The gorge at Tjukurla last July. A precious water hole for the community here since time began, for the white explorers like Ernest Giles an age ago, and now more a wonderful place to visit, as we all did.
When white settlers arrived on the shores of Australia, they immediately began to move into the interior, exploring for possible farm lands, minerals, and for building community. Immediate impressions were bleak, explorers often commenting on the harshness of the bush, the lack of water, the heat in summer, overall, the bush was perceived as harsh and dangerous. Some, like the Burke and Wills expedition (1860) from Melbourne to Carpentaria, saw all but one of the seven team members perish.
But if you read Australia’s expedition history you quickly discover that, though Australia’s bush is indeed a harsh environ, human error accounts for most of the deaths of exploreers. Their perception of the bush skewed the reality. The proof of this is that for milennia Australia’s indigenous people thrived in these very inerior spaces. Spaces like Tjukurla where water, wildlife and vegetation, were available, and so it was possible to live in these spaces, if you but understood the how of these spaces. Australian Aboriginal people knew how, over centuries of experience they knew what to do and how to do it. For them the land was not hostile but friend, not harsh, but purposeful. Theirs was a life living in seasonal rhythm, in harmony with the elements, with respect for all life, with intimate knowledge. They understood the feel of the land, its formation and power. They only took what was necessary for all, their ethic was shared space.
If only we’d bothered to look with their eyes and heart, if only we’d taken time to understand. A perception of harshness leads to negative response, distrust leads to disrespect, a disregard for the vast yet fragile environ. Ownership individualises every experience and leads to conquest, even of each other, and nothing is shared, only despair.
Aboriginal life is testimony to how skewed white understanding of the land and community has been.
Fortunately the tide has begun to turn and we are learning from our indigenous their ways of valuing nature and community, ways that will enable us to battle global warming, climate change and all that is ill in our land. They lived without us for milenia, they didn’t need us, but we sure do need them.
The gorge at Tjurkula is proof that the bush is tough, but yet yielding, in the midst of hard granite, sandstone, and dry earth lies precious and life-giving water. The water sustains wildlife and plants, and gives life to all.
I sometimes see that that is how we are meant to be, life giving into our world.