Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Homeland calling

Yolngu friends tell me without hesitation; “The place your mother carried you, the place of your gestation and birth is your home”. (There are other lands you can belong to but that place has a special primacy) I have no idea where my mum went while she was carrying me but for sure I was born in the old Hospital at Greensborough On Wurundjeri land in Victoria, I lived in that area the first 26 years of my life, it is part of me. I grew up on that land and always wondered about the people who belonged there but in all that time I don't believe I'd ever been introduced to a Wurundjeri person. It's possible I've met some but with the shame put on Aboriginal people when I was growing up who would dare say!

My folks place... Once an outpost of native shrubs they now prefer the cottage garden. No lawn for 30 years!

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time playing in the earth around my family home, must have eaten my share too! Grass bomb wars with neighborhood kids in the paddock across the road were a regular event in primary school days, much soil and some stones were absorbed one way or another. Plucking raw food from my parents garden all that stuff.

As I grew I hit the dirt slightly further afield, sometimes literally (rough play and bike crashes), eating cherry plums from derelict fruit trees, cow pat mushroom picking along the old aqueduct, camping in local bush-land, eating roasted rabbit, greasy fried eel, swimming in the swollen Plenty Rive and swallowing too much of it’s muddy brown wash… 

Plenty River below Western Ring Road bridge

Whenever I return to my childhood home all those memories engulf me in a homecoming melancholic delight that is sometimes overwhelming, the angle of the sun, the scent of foliage in the heat or the rain, the wild grassy weeds, everyting! I want to share it all with my kids!

So regardless of how it happens, I have a very strong connection with my childhood home and I believe ‘it’ is quite literally in my blood. 

Roos in the Janefield paddocks, Plenty River

Visiting my parents last week was the perfect opportunity to share my ‘homeland’ with my kids, who were born on Larrakia land in the North. 
As I write this I know I must have told the same story before, here, maybe the same, maybe slightly different but most likely retelling the same basic narrative of my origins. I tend to tell over the story, as I recall it maybe as a way of affirming some kind of identity, belonging to somewhere....
Riding across the Partington Flat Swing Bridge

This visit was perfect, we cycled a lot of my old haunts and visited many of the special places. We breathed in the cool dry air, took note of all the different animals and birds, Rosellas, sparrows, roos, maggies, hover flies and bees... Rainbow lorikeets and starlings.

Invasive species trashing Feijoa flowers
Mum's Feijoa tree is in full bloom but has fallen victim to the latest wave of invasive species. The otherwise beautiful Rainbow Lorrikeet who appears to have replaced the Starlings and Minahs as usurper and thief of breeding hollows from the local species such as Red-rumped parrots and Eastern Rosellas.

Mid week we traveled down to Barwon Heads (Wadawurrung country), somewhere I'd always wanted to spend time. When I was young I used to pass through this way often, seeking excitement on my motorbike along the Great Ocean Road. I did happen to sleep in a cave on the bluff one New Years Eave but left at dawn. This was my first stay at Barwon Heads, during the off peak season it's a beautiful quiet place. We had a great time here and the kids got to chill out with their grandparents.

Barwon Bluff

Returning to Melbourne we had a wonderful day with my Nieces and Nephews celebrating three birthdays in one. 

Fishing off the jetty at Barwon Heads - Ship entering Port Philip Bay in the distance
Now I'm back in the NT and back at work. It's hot and feeling kind of foreign to me. I have a few connections here and have become fairly familiar with the land and environment. This place has it's own rhythm and pace, The bush is alive and Yolngu know it's seasons and ways intimately. I have learned only a little about these things but it equates to a lot more that what I know about my own country, yet somehow. Regardless of my ignorance, my heart and blood remains tied to the land where I grew up. 
Maybe one day I will live there again?

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