Andyamanthana

Life has always been for me a series of incredible experiences (ever since I was a little boy) which seem possible only when I manifest that greatness before me. As Nyikina Traditional Custodian and Elder, Paddy Roe attests, we dream our life before us, we walk in our dreaming so it makes sense that when we switch to a position of empathy and fairness that we must be growing along with that change.

No longer are our dreams simply inconvenient defrags of an overfull brain hard-drive. They are part of who we are and are full of sense, not no sense. Our days are spent in that dreaming too and we walk in that dreaming, not apart from it.

Like any other human my insatiable curiosity and love of affection and connection has seen me run foul of those who seek out a way to exploit situations for financial and political gain, a power hunger when so little good is happening in their own lives.

(L) Anne Poelina, (M) Lucy Marshall and (R) Jeannie Wabi

(L) Anne Poelina, (M) Lucy Marshall and (R) Jeannie Wabi

Fortunately my Kooya, my Nyikina Mothers have taught me that anger is little more than an emotion that is largely a waste of energy and Mutti Mutti Elder Tom Winch has taught me that to consider others as children until they reveal themselves as adults means we have to somehow grow others even if they do wrong against us.

As has Aunty Kathy Brown, Andyamanthana Elder from Quorn, South Australia who I had the privilege of speaking at length with on the telephone. Kathy and I befriended each other by SMS and then Facebook regarding the screenings of the 'Protecting Country' film as I travelled up from Adelaide into Kathy's country and towns where she has lived and her ancestors have owned since the beginning of time itself.

Please take the time to visit and read the content of the Andyamanthana Wikipedia page - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adnyamathanha

During our conversation Kathy asked me whether under Andyamanthana moitiey if I had been named as past on by Mothers. I indicated that I had travelled through country and met Law men and others who had referred to Kathy as their Aunty.

So, it is an incredible honour and with respect I am informed that Aunty Kathy Brown informed me that under moitiey she can now call me Brother, that these things are not done any more. Kathy also stated that her Grandfather is the last Andyamanthana King of the Andymanathana tribe, Sam Coulthard. 

I am known by the Andyamanthana people as Udnyu which means 'non-Aboriginal'.

angel

 

This ability to bring people into a kin relationship with the Andyamathana people is by the Mothers of the Andyamantahana peoples. Kathy spoke of her own Father who was non-Aboriginal yet he encouraged his Children to learn their Aboriginal culture.

Aunty Kathy Brown, Andyamanthana Elder

Aunty Kathy Brown, Andyamanthana Elder

So it is that Aunty Kathy Brown is my Yukka - my big Sister.

Sam Coulthard, the last Andyamanthana King is Kathy's Mothers Father. Margaret Brown, Kathy's Mother is now my Ngumi.

In that kin relationship I am also now Noonga, Older Brother to Dean Brown and Kathy's baby Sister, Julienne.

In our conversation we spoke of Witchelina Station where Kathy's brothers and Son's have worked - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchelina - "....Witchelina Station is a pastoral lease that has operated as a sheep station and cattle station but is now a nature reserve in South Australia."

What is apparent to me is that there is a greatness that comes with connection, with listening to country.

Country first.

In Nyikina, country is known as Buru.

I am yet to learn my Andyamanthana language and word for country :)

Judbarra

A unique and outstanding highlight of our trip across country was definitely passing through the Judbarra National Park in the Northern Territory and snaking our way down the way valleys alongside Victoria Creek.

You can read about this area here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judbarra_/_Gregory_National_Park

"...The park includes traditional lands of several Indigenous Australian groups, including Ngarinyman, Karrangpurru, Malngin, Wardaman, Ngaliwurru, Nungali, Bilinara, Gurindji and Jaminjung, and spans the boundary between two major Australian language families, Pama Nyungan and Non-Pama-Nyungan (Northern)."

