lessons never included an accurate history of the people. It has taken until the publication of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu for our first peoples to receive any sort of acknowledgement they lived quite sophisticated lives lightly in the environment. Our lessons spoke of simple tools and weapons. It never acknowledged the hundreds of aboriginal languages the people lost. It never told how they were massacred.

My reading of literature included Catherine Susannah Prichard’s book Coonadoo. It was written in 1929. The language Prichard used to describe the aborigines is dated, however she did message in her book a respect for indigenous customs and rites. The book carried themes including social justice but the book was very much written from the perspective of the white settlers of the country. One character Hughie did acknowledge his temper led him to behave as a white slaver, an attribute he detested. Another white writer was Xavier Herbert. I read his novel Capricornia at school. He wrote with a deal of empathy and understanding of the life of the downtrodden living in the north of Australia. My reading never really ever embraced the reality of native life which I admit I remain profoundly ignorant of to this day.

In my lifetime the last of these free people emerged from the desert. In the beat of a single heart beat we live or die – they chose to live among us. The people of the desert came to be displaced as all others had. Some were relocated in unnatural groupings in aboriginal reserves. Others clung to the edges of their homelands in broken mobs until the High Court of Australia awarded them native title to their homeland. The notion of Native Title still causes unease because all manner of people, motivated by self interest, want to mine, frack, or destroy the ancient heritage. They pervert its meaning, if the cause suits, to say our homes are at risk of being taken from us.

It is in thinking about the circuitous route of my understanding of aboriginal life I come to examine more thoroughly my thoughts about the Welcome to Country message now in common usage. At first I thought it was tokenism. It is not.

Just over 45 years ago people with hippie aspirations (University students) were celebrating life at the Aquarius Festival in Nimbin. (An Australian Woodstock type event). Activist Gary Foley challenged the organisers to get permission to hold the festival on their land. This was not called by it’s common name the. but it seems it was the first occasion a group of non indigenous people entered aboriginal land with permission. In the years since, more local council areas have come to acknowledge as they did, although aborigines no longer own the land the land, it was once was theirs.

When we recognise the prior ownership of our nation was once owned by many different indigenous mobs (as they commonly call themselves) a great injustice will be partly corrected. In 2017 after many years of debate their leaders produced the Uluru Statement From the Heart asking the government to acknowledge aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples were the original owners of the country. In one sentence former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed their request without debate.

Belatedly I have reached the decision the debate must be held. Just as it is a lot more than tokenism to accept the right of aboriginal people to expect we acknowledge them in a Welcome to Country speech. As a nation we have a terrible record in the manner our first people have been treated. It is time to acknowledge Black Lives Matter and theft of property did occur.


I welcome your comments for I know I make errors in my writing. You will help me write more accurately if you tell me where I have erred.

Hurry up – and wait.

When the fishing rod was bobbing up and down in the water I knew I had caught a fish. I loved standing on the craggy point looking into the water watching the minnows feed. This day I was fishing not far from where I lost mum’s chip frier. She said, “If you take that thing make sure you bring it back, your father likes chips.” On that occasion it was a matter of losing the frier, or losing my footing and falling into the water and swimming with the minnows I had been attempting to catch. I chose to stay dry. The day I elected to get wet and swim into the wintery lake and retrieve my rod I was bored. While waiting for the fish to bite I had built quite a big fire and I knew I could dry off by it if I swam to get my rod. My new insight is, fishing was something I did while waiting for something else to do. Anglers have more patience.

The Southern Ocean has been a constant factor in my life. I have driven the western Victorian coastline over and over. Therefore this little insight could be from anywhere in all those kilometres. Instead of illustrating the bravery of the deep water seamen who put to sea each day from one of the dozen piers in their ‘Couta boats, only to over- fish Barracuda, or Southern Rock Lobsters I choose to tell the story of the amateur. The Lorne pier is the place to recall the stoicism of fishermen.

