Adjusting to this environment is a slow process, its steady pace reveals the intricacies of the people and life around me. This week has begun with a constant stream of meetings during which I have met a number of people who are involved in one way or another in the struggle of Nyungar people in the Busselton area. Tuesday morning at a cafe my newest advocate and aid Jacqui Malone brought Gloria Hill to meet me. A brown woman quite small in stature, thinly built, small bones, walks in to this newly renovated luxury spot on the bay front. Gloria’s step is confident, and has a quick paced answer/response to all questions that I might have. She reminds me of women I have seen and really noticed in Port Antonia, Jamaica; hill women who have a twinkle in their eye, a great sense of determination and an answer to all that has passed in life. I do my best in going through my background, upbringing, and my family history with her to give her a little insight into where I am coming from and why I am here. Somehow we strike a very good tone from the beginning and I am pleased with that. She describes her own background and history, in relation to where she went to school. She reveals she was taken away from her parents when she was very young and placed in a Catholic mission where she was treated well and she went on to work in the area. She bears no grudge and appears to bear all that she has witnessed with a great deal of pride and no-nonsense attitude. At the moment she is responsible for parenting her grandchild, a young girl of age 12. I will come to meet her later in the week. Gloria has an immense pride in her granddaughter’s artistic talent and school accomplishments.
At the moment, I am reading Stan Grant’s Talking to my Country. The title has two meanings, one is of course, that he is talking to all Australians, the other is that country means other Aboriginal people. In this novel he confronts his history and the past. How he and other people were treated as inferior and through a racial terminology. I have seen these same ways of discounting one’s presence and mind in so many other stories of colonialism. I can see some of the same remnants of this attitude also in Denmark. It is as if one has to wash away all one’s being to be assimilated into the dominant culture. I am not certain that Danes are always conscious that this is what’s happening, however it was very much a part of the entire system of discrediting and debasing people of color. Basically, get rid of your pride and sense of being, and just make sure that you feel shitty about being who and what you are. I am so relieved that I grew up in Jamaica, and from a young age it was instilled in me pride about who I am- It comes off possibly as brash and self assured in an environment such as Western Australia. Everything is read into what people do not necessarily say or do. But small manners and gestures are encountered in the meet and greet with others. Anyhow Gloria and Jacqui are wrapped in a small conversation, which I am lucky to be a part of and it is the stories, and tragedies that exist around Wonnerup estate. It touches upon all the tensions that exist between the Nyungar people and those early ’settlers ’ or invaders as I have come to like putting it. History is somehow always comes to glorify the event of the pioneer and invader. Anyhow, traces of history of the Nyungar people in Busselton are also becoming extinct. And yet very little has been done to commemorate or even acknowledge their loss in this day and age. Based on the reality you see, many Australians prefer to say to a foreigner such as myself, that Aboriginals are based in the North, in the red land area. This idea is false as they were very present here too before they were exterminated and eliminated. Let me not beat around this bush; one should be straightforward in this deduction. The case of the Wonnerup massacre is an example, of such bloodbath that occurred when the death of the George Layman let loose the rampage of other whites to hunt down Nyungars in a lynching party and where women, men and children were shot down like animals. There is no visibility around this history - this massacre - no museum, no retreat, no memorial—its invisibility is below the very covers of this surroundings - it layers every contact - as it is recorded deep within the Nyungars mind from Busselton.
There is nothing but the bizarre to experience - when an entire population has been wiped out and displaced - there is nothing but more apparent in this atmosphere. My first ceremony and it is cold, and wet, and empty. This does not seem to a joyous occasion—the tent that has been set up, which is quite big keeps flying off by the tug of the wind. The mothers that sit and watch are all quietly observing the surroundings. The elders that are there have also jobs to do are also watching. The ease does not seem to be there instead it seems almost contrived and forced. The one joy of the occasion is the children - they seem to be deemed the brightness in all of this atmosphere, all seem to invest their love there…and this is what I register as they come up and present different dances that they have been studying and learning with very little clothing in this freezing weather, but they do not divert- they stay focused on this task.