It is a vast valley that keeps going through amazing country all the way through to Timber Creek. As we passed through some of the steepest sections of the pass we decided to go for a short walk up a mountain side and from that vantage we could see around through and back to the main pass start many kilometres away. The significance of the walk was the impact we felt when we discovered a stone flinting quarry under a cave side probably tens of thousands of years in occupation.

We left it intact, we spoke out that we came in peace and with respect and we did as least we could to disturb anything in that vicinity.

The palm trees grow alongside the cliff edge and the vista is nothing short of spectacular. It was a privilege to be able to have a short swim in the Victoria River and then to be able to appreciate the sheer beauty of the area with tourists in their RV vans zooming past "making good time" as they careen from one caravan park bar to another.

The previous days conversations still fresh in my mind, the Northern Territory truly is a territory and not a state, a place of Law and a place where all Australian's need to connect with, not simply visit.

The following photos were taken by Liam on that day in the Judbarra. You can view more of Liam's photos at https://500px.com/liam_wille

Karlwekarlwe

eagle

Another sacred Aboriginal meeting place and yet another example of the catastrophe that western civilisation has inflicted on another otherwise spectacular work of nature, belief, tradition and Law desecrated.

I often find myself grinning at my own silly prose but in some circumstances such as today I find myself oscillating in abject cynicism as what we witnessed today could well be a horror show, perhaps a dystopic science fiction movie and at best a modern day drama with all the hallmarks of a war crime.

I understand that we are a nation, a humanity of children raising children and so on by as an old Jewish man said to me last night our role as teachers is full of suffering as we recoil in horror at what others do to our environment and to each other. We have to try and bring people along and help them understand things, not get angry.

Home to the Kaytetye, Warumungu, Anmatyerr and the Alyawarr people of this area, Karlu Karlu these scared stones are in many areas desecrated with graffiti, the carparks filled with over-filled Winnebago’s, Maui motor homes and 4WD after 4WD laden with Crispy Creme donuts and tomato sauce. Generators blaring, air mattress inflators whining, diesel motors dragging every know contraption from home, in a motor home, to another place to sit in dribbling shit to each other over campfires they burn their plastic trash in.

There is nothing that resembles “devils marbles” to me in this area nor was it the same for me when I visited “gins leap”. Why the fuck does western lack-of-civilisation name to shame every natural beauty on this country? Another question….

How is it that the National Parks service of Australia could establish, allow and support roads literally within metres of these rocks, install a pit toilet on the only stream of water here (besides the fresh water pockets when it rains on the rocks) and install didactic panels for every god damned thing there is to look at?

The paradox is that one culture describes another with written panels literally on top of what is a sacred space and tells people to respect that traditional culture and yet by doing is desecrating that space in the first place.

On a better note I was greeted with a rabble of Aboriginal kids running around the base of the rocks and their carer, Ben Mack from Alice Springs in tow. 

I learned he also has a firm NO to fracking of any sort on any country of Australia, quick to observe that he doesn’t speak for this country here but is unified also with the idea that a uranium dump of any level anywhere on Australia is an absolute NO NO. As was his colleague, Cheona Lehnert from ITEC and Safe Pathways NT, bringing these kids back on country, away from certain incarceration, marginalisation and yet with incredibly positive prospects due to the amazing work of these programs.

The camper vans continued to pile in and with Barrow Creek Bar firmly in the rear view mirror I reckon we are going to get to Tenant Creek, fuel up and avoid these tourist shit tips. What a god damned tragedy and how disappointed I am to continually come across this genocide each part of the way here where these westerner and international detritus congregate.

I did not climb the rocks and the photos I did take are about preserving the sheer beauty, speaking of the importance of protecting country. I called out my name as I entered this area and that I was coming in peace and with respect for that country as I entered into it. 

It’s about acknowledging those who own this country and the fact they are always present on it, not the five tonne GMC running an eight inch exhaust and Spinifex caravan complete stuffed full with “I’ve been everywhere” stickers all over it.

So we drove on and away up towards Mataranka and Katherine.

