Passport to April

My friend Crissouli wanted to know where she could get her passport stamped after completing our Top End tour in the A to Z challenge. So I thought I’d put together a collage of some of the month’s pictures.

Collage1

Once again a HUGE thank you to the many people who visited during April and supported me in this challenge…it’s your encouraging comments that helped keep me going. I do hope you also enjoyed yourselves along the way. Good on ya, mate!

And if you really want a passport stamp this might suffice.

A to Z supporter_edited-1

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X is for Art

a-to-z-letters-xX is for X-RAY PAINTINGS

X-ray paintings are typical of the Aboriginal paintings which can be seen in the Wet Season caves and rock overhangs where the communities lived during the floods and heavy rains.  The paintings span centuries and are frequently painted, layer over layer, by succeeding generations of artists.

Some of the themes can be narrowed to particular time eg images of guns will only occur after the mid-19th century. Paintings of sailing ships may be more ambiguous as it’s known that the Macassan traders worked the northern coast of the Northern Territory. What’s interesting to me, is that these drawings aren’t by people who lived right beside the ocean, rather a little inland.

Our tour guide, Peter aka Mongrel, points out some of the less noticeble art work at Ubirr.

Our tour guide, Peter aka Mongrel, points out some of the less noticeble art work at Ubirr. You can see a sailing ship to the left of where he’s pointing and further left, Mabuyu. P Cass 1991

Mabuyu

Mabuyu

Only specific people within the community who had the traditional responsibility could “touch up” the important paintings, which I believe was last done nearly 50 years ago. It’s interesting to me to look at photos taken back in 1991 when I first visited, with some taken last month. Paintings were a form of history keeping as well as telling cultural traditions and animals to hunt.

Long necked turtles are still hunted in the billabongs in Kakadu.

Long necked turtles are still hunted in the billabongs in Kakadu.

I’m not going to try to explain the intricacies of the X Ray Paintings as I’m no expert. There’s an article here by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The style of painting is still reflected in some art work by Arnhem Land artists.

A hunting scene shows men with spears. The Aboriginal people were, and still are, excellent hunters in their tradiitonal land.

A hunting scene shows men with spears. The Aboriginal people were, and still are, excellent hunters in their tradiitonal land. You can see people, fish and a turtle.

My photographs are taken at two sites, both in Kakadu National Park. One is Ubirr and the other is Nourlangie (or Burrunggui). There are a couple of galleries in each place, and it’s well worth visiting each. Do take time to sit down and have a breather and a sip of water. The longer you look, the more pictures you’ll see. At Nourlangie’s Anbangbang gallery, the iconic image of Namarrgon, the Lightning Man is the most popular feature.

Anbangbang gallery hosts these amazing paintings including the LIghtning Man with the arc between his arms.

Anbangbang gallery hosts these amazing paintings including the LIghtning Man with the arc between his arms.

Archeologists have dated Nourlangie’s Anbangbang gallery as having been in use for over 20,000 years. So much for Australia being a young country!

The person on the left is without a doubt, a white man.

The person on the left is without a doubt, a white man.

Nourlangie art low

The image on the left has a Wandjina vibe to me but I could very well be wrong.

Why visit: to see ancient art tell a story of life before white settlement, and stories of traditional culture and hunting.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

The closer we get to the end of the alphabet, the fewer options for Aussie-isms, perhaps we really are lazy after all!

Today I leave you with a beer closely associated with my  home state of Queensland:

XXXX: Fourex beer is manufactured on Milton Rd in Brisbane, close to the famous Lang Park Rugby League grounds. XXXX is a Qld icon!

W is for Watarrka National Park

a-to-z-letters-wW is for WATARRKA NATIONAL PARK

Once known as Kings Canyon, Watarrka National Park is a must-visit while you’re touring the Red Centre. It’s accessible by either 2WD or 4WD depending on which road you take. When we visited nearly 20 years ago it was a rather bumpy corrugated road but the Holden survived it happily, though our teeth had more of a challenge!

This said it all in 1995.

This said it all. Oops, I think this might be actually Karrajini NP in WA but you get the drift.

Watarrka continues the sub-theme of this challenge which appears to have been geological formations, as it seems I could have done almost a whole A to Z on “rocks and gorges I have known”.

Watarrka from a distance.

Watarrka from a distance.

For me what’s different about Watarrka is the colour of the Canyon rocks, a sort of dusty pink with splashes of cream, and the sheer cliff face. The Canyon walk can be both tedious and a bit daunting depending on your fitness or anxiety about cliff edges (one of my own phobias). However if possible it’s well worth the effort, but do plan to start out your walk early in the morning before the heat of the day kicks in. You can also go with a tour guide, for not much expense as I recall, but ours moved with a bit too much speed –it would have been nice to meander a little more.

