Hellena Post - Creatrix

I've tried on so many uniforms and badges that now I'm just me - mother of 8 children and all that entails, flowmad, and human animal parent. Writer of this living book of a blog, philosopher, and creatrix of hand dyed and spun crocheted wearable art. I gave up polite conversation years ago, and now I dive into the big one's.....birth, sex, great wellness, life, passion, death and rebirth.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ode to Sovereignty Day....

I got to the ripe old age of 27 without hardly ever seeing a black fella. Or woman for that matter. I remember the first time I saw a black African, whose skin was shining blue black, and I couldn’t help but stare, as I’d never seen anyone like him. I grew up around the Blue Mountains, spent lots of time in Sydney, travelled up the east coast, moved to South Australia and lived in the hills……and barely a black fella was seen. I didn’t even know that this country had been populated by indigenous people until year 5 at school, when we had a relief teacher who read us a story about Pemulwuy. It came as a bit of a shock. And not long after I was watching telly with my stepfather, and saw on the news the Tent Embassy in Canberra, with some fascinating looking coloured people, and when my stepfather explained they were asking for land rights and they were the traditional owners, it made complete and instant sense to me that if the land had been theirs, we should just give it back!! He didn’t quite agree. I heard vague stories about how they got all sorts of special attention, and got more money from the D.S.S. than anyone else, and had special services at schools and universities, and got free land and houses and all sorts of myths that typically abound about people that are ‘different’ (like refugees). I also got warned about Redfern in my forays to Sydney, and told that I’d be in danger if I went there. I had a friend years later who went to university and stayed with a white woman in Redfern, and I went to visit her quite regularly, but even then, the indigenous folk were kind of shadowy background figures that didn’t really impact on me, except for my fascination when I saw them. I was also brought up a Mormon, with it’s inbuilt racism, and taught from day dot that black people were somehow inferior – Cain’s punishment had been to be turned into a black man, and the creation myth of my religion stated that all black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and folk other than white fella’s, were getting punished for being fence sitters in heaven, by being sent to earth as a colour other than white. So when I did see an indigenous person, I found it hard to not leave with a slight distaste in my mouth…they were somehow more uncouth, animal like, dirtier and unknown in a potentially scary way.


I left my childhood religion and realized my taught racism (sexism, homophobia, etc), and did my best to transcend it. After leaving home I spent some time in the area around Bathurst, where there was still the odd Aboriginal. I hung out with an indigenous girl at school for a while, and was surprised that there was not much difference, and she didn’t really want to talk about it much. As I got older I hung out with dykes and witches and goddess worshippers and started hearing better things about the indigenous folk of this land, but not as much as I did about Native Americans and Eastern mystics and Voodoo religions. Then nearing the age of 28, and Saturn Return, I decided it was time to check out the desert. It was time to take an initiatory trip through the middle of the country in the middle of summer and really learn about the country I lived in, as well as facing my fears and setting myself a challenge. To tell the truth, I didn’t really think much about the indigenous folk I might meet, or even realize that I was about to enter the main country that had been left to them to inhabit, after the white folk had divided and conquered the more alluring coastal and farming areas.


So off I set, car serviced, spares onboard, lots of water stored, and all my hippy and witchy artifacts along for the ride. The first place I stopped after Adelaide was Port Augusta, where there were more black fella’s around than I’d ever seen in my life. I had no idea what to do so I just smiled, and got lots of smiles back. They were in fact the only people who did smile at me, and made happy comments as I passed them. I was staying at a youth hostel, when I started getting the warnings that I became used to as my journey unfolded. I was told to stay away from a certain pub in town cause it was a black pub, and they’d probably either harass me, steal my money, or try to rape me. And also to stay away from a bridge on the other side of town cause that’s where the indigenous kids hung out and jumped off to swim in the surrounding waters, and that was also a dangerous area. Port Augusta was also the first place I came across where valuable assets – like the drive through bottle shop, and a very luxurious caravan park which I camped at for a while – were surrounded by high razor wire….suggesting that violence occurred that the white fellas needed protecting from. So I kept smiling at the black fella’s, and went and parked my car surreptitiously near the bridge and watched all the kids jumping off the bridge and having a ball. There was a certain un-domesticatedness about them that I found really attractive, but I was still very new to the whole situation and unsure about everything.


I guess it was around this time that I realized there was a whole other part to my journey that I hadn’t suspected before. I’d never really had firsthand experience of Aboriginals, and had heard a lot of guff, which I knew from life experience was most likely exaggerated or just untrue, and also realized that I knew nothing, and that any preconceptions I had would most likely be far from the mark. So I decided it was time to learn about this amazing land I was entering, and it’s traditional care takers, without making any judgements at all until I felt like I’d learnt from my own experiences.


After a few days I got ready to head into the desert….in my 84 Gemini that was tending to overheat, afraid of the heat, afraid of the unknown, afraid of being on my own, afraid of all sorts of things. For about the first hour driving out of Port Augusta towards Coober Pedy, I was shaking….legs barely managing to stay on the pedals…totally terrified of my big adventure into the great unknown.


