“But the fear and contempt for Aboriginal people and culture, which perpetuated the lie of “Terra Nullius” for more than two centuries, is deeply institutionalised and far from quashed.” Sharon Collins
Note: Captain James Cook on an expedition navigated Australia’s east coast in 1770 which paved the way for British occupation. In 1776, January 26th Captain Arthur Phillip claimed sovereignty by the British crown over Australia. January 26th continues to be celebrated as “Australia Day” which remains a lie that denies the existence of Australia’s First Nations people. The High Court has ruled Terra Nullius” is indeed an obvious lie, but the process of undoing two centuries of entrenched racism is proving to be very difficult. While Cook contributed much to our understanding of the geography of the world, he also played his part in denying First Nation peoples their rightful place. Terra Nullius is Latin meaning “land belonging to no one.” Hence the lie.
At dVerse Sarah is hosting Poetics with an invitation to share a poem that has called to us, affected us in some way, positively or otherwise, and to write a poem in response. dVerse Poets – Poetics – A Conversation
I have chosen Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ and riffed on that a little. I despise war and I see it as a failure of humanity to sit down together. Wilfred Owen fought in the British army in WW1 and died at the age of 25 in 1918 one week before war’s end. For a detailed biography see The Wilfred Owen Association
Anthem For Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- only monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
“Men make war to get attention. All killing is an expression of self-hate.” Alice Walker
“I know the removal of the Colston statue will divide opinion, as the statue itself has done for many years. However it’s important to listen to those who found the statue an affront to humanity.” Marvin Rees (Mayor of Bristol)
“Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart.” Thomas Fuller
That one moment where you create time
when there isn’t time and you dare to
venture to the cupboard,
to the draw full of
the symbols of a life in a
house of histories,
restored to mind and yet,
rubber seals and old matches,
that old separator spanner,
a marble, a pen, a tack,
candles for birthdays,
the rest are nameless now,
these bits and pieces of a
Frank at dVerse has invited us to write a poem, but which must end with a rhyming couplet.
“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” Marcel Proust
The fetish of nostalgia reeks
like overripe banana in
an open bin on a hot day,
vanguard of decay in this
haunt of demons
waiting to persuade me,
to humiliate proud memories
that now enter the picture
distorted by time’s passing,
a repressive fiction
needing confessional diminution,
awaiting with shreds of contrition.
Photo: gdaypubs.com.au The former One Tree hotel in Hay.
“While all old people have been young, no young people have been old, and this troubling factor engenders the frustration of all parents and elders, which is that while you can describe your experience, you cannot confer it.” Andrew Solomon
An incomplete picture,
broken frames and corry,
the place of rusted stories
the utterances of elders
shaping new spirals
of futures undreamed,
incomplete visions verging,
questioning what we know,
let alone what we believed,
myths of belle époque
passing in the night
as we swept history aside
and made our own songs.
Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to know there is an image that displays deceased people.
“Australia Day” January 26 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet at Port Jackson in 1788. For most indigenous people this is known as invasion day. Their treatment to this day has been brutal and in the least one of denial and rejection. It is a hard history to read and on the part of the colonial architects, even to this day, a very shameful history. I am one of many Australians who would rather move the celebration to a new date in conjunction with a dialogue with indigenous peoples as to how to achieve that. But then I believe that nationalism and patriotism are poisonous, as history and our nightly news shows, so maybe no day is needed.
Photo: Australian National University: Aboriginal men in chains in the Kimberly, date unknown.
“Obviously colonial arrogance is a long time dying.” Alain Badiou
Your Disapproved Skin
We dug our wealth from under your feet,
and we housed ourselves in your delicate bones,
scarifying your disapproved skin
with our tribal markings,
chaining your bodies but never your hearts,
we hunted a perception of you
and caricatured our values as superior;
as a weak parent blames their child
we laid a burden of blame upon you,
a fiction of conscience,
a trick of justification,
that had no purpose other than
to exploit the very breath of you,
surely our sorry must be
the very breath of us.
Image: The Australian Aboriginal Flag – Formally recognised in 1995 as an official flag, was designed by Harold Thomas, a Luritja man in 1970 and first displayed at the National Aboriginal Day in Adelaide in 1971. The design is significant: the colours represent the Aboriginal peoples of Australia, the red ochre of the earth and a spiritual connection to the sun the giver of life and protector (as stated by Harold Thomas).
Photo: Getty Images. Princess Dianna sitting with amputees, victims of landmines, Angola, 1997. Dianna as many will remember ignited opposition to the use of landmines which resulted in the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty and drew attention to the work of the Halo Trust whose work is clearing mines and advocacy against mines and weapons of war. She had that inner beauty, photos of her shaking hands with lepers, sitting with HIV sufferers, visiting homeless shelters and os on. I’m not a monarchist, but her work was of a different order.
“I’d read the statistics that Angola has the highest percentage of amputees anywhere in the world … that one person in every 333 had lost a limb, most of them through land mine explosions. But that hadn’t prepared me for the reality.” Dianna Spencer
So beautiful, those legs, her …
And such a mind, but O her heart,
her beauty drew the cameras,
merely a stage for the inner beauty
of her compassion for the world.