Back in the1960s, as a school-boy of around 12 years old I could never understand why the Aboriginal folk, around Fitzroy, Collingwood and Clifton Hill, looked so dejected and heart-broken.  My disturbing musings were coincidentally around the time of The Civil Rights Movement in the USA, fomented by those greats of humany history, Rosa Parkes and Martin Luther King

As it happens, I also clearly, and fondly, remember my mum Teresa, showing me newspaper coverage of the events and circumstances of The Civil Rights Movement, including images and reportage of the segregated whites only: drinking fountains, theatre entry doors and seats on buses.  The thorough ugliness of racism was now etched on my child's mind. At least (I thought as a child) there was no such racism in Australia.  I hadn’t put two and two together yet.

Later on, in my teenage years, I was witness to: Charles Perkin's Freedom Ride, The Aboriginal Tent Embassy and The Land Rights Movement fomented by the equally great, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.  I also proudly displayed a "Pay the Rent"

sticker on my school bag. 

At La Trobe University, while studying a course under the tutelage of sociologist Katy Richmond, we as a cohort went to a presentation by the magnificent orator and Aboriginal Activist, Bobbi Sykes. The depth and width of the injustice became painfully clear. The sadness of the Aboriginal People I'd seen as a child began to make sense as being the result of deep-seated, deeply painful racism in Australia.

Decades later, Vox Bandicoot was working on a holiday progam created together with The Gunditjmara Community at Brambuk Koorie Living Cultural Centre in The Grampians, (Gariwerd) Western Victoria. Vox Bandicoot was working with Koorie Educator Mark M.  The program we developed, was called Dreaming Gariwerd;- the magnificent monolith and icon of Gunditjmara Country. There was music, dance and story telling drawn from the experiences and points of view of holiday visitors to Gariwerd.

Dreaming Gariwerd invited sharing & understanding of and empathy, for the meaning and importance of connection to the land; so fundamental to Aboriginal Culture.

But, my deepest understanding, a visceral ah-ha understanding came on a walk with  Mark, to Bunjil's Cave.  Something happened which explained the sadness I'd seen as a chilld.  The moment shone light on the most inexcusable crime which modern, post 1788 Australian society had visited upon the Indigenous Nations .. and, provided an exhilarating insight into what we immigrant folk could learn.

On the journey back to Brambuck, as the arvo sun backlit Gariwerd, Mark stopped and pointed to birds which were flitting, madly and excitedly above the shrub line.  "It's gonna rain!  Yep.  For sure.   Next 12 hours or so".  The look on his face was sublime.  A radiant pride.  Mark was sharing a gift borne of many millenia of accumulated knoweldge and connection.

That evening, I was to be the MC of a concert by Archie Roach & Ruby Hunter, Andy Albert and the Walkabouts, Shane Howard and others.  The light show provided by mother nature was beyond amazing.  Sheet lightning danced around the peaks rimming Gariwerd.  We sat in this natural amphitheater with the Aboriginal community and their children, playing with the holiday visitors' children, listening to Archie and Ruby ... everybody was tingling … the bliss of being human, the music and the gift of nature were so uplifting.  

Most powerfully, and for me to this day my most precious memory, as the concert was finishing, the rain that Mark had predicted on the walk back from Bunjil's cave, began falling from the sky.  The rich, deeply personal extent of Aboriginal Australia's connection with and belonging to this beautiful, mysterious and wonderous land was a privilege to have watched and experienced that day.

To my mind, Australia is a most beautiful, mysterious, enigmatic and generous country - in terms of both landsape and its "society".   Mainstream Australia, "the culture", has got lots of stuff about its nationhood pretty spot on methinks ...  except for two things, one of which is annoying, the other … obscene and unforgiveable.  To fail to become a republic is annoying, to perpetuate injustice and racism toward the great Aboriginal nations of this land is a crime against history and against humanity.

Recently, my strong beliefs about Aboriginal Australia and the stirrings I'd experienced since childhood, were richly nourished by the opportunity to spend time with Aboriginal People on Aboriginal Homelands in the Central desert. … learning from Australian living legend, respected Aboriginal Elder Uncle Bob Randall ... both in his home at Mutujulu and out on the Homelands adjacent to Uluru. 

Below a smattering of my learning about Kanyini ... and a chance to hear from Uncle Bob himself ... hey, now there's a bloke who'd make the most wonderful, wise and perfect first President of the Republic of Australia ...

 Listen to Uncle Bob speaking with Richard Fidler on Rdio National ...

Kanyini is the principle of connectedness through caring and responsibility, that underpins Aboriginal life. 

It is built on four bastions ...

      • tjukurrpa the creation or 'Dreaming', spirituality

     • ngura, sense of place, the land, country

     • walytja kinship, family and clan

     • kurunpa, spirit or soul

Learn more …

As well as the magnificent experience of living out on the Homeland, learning aspects of traditional Aboriginal culture like collecting/cooking Witchety grubs, a high point of the Kanyini program was to sit in Uncle Bob's home and watch the film "Our Generation".  This film does two things ...
     • one is to reveal the duplicitous racism behind the intervention and 
     • to reveal the joy, pride and peace on the faces of the young people who "experience" re-connection with country

... as John Butler says;

"This is a very important film that everyone needs to see …

It will change your life" John Butler, of John Butler Trio