Saturday Evening Post #143 : On Country

I was pleasantly pleased to see the other day that Australia Post is encouraging people to add the First Nation’s Traditional Place name to their address fields in letters and parcels.  Here is a map that is a start on the journey

I had the fortune I guess as a small lad to grow up in a Murray River community and was friends with a several of the local young boys.  Now to my memory there never was much talk about being ‘on’ or ‘in’ Country, but truth be told I might have missed it anyway.

What is memorable now, with some much older and better pondered hindsight is that the lads, whether hunting, swimming or messing about in the bush weren’t all that fussed about being ‘in or on’.  It came to me later that they, ‘were’ country.  Moving with an ease and confidence that was as eternal as the trees, rocks, bushes and animals.

It is more than just an acceptance of the area, it was a spiritual connection, not so much in the mystic, but rather in embracing they were part of the environment. No doubt more wiser heads than mine can explain all the elements, but I’ve noted over the years the same kind of ‘spiritual connection’ among many cultures and religions.  Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Dao, Buddhist and many others. The clear connection between themselves and the land around abound. Not only at some higher form, but the simple integration of action with belief.

#Kneetoo’s family worked the Hay Plain and Lachlan River areas, and Bill, my Father-in-Law had developed a very respectful relationship with the Dadi Dadi and Mari Mari traditional owners of the area. The family stories of their connection and how the locals would turn up at one of Bill’s camps, says much about both.

Did any of it rub off on to me?   Well a quick story.  When I was around 17 or 18, one of our city relatives came to visit over the summer holidays.  We decided to go for a bit of an exploration along the Murray River bank near home,  a place I have to say that I did know quite well.   It didn’t take me long to pick up a kangaroo pad, or slip through the riverside scrub, but my city born and bred relative found the going quite difficult.   We also waded across the River at a point where during summer the shallow water ran over a long clay secure bottom.  I didn’t stop to look but simply crossed.  He, hesitated. Lookrd, and then gingerly took each step as if it might be his last. But by the end of the day, his grin from being in the grove with the around was as wide as the flowing river.

Full disclosure.  When I first moved to the “Big Smoke” I stayed with them for about a year and he was able to do the same thing for me among the backstreets and parkways around his home.  A learning experience.

When we walk the Eynesbury forest with the award winning Chris Lunardi, he won’t let me lead a walk.
“I’ve watched you walk off the track and then disappear before my eyes,” he’ll say.  “Then twenty minutes later, about a kilometer down the track you’ll suddenly re-appear on the side of the track.  It’s eerie!”
But then again.  I like Grey Box forest. It’s been said, kindly and not so kindly that I have Grey Box sap in my veins. 🙂

My first few seasons at Woodlands Historic Park were not years of bird photography.  I walked the paddocks and the hillsides as a Landscape Photographer.  Even had the kit. The header image while taken on a digital camera, is in fact firmly attached to a whacking great tripod that I used to use with a 4×5 inch Linhoff Super Tecknika camera.  Standard fare of my early trade.

This one was in the early mists of mid-winter.  One of my fav times for those moody landscapes.
The creekline is Moonee Ponds Creek, –Woiworung Country—and the rich red sand in the foreground was much prized by the builders in Melbourne during the building boom around 1880-1900s.  The locals would fill drays from the creek and transport them to the building sites.  So I didn’t have to do much work on the image to keep that richness intact.

I’m guessing I don’t roam as much as I used to, much preferring these days to have a Jon Young ‘Sit Spot’ and watch the interactions of the trees, birds, animals, clouds and winds on a much more macro level.  Each. To his own.

Wathaurong Country


6 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #143 : On Country

  1. Interesting observations, David! I look back to growing up in the bush and there was no them and us, we all just were.
    We learnt from parents and friends the skills needed, some of us even learned a thing or two from The Possum, though we never actually met him. If you are not familiar with Possum, Max Jones book, A Man Called Possum is a good read.
    Anyway, back to the point. We all went to school together, played football (together and on opposing teams). Perhaps we were just all simple country people who didn’t know any different!
    A splendid image from the Moonee Ponds Creek.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, I think we were all just a lot simpler in a lot simpler world.
      I had to trim down a few extra paragraphs from this as it seemed to me I was getting a bit esoteric even for me.

      When I was in that growing up phase my local librarian, (bless her heart) had a good number of books on American Indian Folklore, they nearly all gravitated out to my reading zone.
      The book by Iola Fuller, “Shining Trail” was a bit of a watershed, if not a rite of passage into other cultures.

      Such recognition in our country has been a long time coming.

      Thanks for the thoughts on the image. It is one I do return to often


  2. Love your reflection Dave
    I think we all have to respect and love the land as indigenous Australians if it is going to be sustainable for future generations.
    As the oldest living culture on Earth, indigenous Australians have much to teach us.


  3. An interesting history narrative of your early years David. I have a little to do with friends and elders of the Biripai of the mid-north coast of our state in past years, they were warm friendly people from the stolen generation who had been badly mistreated by our ancestors but had forgiven them, their stories still haunt and disturb, Beautiful people so appreciative of my friendship. What hurt e was how the local Caucasians made no effort to befriend or understand them.


  4. It is a very good story, David and your photo of the misty Mooonee Ponds Creek is a fine illustration accompanying your narrative. I was listening to some ABC broadcast on that day when they were discussing the First Nation’s Traditional Place names. I don’t have any ancestors or any childhood history of living in Australia, still this is the place where I’ve spent the longest piece of my life. Because of many reasons, one of them being my linguistic degree, I was always interested in the local names here and I was not happy when the bit of Moorabbin, where I bought my house, was renamed to Hampton East after that consolidation of municipalities under Jeff’s government. Uluru, Gariwerd – I use these names by default.
    I wouldn’t mind reading those trimmed down, ‘a bit esoteric’ paragraphs of your story…


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