Day 08 : Beds are Burning

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Well, this weekend in part is sorted out. I am indeed going to the Sunshine Coast. I’ve booked a flight for Friday evening to Brisbane, arriving 11.20pm. I was trying to get a flight direct to Sunshine Coast airport (because I get a weird thrill out of arriving at really small airports. Not so much departing from them as flights generally require you get there some time in advance, and small airports, being small, tend to be quite lacking in facilities, but arriving at small airports is fab because it’s usually a very swift procedure and you get to see more how an airport works), but Lisa was insistent I arrive on the Friday so that the Saturday wouldn’t be too much of a waste.

(As a side note, Monday is what we in Britain would describe as a ‘Bank Holiday’. It’s to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday. This would be the British Queen. This in a country that has often a vocal Republican outpouring. It’s very interesting therefore to note that the day isn’t a holiday back home in the UK…)

In the main, today continued the theme of yesterday, in that I explored more about South Australia and what has made it the place it is today, via the South Australia museum and the Art Gallery, both free to enter (mmm, it’s just like being at home!).
I didn’t go around all the museum, being as you can see ancient Egyptian memorabilia anywhere, and stuffed mammals don’t interest me that much, however the two floors full of Aboriginal art and ephemera were my main draw, because that’s generally not the sort of thing you get to see in Nottingham.

The Aboriginal Australians. The indigenous natives of the continent. No-one knows when they first reached the country, but new finds are continually pushing the dates back in time. They’re believed to have come down from the islands in SE Asia, in several ‘waves’ (one waves continued Eastwards over the sea to Vanuatu and Fiji, and a later wave swept across the South Pacific to what is now French Polynesia before looping back down and reaching the islands of New Zealand, which was thus first populated relatively recently).

Australia was never united under the Aboriginals. Rather the country was made up of literally hundreds of small groups/tribes, each occupying a small area – Fremantle, for instance, was the meeting point of at least three tribes. Each of these tribes had its own culture and identity, and in Western parlance would be independent states and have their own ‘flag’ (colour scheme on shields and spears). Traders even had ‘passports’ to get from one tribe to another –these consisted of sticks either engraved, or patterned, in a specific way that was unique to each tribe to identify the bearer.

The most common cultural representation in the West about the Aboriginal people is the boomerang – a curved stick that, when thrown, returns to the owner.
Except that they don’t. Or at least, not all of them are designed that way. In reality the boomerang is a curved stick that means it flies through the air quite smoothly and swiftly, and connects with something at the other end with a nice cold efficiency. The boomerang isn’t designed to come back; it’s designed to kill things,
Also, t’s not their only weapon; they were also proficient in the use of spears, in many designs including the nasty ‘barbed’ spear, with notches chiselled along the side.

None of these weapons were any match for the incoming Europeans however, who brought with them a weapon of the like never seen in these shores before; biological rather than physical, that rendered all the Aboriginals had obsolete and not even their knowledge of potions and herbs could save them. Smallpox. Nasty.
The combination of disease and denial of service (remember, the immigrants considered the Aboriginals to be ‘not people’ and ‘not worth bothering about’) meant that they ended up being restricted to small areas of the country where there were few resources; their children were often taken away from them and ‘re-educated’ in the ways of the White Man and until the last couple of decades weren’t even entitled to government help, benefits, or the vote.

Things are slowly changing but I suspect it will be a long time before the damage is repaired.

The rest of the museum I visited looked at an overview of the flora and fauna of Australia, at a holistic level, talking about the different types of land in the country, what lives there, and how they cope with the environment. There was a particular exhibition on sea life as well.
Australia really is a difficult country to live in – with weather and landscape extremes (it’s not just that much of it is desert and scrubland, but also in the North you get a monsoon season). South Australia itself is pretty ‘calm’ compared to the rest of the country, but you don’t have to go far to reach the desert.

This evening I took in some ‘culture’. In the hostel I’d been browsing round the leaflets to see what was on, and I noticed that this month as a ‘Cabaret Fringe Festival’ across the whole of Adelaide. I’d had a look to see if any of the events seemed interesting, and indeed this evening had ‘Where’s My Pony’, a one-woman show with comedy and music, talking about hope and betrayal as you’re growing up.
She was pretty cool, great voice, and much of what she said resonated with me (she seemed to be in a position that I was in a few years ago – bitter twisted cynicism with a lot of debt). Shame she was only on for an hour really.

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