Thursday, August 13, 2015

smooth revolution

How cool is this bike?

We spent last Sunday morning at the desertSMART eco-fair here in Alice Springs and River blended up a smoothie for him and Sol using pedal power.

Note to Canberra: solar and pedal power are the new black!

No doubt the harshness of the climate and the limited water supply here means that environmental concerns are at the forefront of people's minds. The eco-fair is heralded as Central Australia's Premier Sustainability Event and offers visitors opportunities to participate in activities and workshops so that they can learn and create.

The highlight of the day for Pete and I was hearing Arrente Traditional Custodian Aunty Doris Stuart in conversation with Costa Georgiadis and our friend Jodie Clarkson, speaking about connecting to country.

Aunty Doris spoke from her heart about responsibilities of traditional custodianship, the importance of sacred sites and what this means living in a modern Alice Springs. Aunty Doris's words stirred much emotion in her and in the audience.

"We get our life from our land. It's not just a hill, it's not just a tree, when it's cut we feel that pain. 
Everything comes from country and goes back to country. 
Country is kin, country is family.
Kinship is a map. When people are born that map tells them how to relate to country and to people".

Pete and I had tears rolling down our cheeks as we listened. At times Aunty handed her microphone to Jodie to speak while she took a moment to compose herself. Jodie has lived in Alice for twenty years and describes arriving in Alice "Like coming home to a place I'd never been before," I can appreciate this. Jodie's deep connection with the land and its people is clear, the friendship and respect between Jodie and Aunty Doris was moving in itself to witness.

Aunty Doris shared a vivid and fond memory from her childhood. She remembered sleeping outside and hearing the sound of singing and chanting carrying through the night air from women in ceremony at nearby sacred sites. "We'll never hear that again because so many of our sacred sites are gone," said Aunty with sadness. It made me think about the younger generations of Aboriginal children who have grown up or are still growing without this experience of their culture.

Being a Traditional Custodian brings with it responsibilities and decision making that cuts deep. Aunty Doris explained that for Aboriginal people being asked to choose which tree to cut down so a road can be built, so that people can save 5 minutes on their travel time, is like choosing a relative to be killed. To non Aboriginal people who don't have an appreciation for the depth of connection between Aboriginal people and the land, that may sound extreme but for Aboriginal people it is a painful reality.

"All we want is for our sites to be respected" - Aunty Doris Stuart.

Culture and environment, that's where we need a smooth revolution in this country.

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