Sunday, September 27, 2015

Home sweet River

Do you feel it? Can you feel it?
The incredible weight and the pull of the land where you were born, the place which raised you... It is calling always for you to return. Can you hear it? It is strong, it's in the blood and the metal of you. It hurts to go back but if you deny it you will be dragged... It will always be within you whether you respond to it's claim or deny...

I am back. For just a short time, in the cool of spring and the cold rain and the wind and the paddocks are wet and my feet are cold and my heart is pounding and the river is flowing and the birds sing and the roos bound and the trees remember.
Ancient trees remain where they were before my birth and I pray will continue when I'm gone

At times like this I remember a few lines from Roger Waters song 'Sunset Strip'. 
"And I sit in the canyon with my back to the sea
There's a blood red dragon on a field of green
Calling me back, back to the Black Hills again"
Billy, a young man from Wales many miles from home, trapped somewhere in the mad rush of Southern California and Sunset Strip... but his roots demand his attention and he cannot deny it!

From my parents house I have made a couple of early morning treks back into my old stomping ground. To those secret places which formed me in some way in the valleys among the trees, on the steep and craggy dry slopes, the cliff side ledges and river flats of the Plenty Gorge. I knew that place before. Does anyone know it now?

The old trails remain

Wombats have appeared, I never knew them here

Where there had been impenetrable blackberry now fields of grassy tussocks.
 This place is burned deeply inside me. I am overjoyed to see it spared from the urban sprawl and possibly even  forgotten or ignored by the mass of humans entrenched on the other side of it's boundary fences. I wish I could stay to care for it, but maybe it's best left forgotten, long live cable TV and the sedentary life of consumers!    

Billy searching for his native land.

Years ago, late one sweltering summer Sunday morning, as we lay on the floor of my mates grandmother's house crunching ice and nursing horrendous hangovers, at the height of a friendship now a fading memory, I was introduced to Roger Waters solo album. Radio KAOS.

We were broke and couldn't afford any more beer, all we had left was a bag of ice, to cradle as the mercury rose beyond what even we desperadoes could handle. Hungover and with only our legs for transport we found ourselves in the intolerable situation of being Housebound!
Then my mate John, after establishing that we were stuck said: 
"I've got a record I want you to listen to."(Yes we still listened to LP records back then) "I think you'll like it, but you've gotta listen to the whole thing. Don't talk, don't do anything just listen to this record"
I was having trouble getting myself up off the floor, on account of the severity of my self-inflicted dipsomania...
"OK" I said wondering if I was going to be left in the prone position on the floor while he played more Heavy Metal at full volume or if I was going to have to endure another round of George Thorogood...

I heard the crackle of the speakers as John placed the needle down on the album... the telltale rhythm as it's diamond tip orbited a slightly uneven vinyl disc... I had no idea what to expect.

There was a distant sound of Morse code growing louder... the voice of a talk back radio presenter announcing that we are listening to K.A.O.S. radio in Las Angeles... then the robotic, mechanized  voice of Billy introducing himself and announcing that he hears radio waves in his head... (I already felt disjointed and divorced from reality, and my body, as I remained virtually paralyzed on the wooden floorboards of an elderly lady's house, the drunken guest of her rebel grandson...) In my feeble state the album penetrated me to the core! Each song followed the central theme, it was a story line and the lead character had entered my brain as though there was no record playing. To me it was like Waters had channeled the Billy's voice directly into my head. (I was in shocking condition, still unable to gather my own thoughts after a hard night of unending alcohol consumption)

We'd played that album about three times in a row when the rest of our crew finally become so completely bored they opted to walk in the 40 degrees Celsius heat, on melting bitumen rather than endure another round... I kept listening... I read the lyrics... I played songs over and back until the ice had melted.

When I left that house my brain had been re-organized. So many of my private feelings validated at last, and all held together in a green Morse album cover. I cherished the heat and my hangover, the ice and the wonky, splintered wooden floor I'd been laying on all day.  I had heard the baffled ramblings of my own mind and spirit beamed back at me via the turntable as if I had been communicating directly with the source via radio waves myself.

Possibly a once in a lifetime experience.       

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Last Tuesday saw a huge contingent from the bush turning up at NT Parliament house to protest against proposed fracking leases across the NT.

If I had time I'd say more but I'm on the road and don't have time to write.
Here's some photos just for the record. Over 300 at an NT rally is a pretty decent turn out!


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kimberley rambling

Last weekend I was finally able to visit the community of Mowunjum, near Derby in the far North West corner of of Western Australia.

The ladies visiting Old Mowunjum
I first met Aunty Janet Oobagooma about seven years ago. She is a true living treasure! I've always been in awe of her resilience when hearing her stories of Mowunjum, Old Mowunjum, her country and the precarious life of people who have been moved from pillar to post over the past 50 or so years.

Although our business was in Mowunjum, it was more convenient to stay in Derby. I'd heard a few stories about Derby, mostly people advising not to bother going there, it's in the middle of a salt pan... no beach etc... etc...

Derby is a much nicer place than I expected. I suppose compared to Cable Beach in Broome, the Derby marsh isn't much competition, but the town itself is quite pleasant, quiet and welcoming. The town is full of Boab trees, which are very picturesque in the sunset and the view of the jetty at dusk is pretty awesome too.

Back at the motel it was hard to sleep past 5:00am. Just before the first rays of dawn butcher birds would practice their elaborate songs, quite loudly outside my window. The song of a butcher bird is beautiful but once I am roused from my sleep I rarely go back.