Camped roadside and ate spaghetti carbonara, two parts over cooked. Liam chased down an eagle and it curiously engaged with him with interest. This young man is an exceptional photographer and his images below are testament of his seeing eye and his developing ear.

You can see more of his photography at https://500px.com/liam_wille

Uluru

uluru

He didn't see me as he whizzed past on his Segway vehicle.

Nor did he see the Butcher birds or the flock of pink under-wing Cockatoos, nor the electric green Rozella's. His ears not tuned to anything nor did he hear the flocks of finches flitting from tree to tree, nor smell the amazing blossoms off the local wax Myrtle trees, nor see the bearded dragon lizard run from grass clump to another.

The fact is this non-seeing, non-thinking being intent on ticking off another tour guide things-to-do-while-in-Uuru checklist failed to even know that Uluru is NOT Ayers Rock, that this sacred place is Law for the Pitjantjatjara Anangu people of this area. This country on which they visit is not owned by KonTiki tours nor is the rock a virtual reality and the National Park that they pay to visit through is a construct in its own western making.

Even the Wikipedia entry [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uluru ] causes me revulsion with it's anthropological crap of 'myths' and 'legends', rather than beliefs and traditions. 

"...On 26 October 1985, the Australian government returned ownership of Uluru to the local Pitjantjatjara Aborigines, with one of the conditions being that the Aṉangu would lease it back to the National Parks and Wildlife agency for 99 years and that it would be jointly managed. An agreement originally made between the community and Prime Minister Bob Hawke that the climb to the top by tourists would be stopped was later broken."

Who care what politician said what? These people of the land, this country are being screwed over by this rampant destruction. If the people of an area say NOT to climb over a specific form then that should be respected.

How sad it is that we as an Australian nation disrespect this Law, that the National Parks continue to endorse fat lycra clad imbeciles climbing over this magnificent form. With only warnings about climbing the rock the right thing to do would be to outright ban climbing, segways, bus tours and even have a mass ceremonial burning of the resort supermarket, gift shops, three story accomodation block.

Respect.

The following photos were taken by Liam Wille today near Uluru. You can see more of his exceptional photography at https://500px.com/liam_wille

Kulgera

I am sitting here listening to the hum of the diesel generator that powers this tiny township.

Over the way there is a lineup of every known camper home all parked within a few metres of each other. Kids kick around in the red pindan soil as the sun sets in a hue of every known colour from a rainbow. The temperature is just chilly enough to warrant wearing a jacket and an extra blanket at night perhaps.

I take none of it for granted. I am cognisant of the fact that I am privileged in many ways and none more so than in my own expectations to do more than live a life walking around asleep.

Opportunities to cross Australia through country so rich in culture, so diverse in landscape and so forbidding in weather are rare. The journey in the car is as you would expect an endurance exercise but none more important than in reflection.

Imagine for a minute if every Australian citizen took the opportunity to cross this continent from coast to coast investigating, connecting with and acknowledging all traditional owners of this vast landscape. For the majority of the population swanning around in an apathetic city slicking consumer nose dive, life is all about money, mortgages, mayhem of child idols, baptisms and the inconvenience of the odd affair or two. 

We might well joke about it but for many people their meaning to life is little more than a dash on their tombstone between their birthdate and then their departure not soon enough. If the sum total to life is simply to work hard, save hard, play hard, retire and spend that last gasp touring around in a camper van before collapsing under a crochet blanket in a nursing home unable to remember your own name due to the amount of aluminium chloride you had digested and absorbed through your armpits in a lifetime, then any reflection is in vain.

As Sharpie Coulthard from Iga Warta would say, “….suffer by all means because there is nothing more we can do to help you people.”

So tonight, sitting from the vantage point of Kulgera, just over the Northern Territory border where a can of beer will set you back seven dollars, where the speed limit is twenty kilometres over the national average and where ninety five percent of Aboriginal youth between the age of fourteen and twenty one are incarcerated at least twice before adulthood, do you see some sense in taking time out for reflection. Take a wander through the only shop within two hundred kilometres and try and find any fresh fruit or vegetables for sale.