Every petrol station I stopped at on the way up, when the attendant saw I was a white woman travelling on my own, took it on himself or herself to warn me that I was entering dangerous territory, and I got told over and over again that if I saw any black fella’s on the road, even if it looked like I hit them, to just keep going and not stop, cause they’d steal, rape then murder me as soon as I did. I was quite bewildered by this, and realizing I still knew nothing, just decided to keep observing and see what panned out.


In Coober Pedy there was a lot more unhappy, obviously drunk and scarred indigenous folk on the streets. I watched the locals treat them like scum and animals, and the tourists try to deal with them and have an ‘authentic’ outback experience. A lot of Aboriginals were asking for money, and a lot of locals were disparagingly telling them to fuck off and get drunk somewhere else. I was still paying attention, but also a bit distracted by the international tourists that I was bumping into and my own trip of self realization and fear facing. From Coober Pedy I went out to Uluru. It was suprising how few black fella’s were actually at or around the luxury resort of Yulara, and how easy it was to have a totally white experience of the heart of the country without an indigenous person in sight. The guides were white, the hoteliers were white, even the shit kickers were white – though they were all very happy to be selling Aboriginal paintings and boomerangs and all the other tourist clap trap that suggested we were an integrated country that honoured it’s original inhabitants………


Anyway, if I were to tell you every story that happened for me to form a conclusion about the indigenous inhabitants of this land, it would end up being a very very long story, and I really want to just tell a simple story for this day in our country – Invasion or Survival or Sovereignty Day – otherwise known to rather heartless folk who don’t mind celebrating genocide, as Australia Day. 


In Alice Springs I learnt a lot. I met a lot of racist white folk and a few beautifully behaved white folk. And I met lots of chocolate brown folk in varying states of sobriety, and totally understood the desire to be out of it, in the face of so many inequalities and downright disgusting behaviors of many of the white residents in town. I heard stories from all sides of the fence and understood them. I noticed the fact that the town existed in unofficial apartheid. There were black taxi’s and white taxi’s, black toilets and white toilets, black pubs and white pubs, and a whole heap of extra special rules that were designed to keep indigenous folk out of shops. And on my way out to work at a station as a Jilleroo, my car broke down and about 4 white folk, and 1 very nervous indigenous man, stopped to ask me if I wanted help. I asked them all to ring the station I was on my way to, and get them to come help me, and out of all those people, it was only the indigenous man who actually rang. 


SNAPSHOT......... I’m standing at a big row of phones in Alice Springs about to make a phone call, when a black man walked up to me not speaking much English. But his name was Leonard Possum, and he wanted me to help him use the phone so he could ring his woman, and he didn’t know how a phone worked. I was delighted to help, and he gave me the number on some paper and the coins for the phone, and we walked two phones down to where he wanted to ring. In the space of that time, two very white men obviously leant out from their phones to glare at him and watch his every step. The harsh woman who I was working for stomped up to us while I was dialing, and started speaking to him like he was a recalcitrant, deaf and dumb child…. “Where are you from?! Where’s your community?! You go ring them and get them to help you?! Leave her alone?!” To which I of course replied, “I’m doing this gentleman a favour, which I’m happy to do, and you can bloody well leave him alone!” Leonard was kind of cringing the whole time we stood there, and we were watched by about another 4 white men the whole time I was helping him. I felt ashamed.


Overall, I saw the white folk using a few black fella’s getting drunk and showing some undomesticated behaviours, as an excuse to act very very badly……. Bone jarringly badly. As if they weren’t even human.

SNAPSHOT......... The same harsh woman I worked for who had me busy in my Jillerooing duties of cleaning her house, decided to take me to her daughter’s, so I could clean her house too. On the way there she threw a beer bottle out the window, saying “We can blame the boongs for that one!!”, with a jackal like leer on her face. At her daughters house, after a day of cleaning in 50 degree heat, we barbecued by a waterhole. They told me with glee it was a sacred men’s site, as they threw more bottles in the water. The sweet faced young white couple were talking about how good it was that the canoe tree in Goolwa had been ringbarked. “It’s about time someone got the black bastards back!!” They said. Got them back for what? For being victims of genocide?? For walking nervous and shaky through the streets, unwilling to look at anyone?? On the way home, the woman I was working for saw a flock of galah’s, and sped up to try and hit one, managing to kill one on the bullbar, where it got stuck, head lolling and feathers flying, right in front of my window. I felt sick and ashamed. 


So many other things happened. I met an indigenous man called Billy White, who wore a white cowboy hat and white clothes and lived on White Street. He was the most gentle, philosophical, thoughtful and compassionate man I met in Alice Springs. In lots of places actually. And a sweet white hippy woman who treated the black fella’s like absolute gold, and gave me a beautiful example of how best to treat the native owners of the land.