At any time, in any season, on a visit to the pier, you will find at least one lone person with the patience to fish with a rod and reel. Silently, crouched to avoid the wind, the rain, or any other element the world can throw up, the fisher waits to catch a pinkie, a salmon, or common fish swimming by. If they catch a fish and drop in in their fish bucket they simply return to throw their line in and do it again without fuss. Even if they go home without a catch they will tell you they have had a good day. Their love, is the experience of doing.

My life companion has a different attitude to routine. She gets enjoyment doing things precisely, step by step. She knits while watching television. The thousands of repetitive steps, twisting wool this way, catching the tread, and twisting it around her finger so she can reverse it on the the opposite needle, is therapeutic. To her it is not a chore.

Neither is, it seems, anything requiring repetition. Take jig saws. In order to improve her failing eye sight she willingly chooses to spend leisure time tirelessly selecting this shape and the colour to match a picture with pre-cut shapes. Strangely she finds ironing a basket of clothes no more difficult than piecing together a thousand jig saw pieces When it comes to repetitive jobs in our house one person will elect to do it without complaint.

Back in the seventies the Buninyong Shire faced a storm of new arrivals. We had chosen to live on farmlets. Our rates went up overnight. The reckoning was with so many new residents the Shire had to raise revenue quickly in order to pay for the services now demanded. They determined a range of new residents had chosen to live on their properties for lifestyle and they were not farmers. The new system meant we were moved from the affordable Farming Rate ( rated so much in the dollar per acre) to Residential (a rate based on the house value.)

Naturally this caused a lot of disquiet. With the aid of some neighbours we called a meeting of affected people. The meeting was a hostile affair but there was consensus the size of the property was not an indication of its use. Some people could illustrate they were working their land full time. Most could not. My very smart neighbours said they were planting fruit trees (walnuts to be precise). They argued their farm should not be rated as a lifestyle farm as they were farming but they had to leave their properties daily for a paying job because their trees could not be harvested for at least seven years and no one could expect them to live without an income so long.

In the end the council had a problem it could not easily solve. In my case I moved to a new position. Lead on by my internal fight, flight seemed easier than staying. Before we left we had planted lots of trees. We planted so many it is impossible to see our old house without making a detour. Our neighbours that planted out their property with fruit trees have left their family an inheritance that will keep giving for generations. That is the benefit of patience.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aboriginal_Tent_Embassy

When it comes to patience. The most patient people in this land are it’s first peoples.

Many years before my skirmish with the council a protest started in Canberra. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy out side old Parliament House started in1972. It was a protest about land rights.. In the intervening years the fight for Aboriginal Land Rights has been constant. The right to land rights was won in the High Court with the Marbo case. That was only the beginning because every agreement has sine been a hard won negotiation and taken years longer than imagined. (unless you think it has been too easy for people who have lived continuously on that land have no right to it.)

Either way, the perseverance shown to obtain those rights illustrates, right is ultimately stronger than mere political bastardry. This is the common arsenal used in Canberra when things don’t go the way directed by the political class.

Some things are worth fighting over. Take for instance the carbon bank we call trees. A reasonably short protest has been occurring on the Western Highway. The road department is building a four lane highway joining two country towns. The only thing preventing the development pressing on are a few trees. The trees in question have resisted fire, flood, and drought for six hundred years. This is just a heartbeat in the life of the world itself but generations of mankind. And this is its significance.

Our seaside village is undergoing a rapid change. A new city is being built. The developers have bought all the land they could. Before they build they raise everything that once stood on that ground including the life giving top soil. Six months after the bull dozers leave a new suburb of chocolate boxes stand where people tilled the land.

The developers have hurried, so the people who arrive after them can slow down and rest in their new homes. To help the future heat bank effects of those homes be reduced, avenues of saplings are planted. In sixty years the shade needed will be enjoyed as a resource worth keeping. When thought of in this simple way trees ten times older are worth the inconvenience of making a detour on a country highway. Somethings are worth waiting for.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/melbourne/programs/mornings/western-hwy-roadworks-restart-after-djab-wurrung-truce/11570246