Is there any wonder why so many people out here are dying off as a result of diabetes, heart attacks and lung cancer when the shelves are laden with diet Coke, trays filled with fast food and cigarettes hidden in cabinets behind petrol attendant?

What we must be mindful of here is that driving this far for this long with so little gives me a better sense of what I can do better when I am living in my comfortable brick and mortar box back in Broome. The sheer enormity of socioeconomic divide, the torturous apartheid happening right before my eyes and the assumption that I don’t care all collide in soup that many people call the too hard basket.

I am over the rhetoric of any politician bullshitting the Australian public with proposals, promises and other perfunctory prose. What we would rather see is opportunities for culturally appropriate development happening in conjunction with existing services that are essential. 

For that matter it is obvious that we are all responsible for making that difference, creating that opportunity and helping others irrespective of our creed, skin colour or connection.

We all need to stop, listen and make a contribution daily even if all that we did was in our heart to acknowledge on whose country we live and listening to what we can do to give back, pay forward, move ahead.

We are each responsible, daily. 

The following photos were taken by Liam today and your can see more of his amazing photos over at https://500px.com/liam_wille

The Milky Way

We are half way across from Woomera to Coober Pedy in South Australia.

A moment ago we stood together and looked up at the milky way, so dense, so vivid it looks like a cloud storm on an overcast day. Each star so vivid and patterns as rich as a tapestry map that Aboriginal people of Australia have guided themselves by for as long as these stars have existed.

Today we spoke about life, about future hopes and past laments as this little yellow car hummed over the asphalt and cattle grids on the way in to the Australian desert. We both reflected on our time up in Nepabunna, Iga Warta and through Spears Creek near Port Augusta.

We drove past large billboards that showed a belt buckle tightly fastened and the message ‘get your shit together’ emblazoned across in large text. Its the very same message that could apply to any number of other scenarios we saw unfold today such as the woman who having changed her baby’s diaper tossed it unceremoniously amongst a thousand other tin cans, cigarette butts, beer bottles, fast food wrappers and car litter.

The very same tourist photo vantage point overlooking the salt flats crowded with selfie sticks and kids screaming for their parents to hurry up and recharge their iPads. It’s those moments of sheer western capitalist consumer torture the we have to leave behind to find some country to breath in.

As photographers we know how to make a photo lie but out here in the Simpson desert everything is reduced to what is an absolute necessity. I am thankful and grateful that I’m able to look up and see a milky way, the campfire smoke filling my nostrils and distant hum of trucks approaching then passing.

How privileged we are to be able to even seemilky way when so many humans crammed into their little boxes in far flung cities careen from the workplace to their Jason recliner to shovel salted chips, nuts, pretzels and beer by the gallon down their guts. How simple life is out here where the only worry we have is dingos sniffing down outside our tent or the odd crazy red neck land occupier firing warning shots over our heads as we escape his creek bed, our cameras filled with an aesthetic honey pot.

So tomorrow we push on though Coober Pedy, stock up on gas and gasoline, water and batteries as we take off for Alice Springs, Uluru and all with the knowledge and understanding that this is a gift. We are on the country of those who protect it and whose mission mostly is to grow a society that has the foresight for generations to come.

The milky way is a mass of stars as big or bigger than our own sun. Each sun hosts a multitude of planets and between them all are an infinity of magical things our silly little human brains cannot fathom nor compute. In the scheme of things we are insignificant in it all and yet unless we look up from that million headed caterpillar that winds its way down mortgage streets we can’t see the stars for the trees.

We must look up, look out, listen with both ears and even occasionally take a deep breath so that we can be assured we are actually still alive, not the walking dead.

The following photos were taken by Liam on our trip yesterday. If you would like to see more of Liam's photos please navigate to https://500px.com/liam_wille

Liam Wille

A few months ago Magali and my personal lives shifted markedly and we found ourselves on planes to Broome, Western Australia.