On the second day there a few of us went down to see the old Prison Tree... So we're pulling out of Derby headed toward Mowunjum, the tree was kind of on the way, when Maratja say's "Hey Johnny sent me this song, you should play it now..."
"It's about that Jandamarra"

Johnny is a friend of Maratja's, a really decent bloke and a great folk musician (songwriter). I met him a couple of times at Elcho. When he and a couple of the other guys got together they just made up songs right then and there! 

NRCC Exec members standing by the tree.
So we figure out the technology and hook up his phone to the stereo and there's Johnny singing this awesome song about the injustice of early settlement (among other things) and it's all about the Prison Tree and I'm in a car full of first nation people from East and West Arnhem and I have to explain what the tree is.... (Here's a brief description)
Not an enviable task for a white boy!

If you click the link below you can listen to a sample of the song. I highly recommend purchasing it or even the whole CD. Great music by Johnny McIntyre.

My Mari and I supporting the cause

About 70km out from Broome we visited a spot where a fella was making a courageous stand against the frackers who were planning to drill on his property. Unfortunately we didn't get to meet him but it was good opportunity to discuss the issue prior to the rally which took place in Darwin the following Tuesday.

Many thanks to Aunty Janet and, special thanks to Kirsty Burgu, who allowed us a special visit and interpretive tour of the Arts and Cultural Centre.

Before jumping on a plane and rushing back to Darwin we did stop at Broome's legendary cable beach and I did have an amazing swim... and I did seriously consider not going home!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Watching TV

Just spent the morning learning how to advocate in a rational way for people whose lives are at the mercy of a system run by despotic psychopaths.

I have to be realistic and admit... I can't fucking do it!

Over the past 3 days facebook and just about every media source on the planet has featured images of a little boy lying  dead, face down on a beach. Aylan Kurdi. It seems this image has shook the world. so it should. Compassion is beginning to flow due to wide exposure to the tragic image of this little boy (Thank God). Remember him, his mother and brother when you hear about asylum seekers and refugees, think of his father who only wanted to save his family and remember! There are 1,000s more who our country has turned it's back on. Can we now talk about a humanitarian response to the tragedy of war and displacement?

As I was writing this post an email popped into my inbox. This article by Natasha Blucher says it all.

If you've posted an image of this boy out of sympathy or, donated money or signed a petition, please don't let it stop at that! Hit the streets when you are called to stand up for human rights. Go and meet your local MP or at least write them a letter. Australia is engaged in some pretty evil shit right now and it's being done to children just like Aylan. We meet them every day but their faces can't be shown in the media. If you could only see how they suffer you might think twice about supporting the Australian Government's Border Force (farce) policies.

I left the training session feeling powerless. Came home and listened to Roger Waters and remember we've been through all this before. Apparently after the Tienanmen Square massacre Australia accepted about 40,000 asylum seekers. 

Attitudes in this country have changed a lot since then. What will we do this time?

(Warning: The following film-clip contains images of war and deceased people)

The Guys who built the dark satanic mills that manufacture hell on earth.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

What ever happened to the McArthur River?

Back in 2006 the people of Borroloola and concerned Northern Territorians rallied against a proposed expansion to the McArthur River Mine (MRM).
The expansion involved turning what was an underground mine into a full open cut mine and diverting a section of a large Tropical River for kilometers through a dozed channel to avoid flooding of the mine (and theoretically to prevent contamination of the River)

Locals and environment advocates fought a hard battle with the mining company (conglomerate) Xstrata Queensland Limited. (Mount Isa Mines Ltd) , who had already proven to be incapable of preventing leakage of contaminants from the existing mine.
Despite strong evidence against the miner's capacity to protect the natural resources of the area the expansion was approved by the Minister for Mines and Energy.

The decision was challenged in the supreme court case of: Lansen and Ors v Northern Territory Minister for Mines and Energy [2007] NTSC 28.
The presiding judge Justice Angel ruled that approval should not have been given by the Minister. Basically he found that a mine classified as 'underground' could not simply be changed to an open cut mine with a nod and a wink by the Minister for Mining. See the: Mining Management Act 1990 (NT).

So then things got really dirty. The NT Government dived in to defend the mining company. They actually rewrote the law and applied it retrospectively to overturn the Supreme Court ruling. They adjusted the McArthur River Project Agreement Ratification Act 1992 (NT) pretty much giving MRM management permission to do whatever they want with the land, the river and the future of the people in the region. (read more HERE)

The mine went ahead and the river was diverted.

Protest rally September 2006
Environmentalists were pissed off, the people of Borroloola were mortified and the average Territorian didn't seem to appreciate just how much they had lost. For a Government to amend a law retrospectively in order to get what they want and ignore the health and cultural concerns of citizens, disregard environmental protection safeguards and show such contempt for the laws of the land was an insult to all Territorians but we barely heard a murmur from the average citizen... Even though this affected one of the best fishing spots in the NT. Maybe they thought it was only a Blackfella problem?

So here we are 8 [9] years later and the river is showing serious signs of contamination, people are afraid to eat fish from the river or surrounding coastal water but there has been no advice from the Department of health about the health risks connected to the river!
What's changed?
  • The environment is far more polluted than it was 9 years ago.
  • The name of the company is Glencore 

Today once again representatives from the Borroloola community returned to Parliament House to visit the Minister for the Environment. They brought a petition with 3,600 signatures on it calling for the closure of the mine and rehabilitation of their land. (ABC report HERE)

Environment Centre NT workers were also there to support the call for justice and to highlight the multiple failures at the mine and Government departments in ensuring the adherence to NT and Australian Environmental laws. The level of contamination poses very serious health risks to residents of Borroloola and surrounding communities. There could be serious consequences for not notifying people of the risk to health.

The McArther River Mine should be an example to every Territorian that our Government is prepared to stomp the lives of it's own people into the dirt rather than miss an opportunity to support extraction resource companies from making a packet at our expense!