Writing this blog about Australia while living in Ireland is probably a bit like growing up in public.
But blogging offers me a way to learn about what’s happening and it’s a place to share thoughts and to think together with other people. And maybe my perspectives from a distance of 12,000 miles might offer something useful too. We’ll see.
The site is called A Grey Area.
*A mix of black and white.
*The colour of my hair 🙂
*The colour of the sky about 90% of the time where I live 😦 *an area or part of something existing between two extremes and having mixed characteristics of both. *Not fixed. – Something inviting inquiry. *Something fluid that can grow and evolve.
I follow news about what’s happening for some Aboriginal communities through Twitter and through internet research and reading books and speaking to friends. And sometimes I still go back to Australia for a visit.
It astounds me to see all that has been achieved. In fact it’s mind blowing. I couldn’t have foreseen the half of it in 1979 when I left. Aboriginal people have achieved so much in the face of impossibility.
But for many people, black and white, nothing has changed. (See,… example number one of grey area thinking!) There are so many more people desperately in need of support, and I don’t mean the government money kind. The rate of suicide in indigenous Australians is now the highest in the world, for example.
I long for white Australia to take similar courageous steps towards Aboriginal communities, with our hands out, asking for their/your help to integrate, even a small bit, into their/your local languages and way of life. I’m told that’s happening now, but I’d like it to be more.
I support the aims of Aboriginal people to have custodial rights of their own lands again so that they can protect our country for all of us.
I support Aboriginal people in their aims to gain self determination, to be independent from white Australia’s control, – free to fully live their/your culture and to follow their/your own laws.
And I want white Australia to come out and admit that the land was stolen, – just as a start.
These are my longings, and that’s the why of this blog site.
When I left Australia in 1979 I experienced a great sense of relief. I was 25. I felt as if I’d got free of it all.- All the loud alcohol abuse that passed as normal; the male chauvinism; all that God Save the Queen; the obsession with competitive sport that I just couldn’t relate to. And most of all the complete and utter denial of Aboriginal people and their almost total absence from my bland, white life.
I loved the country itself, – the ‘bush’, with all its wild, strange beauty and its profusion of astonishing birds and animals, – but the people weren’t there. They were simply absent. It was as if they’d been hoovered off the land and forgotten about by everyone I knew.
And instead, what I saw growing up was a free-for-all for white Australians who didn’t seem to care for the land. Our incessant need to build more and more shops full of nothing and to blow holes in the earth in our search for ‘precious metals’ (Think Gollum from Lord of the Rings) The aim was to make Australia into a ‘modern and progressive’ country. I found it all so depressing.
Sometimes it felt like I’d been air-dropped in there from some ‘real’ world that I couldn’t find my way back to. I felt like a stranger in my own country.
“You can’t stand in the way of development” was the mantra at that time. So I didn’t stand in the way. I got out.
I came to Ireland in 1979 after a short year in London, and I’ve lived in Ireland ever since. I feel at home here, but like me, Ireland is in no way perfect either.
There is immense alcohol abuse, much of which passes as normal; corrupt politicians; serious problems of drug abuse; poverty; child abuse; animal welfare problems; all sorts of other social and environmental issues. And with all that, it’s also a really great little country, and I love it to bits.
I can breath here. There’s no choking denial of an integral constitutional truth about the country that so did my head in while living in Australia.
The history is all laid out here and it lives in the land and in the built landscapes and is spoken about (sometimes obsessively!), as if knowing our history is important. Which of course it is. It’s the country where I live in exile, and I love it here, – but my own country travels close inside me all the time.
Last time I was in Australia I went back to visit the land where I grew up. I kept bumping into myself as a small girl at every turn, the memories held so faithfully by the tall trees and the waves, the red rocks and the bush tracks. The lyre bird danced for me and the plovers down along the creek noticed me sitting on my rock again. Everywhere I looked, there I was, and there were my loved ones also, now crossed over. So I know I’m my country’s too.
But it was when I met with Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison, an Elder from the Yuin Nation, that I truly discovered the depth of grief I’d kept down all those years. It was the quality of his patient and compassionate listening that let it all escape. It was like a great burden lifted.
I know now that by leaving Australia, – by not ‘standing in the way’, – I turned my back on an immense opportunity to help create change in my country. It’s out of that deep wanting to be a part of it, that has led to this blog site.
Thanks for reading.