19 Jan 2012

From Little Things Big Things Grow

Fabulous image from here.

On our journeys to and from the swimming pool this week, Jemimah and I have been listening to Melbourne's first indigenous radio station, 3KND - Kool 'N' Deadly.

We've heard terrific music like this...

We've listened to Paul Kelly's song From Little Things Big Things Grow based on the Gurindji strike sung by a children's choir, and a wonderful song I couldn't find online, but maybe from Jimmy Chi's musical, called Along the Corrugation Road.

We've been confronted by lyrics like these:
Charcoal Pieces - Maggie Walsh
I rub my baby's skin with charcoal pieces,
so they won't come, take him away,
yeah, gamin make he skin go black with charcoal pieces,
so that my baby with me stay.

I know they come to take you away,
They come cos your skin light,
it's not my fault, I loved you,
but they're takin you tonight.

If I don't have my baby with me,
I'll lose my reason to go on,
only misery and sadness in me,
I'll lose my mind forever....gone.

Maybe one day when he finds me,
I'll be lying in my grave
but at least with charcoal pieces,
our love I tried to save.
We have listened to the National Indigenous News, full of issues important to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and to advertisements covering covering all sorts of interesting topics. We've listened to Aboriginal Current Affairs, and to an interview with a lady discussing land rights in a well balanced and sensitive way.

It has been a wonderful opportunity for Jemimah and me to hear our Indigenous people expressing their views about the things that are important to them, and to gain some appreciation of the richness of their unique culture and heritage. It has taught us much, and has raised many issues for discussion. We've discussed the stolen children. We've looked briefly at the Mabo Decision and what native title means. We've talked about domestic violence and respect toward women. We've talked about Aboriginal languages and the Kriole we've heard in songs. Topics like this would never have arisen in our day-to-day lives.

I believe that the path to reconciliation lies in education. Education of Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders to be leaders in their own communities, but also education of all Australians about Indigenous cultural identity, in the things that make our Indigenous cultures rich and vibrant. Their art, their myths, their cultural and spiritual beliefs, and their history, both ancient and recent. These are the things we need to learn. But we also need to know more about their struggles and their disadvantages as well. It is only through education that the wounds will begin to heal.

That's what I think. For what it's worth.

As I raise our daughter, I want her to know about the people who lived in Australia before white men came. This year we are reading Stradbroke Dreaming by writer and activist Oodgeroo Noonuccal, The Papunya School Book of Country and History, an account of the history of Western Desert communities from an Indigenous perspective, and Sally's Story, the first part of the Australian Classic, My Place, by Sally Morgan, adapted for young readers. Every year we will try to learn more.

All of this book learning is well and good, but it is learning about Aboriginal current affairs directly from the people themselves that I have enjoyed so much about 3 Kool 'N' Deadly this week. I feel I understand just a little bit better. I think Jemimah does too. And that can only be a good thing, can't it? It is really as the song says - it is from little things big things grow.


  1. Star has worked with William Barton, Australia's first didgeridoo artist in residence with the Qld symphony orchestra, & his mother, who works with troubled Aboriginal youth & tribal law. We had quite a conversation about the similarities between the didgeridoo & the bagpipes ~ both of which use a circular breathing technique & is how I come to know Barton can play the bagpipes! lol

    He is a school dropout whose passion has since taken him around the world. You can read a little about him here:

    My thoughts on these issues are complicated. I do not think they are as simple or straightforward as the reconciliationists would make them & there are wrongs on both sides. We are all sinners & that is the basic problem.

  2. I agree. I tried hard not to get political in my post because the issue of reconciliation is indeed a complicated one. Too hard for me. It is so good to hear indigenous people speak positively about a range of topics, though.

  3. Indeed Jeanne. I enjoyed reading your words today and hearing of your experiences of listening to Ab radio. I spent a year as a Volunteer in Mission at Shalom Christian College in Townsville where a number of the students were very keen to work on their local radio stations in their home communities of places such as Mornington Island.

    Shalom is a wonderful initiative by indigenous people themselves. They too see that education is an essential component in the process of reconciliation in Australia.

    Shalom Christian College: http://www.ccdeu.org.au/shalom_christian_college/welcome_to_shalom_chriistian_c.php

    I am intending to take our tour of Australia through literature this year as much as possible as it fits with our other outings and regular activities. I really enjoy hearing the books you are reading and invariably add them to my "to read" list as well. Looking forward to Stradbroke Dreamtime in particular.

  4. I lived in Darwin and saw a different side to Indigenous life that has coloured my childrens view - they saw drunk Aboriginals bashing up their partners, vomiting next to the shopping centre we shopped at, dismantling their homes etc... It was an education in its self but sadly they thought all Indigenous people lived this way, they were all drunk.

  5. Sadly, we don't have a very good view around here either. We're trying though.


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