Volume 2, Issue 5 Editorial

editorial pdf

With a southerly breeze wafting around, I was sitting in the sun overlooking Bass Strait trying to capture a vague imprint of the day’s beauty in my sketch book. I became aware of a woman standing beside me, she asked: ‘What is the attraction here?’ I simply said ‘the sea’. ‘Is that all?’ she said, to which I replied in a rather defensive mode that later on that weekday afternoon swimmers and surfers of all ages would be in the water enjoying the high and powerful waves, others would be walking in the shallows and some would be sitting on the sand looking beyond to the expansive sky. Without comprehension she thanked me and told me that she and her husband were about to travel the Great Ocean Road and would be on the lookout for as many attractions as possible!

It was with some trepidation that the theme Indigenous Voices was chosen for this edition. With the arrival of Europeans in this land came a terrible blindness – eyes that were seeing only in terms of their own lands, a search for attractions and advantages that belonged to the cultures they had left behind. This blindness unleashed a torrent of influence and power aimed at subduing the land and not only obscuring its inhabitants but silencing the voices of Indigenous peoples. This torrent has wrought death, dispossession and destruction across the land but it has not succeeded: the Indigenous voice cannot be silenced, it is embedded in the very country itself.

As I look into the eyes of Sharelle on the cover of this edition, I feel both a deep sadness for what has not been seen and a strong desire for what might yet be seen. This girl seems so full of hope and expectation as her elder calls forth her vibrant spirit and strength as a young Indigenous woman. But can we see her, can we attune our ears to her voice? Her fight is not yet won as we colonisers continue to close our eyes and ears to the cries of this land. The climate is changing and we try to deny it, the fertile soils are disappearing and we think we can inject those remaining with vitality, the forests are felled. Consumerism invades the land and renders it devoid of spirit – a spirit though that refuses to die.

This is not a journal to be read quickly. Many of the articles and images require a pondering heart and an ear attuned to the sacred whispers calling us to recover from our ‘ontological crippling’ (see p20).

Arabana woman Julieanne Manson speaks from the perspective of her people and asks whether or not indigenous cultural knowledge challenges or compliments non-Indigenous understandings of knowledge, identity and meaning. She illustrates the circular pattern of perception and relationships that underpins a way of life that springs from an indestructible belief that the land is sacred. Her art work People, Sprit and Place is evidence that painting is a powerful means of multileveled storytelling and In Land and Limb Eliza Power writes of another artistic expression of story.

After decades of living amongst the Yanyuwa peoples, John Bradley writes of the power of the song lines interlaced through the sea and land and the intricate relationships weaving together all being past, present and future. The influence of this power can be found in the conversation with Jabirr-Jabirr man Rodney Augustine and wife Susanna about the fight to save his Kimberley country from the marauding mining companies, albeit in the face of resistance from some of his own family. The pride that inspires Rodney’s passion is seen at another level further on in the journal, in the story of Vicki Clark‘s establishment of the Proud Race project.

Jan Morgan as always, engages us in a profound reflection on our ‘storied land’ and vividly calls to mind the blindness that has cloaked the vision of colonizers. We are presented with the challenge of joining hands with our Indigenous sisters and brothers to speak from the edges in the name of country and to listen deeply to the voices of the spirits of the land. Caroline Smith’s article offers a very practical avenue into this deep listening that challenges us to re-orient our perceptions and interpretations of seasonal cycles in a more empathetic awareness of the true rhythms of our diverse bioregions.

You will find more encouraging and inspirational articles in the pages of this edition and don’t forget the book reviews!

There is no denying that in the last two and half centuries tragedy is threaded through the story of this land in terms of hearing Indigenous voices. It was with tears in our eyes that many of us read the Bringing Them Home report on the Stolen Generation in 1997. Similarly many of us also wept as we listened to the Parliament’s apology to these people in February 2008. But we have a way to go yet as we attune ourselves to the integral relationship between people and country and discover the sacred therein. May EarthSong’s dream of drawing on ancient wisdom for new times flourish amongst us.

Anne Boyd