Story Archive

eSwag-41

THE GERMAN ABORIGINAL

Posted on August 15, 2013 by
Raymond
on the road at
Indulkana, South Australia

 

Cadney's Roadhouse lies between Coober Pedy and Marla in South Australia. It a well-run enterprise that seeks order in its kept lawns and clean bathrooms. Anarchic winds do what they wish in the millions of square miles of red desert that surround it.

After filling up I started talking to a group of blackfellas [Note to overseas readers. It's all right, they call us whitefellas, everyone is happy].

It should come as no surprise that their car had broken down. Aboriginals only have cars with at least one of the following - it is not registered, has a flat tyre, is broken down or is about to break down. 

I offered them a lift to their community of Indulkana near Marla and was rewarded with a story. I'll tell you that and then I'll tell you another. 

 

 

Amongst the three Aboriginals two were very drunk. The less drunk man was Jeffrey. He was a good looking man and clearly responsible for holding everything together. That isn't easy because the pressure under which Aboriginal people live defies our understanding. Jeffrey had to get his drunk family back home and then organise for the car to be picked up. This describes a great percentage of Aboriginal life where family obligations, funerals, medical treatment and probably a nomadic impulse demand constant travel and where the cost of vehicles and fuel is unsustainable.

This is what Jeffrey told me. It explained his square jaw and blue eyes. About 50 years ago, years are loose measurements in aboriginal society, a German man was working on the Ghan, the railway line that snakes between pools of permanent water from Adelaide to Darwin. An Aboriginal woman loitered on the edge of the gangs camp for a few days and ended up trading sex for provisions with the German. More than that she bore him a child. For reasons we can never know she disappeared back into the desert. A remarkable thing happened. The German man moved to the community of Indulkana and raised the child, taught the locals what he could about mechanics and hunted for food with his high powered rifle. When he died not too long ago, his grandson Jeffrey was holding his hand. 

As Jeffrey talked his rising pride straightened his body and sobered his friends. This was old fashioned story telling and someone, a whitefella, was listening. Listening is the most powerful thing you can do to people whose voices are so rarely heard.

Now here is the other story. The tales that lie in the ancient world of aboriginal people are disappearing fast. Cultures need to be sustained by relevance and in a world where Aboriginal people are blinded by white bread, white welfare, white lawyers and white sugar, the relevance of old beliefs is degraded beyond sustainability. I would argue it was doomed upon the eating of the first damper when the first enormous globule of carbohydrate was delivered and the onus of foraging and hunting was threatened. Forget the welfare that now changes everything.

In any case, that old world belief, in state of massive change, cannot be understood by white fellas in any real way. Forget that it needs to be told in English which desert Aboriginals either speak sparingly or not at all. Mainly it can't be understood because it represents a mystical world into which we cannot travel no matter how willing we think we might be.

But what can be understood is the recent experience. The story that Jeffrey told me can be. That is a link to our common human experience. Deeper than that is the conversation itself, the very act of listening to something that you can understand, not stories of Dreamtime with nodding in pretend belief. The German grandfather is a real story of love and care and belief. It is universal.

The contact point to the parallel universe of Australia is through simple questions and simple sharing of those things we all have in common. I will return to Indulkana sometime on the way to an even more remote community on the border of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. It is 500 kilometres west and traverses some rolling country full of sand. Jeffrey would like to join me. 'I'll come with you … I'll just throw my swag in … I've always wanted to see the world."

What a trip that will be. The experience lies on the other side of saying hello to a blackfella in the Cadney Road House. 

Comments
Post Comment
David White
Reply
You've touched on the heart of the matter, both lierally and figuratively. Here lies the gulf between Whites and Blacks - LOVE. If we have love for other people, we have paitence, we have undrstanding, we have respect, we have common ground. For too long the gulf has been an ocean of misunderstanding built on a foundation of simple lack of respect for another human and his beliefs. It's not the culture, it's not the technolgy, it;s not the history. Fundamentally it comes down to love for your human brother. Acceptance of the differences. But such a hard road when we've treated our human brothers so badly. But there is a way to re-dress this. Move forward with love in your heart and in your eyes. We are all flawed. Accept, learn and live. This is what the German did.Was his life richer? I reckon "you bet it was!"
Raymond
Reply
Hey Dave. You old softie. 
Julia
Reply
Lovely to read your writings again, Raymond.
Raymond
Reply
Hi Julia. I actually became so absorbed with photography that it was difficult to write.
Julia
Reply
I can understand that. Your photographs are wonderful, too...
Sally
Reply
great insight, beautifully written , Raymond. I love the phrase "Listening is the most powerful thing you can do to people whose voices are so rarely heard." Take care.
Raymond
Reply
Hey Sally
Rob
Reply
What they said... plus it's great to hear your voice again Raymond.
raymond
Reply
Good to write stuff. Just finished another book as well Rob called The Wuffington Tails. 
margarita marcos
Reply
Beautiful and deep words.I have enjoyed every single line of your writing.Thanks for sharing,Raymond.
Raymond
Reply
That is very generous of your Margarita. 
stuart
Reply
Raymond, what about the other equally important book? 'Elders'was it? These are words we just don't read about blackfellas. Having just spent some time in the Kimberley and being smacked between the eyes by not only the usual problems but the FACT of living cultures, living nations, you MUST write this book. Your experiences and connection with these people need to be shared more widely. Safe travels, mate.
Raymond
Reply
Hi Stuart. I think the book might not be the one I thought I was going to write. The one I will write will look at why nothing works. I'll get into all sorts of trouble from whitefellas and bloacfellas but unless the current situation changes the culture is gone and nothing will flow from its carcass. I am near you at the monent in Braidwood. Off to the coast tomorrow
jacinta
Reply
Hey Raymond,great story.Hope you and Tommie are well,you two take care xxoo.