My three Kooya live in Broome and I regard the Nyikina Aboriginal community of the Kimberley region as the closest kin I have to country, place. You can read about how I came to be called Malkay by the Nyikina community here - https://www.alexanderhayes.com/journey/malkay-my-name

So about nine weeks ago I also found myself camping out on the last stand of Micklo Corpus, Yawuru Elder who has been fighting for country for many years to keep companies such as Buru Energy off his country. I hope you will take the time and read the following - https://www.alexanderhayes.com/journey/micklo-corpus-camp-yulleroo

I camped in sub zero temperatures and entertained a snake.

It occurred to me as we completed the first rough cut of the 'Protecting Country' film that our duty, our obligation to country was to include as many of community across Australia in returning this film to those communities from which we gained the footage. This is known as an emancipatory capability, an acknowledgement that in order for a film to be authentic and complete that it includes the feedback of all and other members of community along that path, a process not simply a product.

I invited Micklo Corpus to join me on that trip across country. Due to circumstances beyond his control he was unable to join me on this return to country of the film.

So why has a young man born on Warringah country, Sydney come to be travelling on country with me?

 Liam was born on Warringah country, the name Warringah is Aboriginal in origin. Its meaning is that of the south side of Middle Harbour, Middle Harbour, Grey head and Signs of rain. Unbeknown's to Liam (even as I type this post) does Liam realise that he was born on Guringai country, in a place of the Warringah people who were catastrophically affected by a smallpox outbreak in conjunction to dispossession of their country in the late 1700's.

You can read more about this area here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warringah_Council

Liam is of German (paternal) heritage and of French (maternal) background yet his birthplace is that of Australian place, country. By invitation Liam has been invited to travel with me across country and to connect with the people of this nation, of the many Aboriginal nations, communities and places of significance for his future.

I could have also connected with and taken on the journey many other young people with a prospect for being a leader across the country, yet, in Liam's case there is one outstanding principle I see in this young man's character that resonates with my own which is to grow also in his own talented capacity.

Liam is an aesthete, a young man with a seeing eye.

He is a talented photographer and he has the capability of listening, curious to learn and in that is all that the Aboriginal communities of Australia have encouraged me to be also.

To be listening, deeply. With both ears, eyes.

So today we took off across country to Spear Creek, winding our way through the Heysen Pass and finding ourself marvelling at the juxtaposition of beauty, sublime and the dystopia of Port Augusta, South Australia. Amidst yachts on the river, dumped shopping trolleys in the Spencer Gulf and the extinct stacks of the Port Augusta power station we took photos and we marvelled at how nature returns everything back to a reality and a reflection on our ridiculous efforts to survive as humankind.

The photos below are form Liam's selection from todays photography. If you like his photography (which I am certain you will!) please visit his portfolio at https://500px.com/liam_wille

 

We push on tomorrow via Coober Pedy, having replaced two damaged tyres, a broken rack arm on the steering of the car and a loss of nothing more than time.

We are grateful and we are thankful we have the Ancestors travelling with us across this trip over country, through communities and along songlines north in memory of James Yami Lester, a hero for all those who stand true to protecting country.

We are listening to some George Bishop, musician from Broome as we trace some routes on the map of where we have been, where we are going and where we know we don't know.

James Yami Lester

In 2016 Magali McDuffie and I set off on a journey across Australia from Canberra, across the Hay Plains and into Adelaide, South Australia to meet with Bruce Hammond, Son of the late Ruby Hammond - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_Hammond

The year prior I had met Bruce in Canberra, Australia and he had inspired me with his Mother's story and indeed his own personal story as he fought for Country, the act of speaking for his homelands and that of the Aboriginal country of which Australia is made up of. As we arrived in Adelaide Bruce made it know that his Ancestors had travelled with us, right into the biggest storm that Adelaide had experienced in decades.