And then I’d had my fill, had been around town for over a month, and decided it was time to head up through the middle and then strike for the east coast. On my way out of town, about 11 o’clock at night, I got overtaken by a low slung holden, spewing smoke from it’s exhaust, packed tight with huge hulking people. Not far down the road I wasn’t surprised to see them pulled over by the side of the road, and would you believe it, but all the warnings flooded my head and I went to keep driving. Till I came to, remembered all the things I saw and people I’d met and stories I’d collected, and I pulled over to the side of the road, did a u turn, and headed back. Where I met 5 huge indigenous men, who asked me if I could give them a lift to their community so they could get help to come back and tow the car. I told them I only had room for one passenger, (hippy artifacts take up a lot of room you know!) and they nudged forward an old fella who got in the front passenger seat. Before we drove off, we introduced ourselves, (he didn’t speak much English) and I said to him, “You’re welcome in my car. There’s my cigarettes, and there’s my water, and there’s the music if you want to listen to it, just make yourself at home." Nearly the whole way to his community, about 100kms or so, he kept telling me in every way he could think of, how alike we were. He was grabbing my arm and saying “You’re white”, and then grabbing his own arm and saying “I’m black”, and then waving his fingers between us saying “We’re the same…..we’re the same”. I grinned. And I laughed. And I felt such overwhelming gratitude that this heartfelt man wanted me so much to know how similar we were. We got to his community and before he got out of the car, he grabbed my hand and kissed it. I instantly kissed his hand back, and we both parted richer and warmer and happier from the whole experience.


And I’d like to leave my tale on that note. A perfect metaphor for the whole trip, and what I learnt from it. My family and I have gone on to travel to a lot more places and have had a lot more experiences, and every single one of them has been respectful, connected, and significant. The native caretakers of this land are some of the most beautiful, deep, and spiritual people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. And I’m real glad that my skin colour doesn’t prejudice black fella's as much as a lot of white fella’s let skin colour prejudice them, to connect, and share, and increase understanding and awareness.


11 comments:

  1. Right on Hellena! Much love. :)

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  2. Goddess Bless You and Australia.
    I learned a lot here today and I will carry it with me and spread it around.

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  3. Yeah, much love back to you Meffa :) And thicklygrownwithleaves....that's awesome!

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  4. OH thank you Hellena for your words, your expression and your heart. What an important story that needs to be told and re told. I only wish it would filter into the spirits of those who are blinded by ignorance and fear.
    Love your work gorgeous woman :) xxxxx

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  5. beautiful, touching.. thank you

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  6. Thank you so much for posting this Hellena.
    Your story is so important, for us all.

    It has both shocked and saddened me the treatment to Australia's Indigenous when I have visited places in Australia.
    It is like 223 years has not passed at all.

    I have spoken a lot to my children lately about how the white men came to Australia. It is very important to Hub and I that they get a full education about this history and not the glossed over version we were taught in schools.

    Much love to you.

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  7. I feel odd, as a white person, even speaking up about this issue, like I should just learn to sit in my corner and listen for a change. I was such a bigot towards our Canadian Native people when I was young, because I was raised in that atmosphere. Natives were people you were nice to, and felt sorry for, but they were "different", and they were definitely inferior. They should just be grateful for all we've done for them, after all. (Please understand, I'm just talking about where I'm coming from, not endorsing this point of view.) Even now in a less racist time and in spite of how hard I try to weed this stuff out of my head, I wonder how much I still tie into it. There's so much further to go in these matters, as we try to live together and treat each other with respect. I guess the best I can do is try, and keep getting up again when I fall into old traps, and hope for forgiveness.

    Thank you for a very thoughtful post.

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  8. Awww...Teresa you just say the most beautiful things!! Love your work too beautiful woman:) Thanks Allison and Ellie, and Clare.....it's weird isn't it. It's like we're all caught up in this collective collusion of The Emperor's New Clothes proportions!!! That goes something like "We're Australians!! We're all good blokes, and we give everyone a fair go, and we're into mateship, and the diggers won all those wars, and the outback folk are pioneers and hard but good at heart.......surely what I suspect and know deep down isn't true?! Surely we weren't complete bastards and evil and genocide spreading racists??" Which is where it all breaks down, and folk start talking about leaving the past in the past and just getting on with it now while they're thinking "please shut up, I really don't want to think about those bad things anymore"..... Or something like that anyway. And Madcap, thank you for your honesty, and I can relate to what you said. Have you ever seen an old black and white movie called The Gentlemans Agreement with Gregory Peck?? Well worth a look..and very illuminating...

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  9. Great stuff, as always Hellena, you are a fantastic writer and so insightful. There's something so pure about your posts, never trying to talk anyone into anything, you just tell it like it is, and it works, it's so real. Beautiful!

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  10. Kat, what awesome feedback, and the very best compliment you could give me! I try real hard to not come across as a soap box thumping fundamentalist of any sort, and if that's what you get from it I'm wrapped:)

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I love your comments, and your feedback......it makes this whole blogging thing worthwhile. Peace and blessings to you!