Monthly Archives: October 2012

Due process… what’s in a name?

I have not the heart to write for long about the incredibly flawed EPA process and the collusion that exists at all levels with the W.A. State Government re: proposed development at Walmadany/James Price Point. The concept of one-person boards/committees still intrigues me. To anyone reading this, please listen to the ABC Kimberley Radio interviews with W.A. Environment Minister Bill Marmion, Paleontologist Dr Steve Salsbury and Ecologist Louise Beams via the link below:

Protection measures from Minister won’t go far: JPP

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The beach at 11 o’clock

Resting in a shallow cave in the sandy cliff,
Four pied oyster catchers waking me from my sleep.
The jellyfish have gone,
A neap tide and milky white ocean to swim in once more.
Ocean stratified in bands of blue – light and dark,
Blue sky with build up clouds.
Burning the soles of my feet in an unimagined delight,
Up and over the dune back to still heat.

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Collectively dreaming

Over the past week the act of collectively dreaming has woven its way into several of my yarns with F. Each time our conversation turns to this idea I feel a rush of energy and want to dwell here… Disconcertment also dwells here though. I feel a tension between putting my energy into a fight (defending and responding to threat) to protect country and focusing my energy and intention on loving this country and imagining it staying strong into the future (a generative and creative act/process). The question I have smouldering away in my mind is, can we (Indigenous and non-Indigenous people) collectively dream a future for this country? Every fiber of my being cries out, ‘We must!’ Is this one of the things that is happening when we are collectively walking the Lurujarri Song-cycle? Is this act of collectively dreaming at the core of Paddy Roe’s vision for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people being with/caring for country together? Then I think back to Scharmer’s (2009) references to presencing and allowing the highest possible future to emerge; when we are being with country and feel a sense of connection/in-separateness, does this allow our collective dream to emerge? Seeing each other and identifying as being part of a collective must be critical in all of this. Surely there needs to be a collective consciousness about something (say a future possibility) if it is going to emerge.
Already, in the conversations I have had with people who are becoming of this project, I have felt networks/connections strengthening. The process of yarning and sharing stories of being with country and love for country seems to be opening up a space where something collective can be expressed. Is it a recognition of each other through connections that we share? Is it a process of creating a collective entity through seeing and identifying with each other?
Each time I speak with someone about Paddy Roe’s vision for this country I get a sense that it still holds a lot of agency. When I spoke with B a few months ago he said, “Paddy’s vision is always alive, it is never dying and never dead; this one man’s vision is everyone’s vision, we’ll keep it going.” 
During this year’s Lurujarri Dreaming Trail Richard, Storyteller for the Northern Song-cycle, referred to the third people when we were sitting across from Ngunungkurrukun. He was sharing a story from Bugarregarre (dreaming) and then asked us all, ‘Who are the third people? That could be us.’ At the time I found it interesting that he brought Bugarregarre into the present and opened up a space for us to contemplate how we are part of this country. Then he said, ‘Country change and people change, together.’ How could it be any other way, unless we assume that we are separate and disconnected? I have been thinking about that for months now, the dynamic nature of relationships, place… they are all being performed with actors weaving in and out, some more powerful at times and then others. Someone else made a reference to the third people the other day when we were having a yarn about being with country. He posed a similar question, who are the third people that will be caring for country? I make no assumptions, I have only questions and much wondering about this.

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Law Below the Top Soil – Botsman Report

From the Save the Kimberley website:

Peter Botsman’s key findings as listed in Law Below the Top Soil:

  1. For overwhelming economic, social, cultural and environmental reasons the LNG precinct proposed for Walmadany (James Price Point) should not be built. The drivers to complete the LNG Precinct at Walmadany (James Price Point) are narrow: (1) State revenues and an ongoing push to industrialise the Kimberley (2) Woodside Petroleum’s potential for increased revenue (3) payments and benefits for the Indigenous community. These are not sufficient to (1) destroy the significant traditional cultural heritage of the area (2) to destroy a pristine and precious coastal environment (3) and to fundamentally undermine the people-centred tourist and cultural economy of the Broome region. Furthermore the hasty processing of the Browse resources will result in diminished revenue and an over-expenditure on infrastructure. In sum, such a project is against the national interest.
  1. The Lurujarri Trail — the magic 80 kilometre stretch from Broome’s Roebuck Bay Caravan Park, (spanning Gantheaume Pt/Entrance Pt through Daparapakun, Jurlarri, Lurujarri and Minarriny to north of Coulomb Pt), to Bindingankuny — should be preserved in a pristine state forever in accordance with the wishes of the traditional law holders and custodians who know the law and spirit of the land.
  1. The Browse Basin gas resources should be distributed by a pipeline to the Burrup Peninsula LNG plant or, if this involves too long a timeline for the gas lessees, then by floating gas liquefaction. The ‘use or lose’ it provisions engineered to fast track the Walmadany (James Price Point) development need to be the subject of a major parliamentary inquiry.
  1. All Australian economic development on Aboriginal land needs to be in accordance with the principle of Indigenous Free Prior Informed Consent (IFPIC). The threat of compulsory acquisition of the Walmadany lands and the formal bureaucratic methods of the Native Title process that took place in relation to it need to be reviewed in the light of IFPIC. In short, Australia needs to bring its laws and processes into line with the principles of IFPIC.
  1. Traditional Indigenous decision-making is best practice decision making. Decisions are made that are strong, binding and valued. Traditional processes do not occur by majority votes or participation in committees or through political representatives who can work within mainstream decision-making or negotiating frameworks according to a timeline. Decisions are made by ‘men and women of high degree’ who have a direct knowledge and expertise of the matters to be decided upon. The decisions of the leaders take time and are then endorsed by consensus as reflected in the liyarn of the customary group. Without these ingredients there can be no consent on matters as important as the status of lands and estates.  Aboriginal people, or any other people from outside areas have no bearing or right to determine decisions in such a forum.
  1. There will be some who view these findings as anti-progressive and anti-development. In fact they are the basis for a more enlightened economic development process. Australia must recognise that destroying the environment is not progress and pursuing the fastest dollar possible is not sound economic development.
  1. The hardship and plight of Kimberley Indigenous peoples is well understood. The need to celebrate and practise traditional law and culture as well as participate in the best of the mainstream world is the goal of all Indigenous people supported by all honourable Australians. The package of economic and social benefits negotiated by the KLC on behalf of the Jabirr Jabirr and other Kimberley Indigenous people was a step forward from the travesty of royalty payments in the Pilbara. There will be other opportunities to improve on these developments and to improve on this model, and to improve on it further.

Broome and the Kimberley have resisted the dictates of crass commercialism and development at all costs. Broome is the place where the White Australia Policy had only minimal effects on the shape and fabric of the people behind the famous fence that divided the European bosses from the greater community. The behind-the-fence Broome culture has created a wonderful spirit and people who know how to think in ten different cultural ways. This unique quality does not need just to be celebrated in the famous festivals of Broome. It needs to be a foundation for economic, social and cultural development of the region. Miners, economic developers and politicians would do better if they worked together with the people who have made the region so special. If they do so they are sure to have success and to bring wellbeing and prosperity to the region, Australia and the world.

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Getting sucked back into the space

I sat and had a yarn with K yesterday about our experiences of being with country on the Lurujarri Dreaming Trail. The thing that stuck me most about our time together was the sense that we were invoking the energy/feeling/space of Trail by talking about it. This reconnection with what is maybe the essence of the experience (for each of us) made me realise that although I may not always be walking country, there is a connection that I can be present to and call forth into being.

K talked a lot about being present on Trail, not just as a destination or something to aim for, but a process and way of being… a pathway to connection perhaps? A few days ago I was going through Otto Scharmer’s book ‘Theory U’ at my bush camp and came back to reading about presencing (as distinct from being present). Scharmer (2009: 163) describes presencing as shifting our place of perception ‘to a future possibility that is seeking to emerge.’ It seems apt to come back to this concept/practice now that I am clearer on the focus of my research – questioning, what kind of place-making is emerging out of the collective action of people walking and protecting the Lurujarri Songline together? Can people sense a future possibility that is seeking to emerge here on the Songline? Is this what we feel on Trail?

On Trail this year R spoke a lot about reading the country. I had fallen into the trap of interpreting this to mean literally seeing what was around me – seeing the signs in the bush and sea to understand the story that was being told/performed by place. Then I asked R how reading the country and le-an related… he said that le-an is reading the country, it is reading the country through feeling. Goolarabooloo and other Indigenous people up here talk a lot about le-an, as did Paddy Roe. Making sense of le-an for myself is another story. Listening to feelings that come when I’m being with country… subtle feelings that can easily be dismissed… sometimes not so subtle. F often speaks about ‘waking up’ to feeling/le-an, that walking the songline can be a big part of that ‘waking up’ and (re-)connecting.