With the power out across the state Magali and I drove a 4WD vehicle up to Port Augusta, then onto Quorn, Hawker, Yapalla Community, Copley and over the hills into the Nepabunna Community and back into Iga Warta, Flinders Ranges - http://www.igawarta.com/exper.html

We listened and recorded the views of those people we were connected to via Bruce and he assured us that each and every person we interviewed were in some way connected to the story emerging regarding the largest planned nuclear fuel dump in Australia. We returned via Port Augusta after recording 12 interviews and many hours of scenic footage. That was the beginning of a long journey forward with this story on our minds and with much editing work to complete.

For Magali and I, after many years in this industry and with many years working with Aboriginal communities across Australia one thing is clear - make sure the story we listen to is authentically, responsively, culturally appropriate, that it is clearly demonstrating the ethics of the individuals included and most importantly that the while process is open for change from those it seeks to represent.

As is the emancipatory journey, the Nura (country) to filmmaking process we promised to return and screen with each community now has the results of what we thought the key emergent story is from this important discussion. Over the next year the film weighed deeply on our minds as battled many different personal challenges and the expense that it had taken us to achieve this journey - $12,000 AUD of our own personal funds in total.

So in early July 2017 we finished the editing of the first rough cut of the film and with a 32 min recording we set out from Canberra, ACT Australia after screening the first of many screenings with community, both public and private of the 'Protecting Country' film. To return this film to country meant we had to travel back across many thousands of kilometres and so with all due respect and planning we set about visiting other communities to bring them into the awareness of the important message in the film.

We made the decision also to bring along on the journey a young person who would benefit from the experience, culturally, professionaly, personally and this person is Liam Wille, a fantastic photographer - https://500px.com/liam_wille

We setup a sponsorship prospectus and set about asking the public, friends and our families to support us on this journey as we have expended every last cent of our own funding. In total we sought $2000 to take us as far as Alice Springs, Northern Territory of Australia which is the heartland for this story and the plans to dump this waste in South Australia. With the help of many sponsors that you can see listed here - http://www.ngikalikarra.org/protecting-country - we managed to make it all the way back to Iga Warta, screening the film in Canberra, Condobolin, Hay, Balranald, Mildura, Adelaide, Port Augusta, Hawker and Iga Warta communities.

Along the way we cut a short trailer and released it for feedback.



Whilst we were in Iga Warta we heard news that Yami Lester, late Father of Karina Lester had past away.

Yami Lester is and always will be a key figure, a leader and respected anti-nuclear campaigner, a Yankunytjatjara man, an Indigenous person of northern South Australia. Lester, who survived nuclear testing in outback Australia, best known as an anti-nuclear and indigenous rights advocate - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yami_Lester

This post serves to inform everyone that as a mark of respect, to honour cultural sorry business and to respect the rights of Yami's Family and Relatives that we will no longer screen the first cut of the Protecting Country film as we travel up from Port Augusta and onto Coober Pedy, Alice Springs, Katherine, Derby and Broome.

We raised close to $2000 AUD which paid for our accomodation, food, fuel and other items we needed to travel from Canberra through to Alice Springs. From that location we will use our own limited personal funding to return this important story along the songlines and story lines of central Australia.

We wish to thank all of our sponsors who have made this trip possible to return this film to country to be screened with hundreds and close to thousands of people who may never have had the experience to contribute to the feedback, considerations, advice and eventual final cut of this important film.

Our journey across Australia and up to Broome via Katherine will continue but we will not be screening the film rough cut as we have returned it to the main community members it includes. Our journey now is to travel across country, to connect with Yami Lester's story personally ourselves and to respect the rights of those who have afforded us the right to be on country and to understand how important it is to protect this country.

We are planning to premier this film, Protecting Country in Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide Australia in late 2017, early 2018 when we have permission to do so, complete and in the final form that it will also be seen worldwide after the premiers in Australia. This important film is destined to screen in Germany, France and England and will be made available also via NITV, ITV and other appropriate channels.

The following photos are but a few of many that Liam has taken whilst on the journey through to Iga Warta from Canberra, ACT Australia.

 

When this film has reached final cut we will send everyone details of screenings and locations for you to attend and support.

Many many thanks!