Archive for September, 2020


Continuing to consider this years theme for NAIDOC week of “Always Was, Always Will Be” with the Collins Australian Clear School Atlas New and Revised Edition.

This image shows Economic-Population. There’s a sense looking at a map like this that there’s still Terra Nullius – land where no people are and no work is happening. You can see that the measure used for ‘economy’ – doesn’t recognise the agriculture or trade practices of Aboriginal people.

Recognising Aboriginal people must surely need to begin by recognising the profound, enduring relationship and connections they bear with the land.

“Aboriginals engaged in seed propagation, irrigation, harvest,
storage, and the trade of seed across the region.”

― Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu

When you say/hear an Acknowledgement of country, does considering the above make you reconsider what it means? “We acknowledge that we gather on the lands of which Aboriginal people have been custodians since time immemorial, and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging”

The dashed line above denotes the ‘limits of agriculture’ (at least for the 60s-70s when this atlas was published). What can we learn about what is considered ‘agriculture’ from this image? Who gets to determine that?

Does the image raise any considerations for balance?

I will re-member you

It’s late, or early, and I can’t sleep for thinking about loss.

Tomorrow, or today, I have my first online funeral (cancer not COVID) but I can’t help but want some primal scream for the research uncompleted, articles unwritten, the things you’ll never get to see or say to your kids. A voice – silent. A light – extinguished.

Around the world right now that’s happening – lights extinguishing.

The current COVID death count based on available information is at 903,473 worldwide. Do the modeling on that to factor in the families, friends, colleagues, neighbours impacted. How incredibly precious is each life.

In, Rubem Alves’ The Poet, The Warrior, The Prophet, a body washes up on the shore in a fishing village and the villagers try to hold funeral rites the way they usually would, but no one knows this person to remember them. There is a void. And in the end, the void is filled with the stories of who this might be. The void is full of possibility.

The other night, my partner and I watched Pixar/Disney’s Coco together (I’m not crying, you’re crying). In the Mexican tradition of Día de Muertos, the memory of our family is kept alive by the images and stories of them we share. Each member of the family might have a different story about an ancestor, each have a different inheritance from knowing and sharing that life. It’s why when we tell each other, we are so enriched by the remembering. Or Alves’ “re-membered” because it almost seems as if that person is alive to us once more with the telling. With lockdown right now, those friends, family and colleagues aren’t able to gather to share their stories, to share their grief. There is a void.

I haven’t been wearing rings much during the pandemic, everytime I notice my bare hands it seems like a stark reminder we are in different times, see – I usually put them on just as I grab my lanyard for work and leave the house… I’m not going to work. I’m not leaving the house. The experience of living through a pandemic (we refer to it as riding the coronacoaster), sometimes is ok and at other times it’s the steep drop of noticing each tiny rhythm or ritual that we don’t do right now layered up one on the other. Like… thinking of what to wear to the funeral, what stories we will tell to re-member you to each other and celebrate your life, who of our mutual acquaintances will be there to see and catch up with, participation in a ritual not necessarily reflecting our beliefs but those significant to you who are at the centre – the reading and singing together, eating and drinking together, the sharing grief together.

I’m realising that today, I will do that on my own. There’s no one else in my household that knows you. There is a void.

I think I’ll wear a ring to your funeral.

And somehow, just like that, in the void… there was possibility.


…The Prophet speaks not to the dead but to the Wind.
He names what he does not know, he says what he cannot do.
Before the Mystery: grace.
He enters the woods, he dives into the deep waters…
He invokes something which is beyond knowing and doing: God…
The only thing he has is a wound in his flesh: the pain of Desire: longing. Restless is his heart…
Inside the Void, a universe slowly makes itself visible: dreams.
What is not… And they are beautiful: a Garden… The same Garden which lives in the entrails of the Victim. And they blow with the Wind, and in the graveyard, life appears. A flower in the desert. The secret of messianic hope.


Rubem A Alves – The Poet, The Warrior, The Prophet

Always Was

This years theme for NAIDOC week is “Always Was, Always Will Be”. I’m interested in finding ways to creatively and contemplatively explore what this means as a white-presenting Settler in this place.

I love old books and paper, I’m going to use some of these as a lens: First up is the Collins Australian Clear School Atlas New and Revised Edition.

p.9 “AUSTRALIA – Territorial Changes”

These maps show the territorial changes (6) between 1786 and 1861. Here they are shown with an overlay of the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia. It’s hard not to liken that to a shadow, a haunting overlay, crossing and connecting countries and communities across territorial lines drawn and re-drawn.

What arises when you look at these? Has your home country/town been in different states?

It’s important to understand that when you are speaking to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait person and recognise that their cultural tale is millenia-long that the image of Australia they might imagine is the reverse: Aboriginal land with state and territory lines superimposed on top. When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people say: “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land” this is what they mean… these many countries and territories existed prior to 1786 and they are still here.

Yesterday, Gomeroi woman, Rachel McPhail, living on Wiradjuri country did a call out to challenge Australia Post to encourage Aussies to include the traditional Nation name in the extra address line when sending letters and packages. To support this idea, you can check traditional Nations at AIATSIS.gov.au.