Going back to the other day’s reading though, I read Scharmer’s ideas with a new awareness and started to see a whole lot of connections and associations that I hadn’t previously. Presencing and reading the country through our le-an, could they be the same thing, just expressed differently? 

Scharmer, O. (2009). Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.: San Francisco


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P.S. Send rain

I just watched a short film made by Annaliese Ceil Walker, which was inspired by Andrew McMillan’s poem A Postcard From Hell in October:

It reminded me of today, latitude 17.9620° S.

It’s hot.
The easterly is frying us like eggs today.
The wind teases by swinging around to the north-west, but only for a minute, then it’s gone.
Someone posted on FB that it was 28 degrees early this morning in Darwin.
I laughed and felt relief that I am a ways down south… not south enough.
Married turtle clouds float overhead laughing.
They’ll be no satisfaction from that mob in the sky for a while.
Meanwhile, miniature dragons masquerading as insects settle into my camp.
Did I unfurl the welcome mat?
Where is there relief then in this oven?
An ocean full of stingers and a hose filled with boiling water.
The options of getting wet evaporate, even in the shade.

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Filed under Moving Images, Poetry

Up a pole

George. Six hours up a mono-pole. Protecting sacred country from desecration. Protesting against the Section 18 which Woodside have applied for to clear and drill sacred Indigenous sites around Walmadany.

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Something woke me up. In the pre-dawn and still half asleep, I dragged myself out of the tent and walked the pindan track down onto the flood plain. The sun was not yet risen but the full moon was setting in the western sky. Climbing to the top of the sand dunes near the lagoon I saw a crest of black out beyond the receded tide. The reef was exposed. The scales were tipping fast, moon setting into the water and a big orange-pink sun bursting up above the horizon. There was no time to deliberate, the tide had already turned. Running down the steep side of the dune, my body trying to catch up to my legs, I crashed onto the soft sand below. Giant sand ripples shaped by the kind tide started to glisten in the orange glow of the sun as it hoisted itself higher and higher. The water’s edge was so far out. Could I walk all the way to the reef? It looked like a narrow band of water separating the sandy shore to the lagoon, but distances can be deceiving. I remembered what Sue said about stomping through the sandy shallows to frighten off any resting rays. Lucky I did, one took off with speed just as I planted my left food down with a thud. I kept asking myself, “Is it alright for me to go out here, am I safe?”. “Yes, yes, yes, hurry!!!” was what I got in response. The water got deeper and deeper, knee deep, waist deep, chest deep… time to swim the final leg. I clumsily dragged myself onto the rocky reef in relief. I’d never been out here before. My company to the left was a flock of wader birds feeding in the shallow rock pools. Walking around this rocky shelf in my pink thongs I felt a sense of guilt hearing the crusty surface crumbling under foot. Then they burst into my view, sponges, corals and sea weeds, in all of their bright colors. Why is it that I needed to see this world to better appreciate it, ingrain it in my consciousness? Rivulets of water, like the fingers of the tide, started to fill the rock pools. Exposed rocks were now fast becoming submerged. I was on a sinking ship. Hopping to the end of the reef I splashed into the channel, pants and shirt ballooning around my body as I breast-stroked back to shore. I picked out two stands of trees on the horizon and swam towards them. I thought the journey back was meant to feel shorter than on the way out. An underlying anxiety that I wasn’t actually moving anywhere crept in and I stroked even harder. I emerged out of the sea a bedraggled creature, saturated with relief. In the distance the silhouette of two figures disappeared into the naked lagoon. On my soggy walk back to camp I disturbed three brolgas ahead of me on the track. They took to flight and headed south, maybe to Buckley Plains. Wallaby, snake and oomung oomung tracks criss-crossed the sandy track. I could see the imprint of my thongs from the the previous night’s guitar serenade walk through the flood plain. This country holds me. I sing to it and its spirit sings to me… no, its spirit sings through me. We are together, how can I separate me from it (even those words imply a separateness)? Edges blur and there is just being with. The sound that emerges from me when I sing here is an expression of energy, essence, flow. Who else is swimming in this flow here in this place? The beauty and joy of connection is recognising one another.

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