“It’s Time to Look at Our Song”(1)
By Steven & Evan Strong
(Warning: to Peoples of Original Australian and Torres Strait Islander Descent this article makes mention of an deceased Original Elder)
That invitation to every person near and far, made when in conference with Original Elders and interested parties, is the most succinct plea yet made on behalf of Old Way culture. It was made when discussing the immense significance of the Standing Stones complex and the many barriers ahead intended to thwart our attempts to rebuild this magnificent temple.
We first met on the morning of Saturday, February 18th. The admittedly rushed timing for this gathering was decided by Lois Cook, and as speed was an overriding imperative, it was expected some Original Elders and people with a direct involvement would be unable to attend. Nevertheless, the roll up was large and amply spread in representing many tribal groups. The intention was to assemble in a circle out in the open and allow each person to speak at their leisure.
In opening proceedings, I provided a brief summary of events and archaeology that led up to this tragic state of apathy and denial of Original Lore. All the approved channels, agencies and departments had been approached, and all that came out of it were procedures, ‘not my jurisdiction,’ paperwork, further consultation and nothing on the ground. The federal Labor member barely drew a breath before passing on this struggle, N.P.W.S., the Office of Heritage and Environment, along with both Original Cultural Officers were spoken to personally and it all got lost in the system. The local Greens Member, Tamara Smith was approached on numerous occasions requesting assistance and despite vowing to stand behind us, on each request for help a reason was found to do nothing.
So after over a month of running around in circles reacting, we decided to become proactive and totally independent in taking the initiative through the presentation of two complimentary strands that encompass the entire legacy the Standing Stones site can once again bequeath to humanity. We are committed to devoting equal time and consideration to the pragmatic aspects of archaeology and science, but always remembering that it is the mystical dimensions that transcends all boundaries.
To begin with, before any noble plans can be set into motion, the recently unearthed rocks at the quarry are still under threat and, in what is a grave error, stacked on top of each other and must be saved immediately. Their welfare is the first priority, once recognised as being the central rocks on the Standing Stones mound, they need to be unstacked and spaced apart, then smoked, sung to, repaired, cleaned and nursed back to health by the women who were directed by the Guardian Spirits to find them. That resurrection is a non-negotiable commodity and pivotal point from which every other future action revolves.
Legal Loop Holes and Maxwell Smart’s ‘Cone of Silence’
I contacted the solicitors for the developer, as I had done previously, where I spoke the same person who had been quite helpful. I explained what our plans were and our aversion towards taking any legal action and was hopeful an amicable agreement to conduct science on site and thereby show respect to culture and these rocks could be negotiated. I suggested to the solicitor that since the developer is adamant the rocks belong to the site and we are equally insistent they do not, why not resolve the impasse through the inspection of an independent qualified geologist to decide who is right.
During a series of phone calls made over the next three days, it became clearer that no-one wanted to discuss this with me and it was always a case of the lawyer is in conference or will return my call soon. That was not a deterrent, but merely the motivation to keep ringing. On the third day all communication officially stopped, the junior partner advised me that from this point on they would no longer speak to me nor pass on any request or comment I made to their client. From the time that proclamation was made I was now suspended in a legal ‘cone of silence’ with Maxwell Smart directing proceedings. I was instructed to contact my solicitor and relay any request through a third party, which they will of course charge a sizable fee to deliver a one minute message. The most bizarre aspect of this official censuring is that I had, during the first phone call, fully set out the conditions and strategies as set out by our earlier meeting of Elders and concerned citizens, all that was left was a response.
Quite simply, if the geologist is legally prevented from entering the site to pass a verdict, we intended to present a series of public meetings throughout the area, beginning at the closest town to both the mound and place where the rocks were hidden, Mullumbimby. Petitions will be stationed at each of the towns where a presentation will be held, and at each meeting we will call for volunteers to be peacefully stationed at both exit points at the site and assist in any way possible. As a last resort an injunction will be filed insisting the geologist be allowed to look and decide, and media outlets will be approached.
If permission is given and the geologist is of the opinion the stack is naturally sourced to this location apologies will be given and our credibility will take a considerable hammering. However, if as suspected it is not from this quarry, the rocks should be formally presented to the women who will act as custodians while in recovery mode.
Above and Beyond
Saving the rocks, tending to their injuries and disrespect before preparing the way for their return to the Standing Stones site were all topics discussed, but the truth of the matter is that everything on the agenda takes second-place to the Guardian Spirits of this sacred site. They are our ‘bosses.’
Time after time mention was made of the “songs.”(2) There was talk that “our existence came from a song”(3) but this was never meant to be restricted to the past tense as the “songs coming back.”(4) But this was never a matter of pining for days long gone as this blessing was never lost, simply awaiting the right timing and vision, as these “songs originate from energy sites.”(5) Not only are the “songs waiting”(6) it was made clear that this was the “time to look at our songs.”(7)
This “song”(8) is so much more than lyrics, musical accompaniment and a catchy chorus. It is the song of the Mother Earth sung by the rocks, the wind and Creation and never for the ears alone. As the revered Original Elder of Kakadu, Big Bill Neidjie, explained when dealing with the breadth of many dimensions of this song, an old order is essential.
“I feel it with my body,
with my blood.
Feeling all those trees,
all this country.
When this wind blow you can feel it.
Same for country …
You feel it.
You can look,
but feeling …
that can make you.
Feeling make you,
Out there in open space.
He coming through your body.
Look while he blow and feel with your body …
Because tree just about your brother or father …
and tree is watching you.”(9)
So there you have it from one the most respected Elders in this country, this song is primarily a “feeling,”(10) and on occasions composed by the “wind.”(11) The audience of peers includes vegetation such as “trees.”(12) Not so much heard by the ears than felt by an individual’s “blood,”(13) this song blends the tree and human ancestry into one seamless chorus. This song is the heartbeat of the mother, the song of the birds, rustle in the trees and songs and dances at the camp fire past and present. It is what binds a soul to country and serves purpose and direction. If the song is lost or no longer heard, there is pain ahead and nothing good can come from it.
This site, once resurrected and given ceremony, will not only amplify this song, but inevitably the chorus will echo across the land and set into motion a change in thinking, consciousness and vibration. That is one prediction which many assembled at the meeting voiced, but elsewhere outside this gathering, there are others who object insisting the rocks are merely a natural deposit, which of course completes our circle in focusing upon the first step yet to be breached. At present every legal shutter is up, the rocks are still in distress and the time wasted lost in official channels must end.
If common sense prevails and the expert is allowed to look, it would soon become obvious that these stones are indeed originally sourced from the mound, and we now have every ingredient needed to rebuild and reconnect. Or we made a monumental mistake, without doubt the biggest ever and deserve the avalanche of criticism coming our way. If nothing else, the next installment in the saga will in this saga be deeply embarrassing or historic.
(1): Kevin Jilla Bootha, (Personal Communication: 18/02/17).
(2)-(8): From Council: Lewis Cook, Lois Cook, Rob Williams, Jingki, Kevin Jilla Bootha, Jarmbie & Darren McIllroy.(Personal Communication: 18/02/17).
(9)-(13): Big Bill Neidjie, Stephen Davis & Allan Fox, “Australia’s Kakadu Man Bill Neidjie“,(Resource Mangers Pty Ltd: Darwin, N.T.), 50.