The sheer cliff face of the Canyon. P Cass 1995

The sheer cliff face of the Canyon. P Cass 1995

At the foot of the rocks there are once again, hidden nooks, crannies and water holes which support a diversity of life and form a mini ecosystem.  These low-level walks are accessible to the less fit or those who have walking challenges.

Shaded nooks and waterholes provide sustenance for desert creatures.

Shaded nooks and waterholes provide sustenance for desert creatures.

I notice on the park’s website they feel the need to tell people: Watarrka, as with all National Parks is a protected area. Disturbance of plants, animals and natural features is an offence. It is prohibited to: break branches for fly swats; write or etch names on rocks; remove or displace the natural landscape i.e. rocks or flora. Cigarette butts, tissue paper and orange peel are three common and unsightly forms of litter.

I'm always amazed by the hardiness of some of our native trees.

I’m always amazed by the hardiness of some of our native trees.

I’d have thought that would be self-evident, “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints” but obviously the park rangers’ experience suggests that many people still don’t get it. Also don’t forget to slip on your shirt, slop on some suncream, slap on a hat, and carry some water!

Why visit: To enjoy another magical place in the desert and see some quite different rock formations and a canyon (but not on the scale of the Grand Canyon).

Join me tomorrow for some culture of a different sort.

Camels were brought into the desert by the Afghan traders of the 19th century.

Camels were brought into the desert by the Afghan traders of the 19th century.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

I doubt that some of these are exclusive to Australia but these are today’s offerings:

Won’t have a bar of it: won’t touch it.

Waddya: Aussies have a common habit of slurring or abbreviating words. What do you….waddya…..

Wig wam for a goose’s bridle: my mother used to say this all the time. In essence it means mind your own business.

Weak as cat’s piss: a pathetic person with no commitment, or an argument that doesn’t hold up to logic etc.

Waffle: not the food that people have with ice cream and honey or maple syrup but meaning “talks vaguely on, and on about nothing of importance”.

Wally: a silly person

Wog: an Australian name from the post-war migration when there was a significant influx of Mediterranean immigrants. Sometimes meant as an insult, but not always, but perhaps that depends on whether you’re on the receiving end.

Wuss: cowardly or timid person, much the same as “chicken”. A minor insult intended to suggest, quite often, that someone is “a bit of a girl”.

V is for our valiant Indigenous ANZACs

My post today combines the A to Z challenge but also the annual Trans Tasman ANZAC day blog challenge.

An early ANZAC Day march in Townsville, Far North Queensland 1922.

An early ANZAC Day march in Townsville, Far North Queensland 1922, from the Townsville Library via Trove.

CULTURAL WARNING: This post contains images and references to deceased Aboriginal people.

An Indigenous soldier from Thursday Island, Far North Queensland.  Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

An Indigenous soldier from Thursday Island, Far North Queensland. Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Today is the 25th April, Anzac Day, which commemorates the landing of ANZAC troops on the beach at Gallipoli. For Australians this event has come to symbolise our practical emergence as a nation, only 14 years after being legally proclaimed. Many of the ANZAC traditions have been romanticised with less than perfect accuracy. As time passes the knowledge and research into our military history has become more mature revealing nuances which weren’t highlighted previously, and showing shadow as well as light.

Over the past 98 years Anzac Day itself has had a varied history. When I was a teenager it had lost its lustre, perhaps influenced by our involvement in the Vietnam War. These days it has a total resurgence of pride, aided by more Australia-focused history being taught in schools, rather than mostly the British history of my youth.

In this blog over the past weeks we’ve been visiting the diverse and magnificent scenery of the Northern Territory and the top, tropical, half of Australia’s two largest states, Queensland and Western Australia.

It’s appropriate today to keep our focus in the area but to look at how Indigenous people served their country during Australia’s war-time history. Traditionally overshadowed by the Gallipoli legend, the service of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been important in diverse ways.

At the time of World War I and II, Aboriginal people were not citizens in their own country, they were not counted in the nation’s census, they could not drink in public bars, nor did they have control of their own money or their movement eg they could not visit their own families at Christmas without the permission of the local Protector of Aborigines, often the local police constable.

Men from Melville Island on the Tiwis, who were recruited to help recover downed pilots and monitor the coastline.

Men from Melville Island on the Tiwis, who were recruited to help locate downed pilots and aircraft, and monitor the coastline.

As recruitment commenced for WWI, “full blood” Aborigines were not permitted to enlist as this quote reveals: “This decision definitely [excludes] the enlistment of full-blooded Aborigines, but instructions have been issued to medical officers that in deciding whether or not a person is substantially of European origin, they will be guided by the general suitability of the applicant”.

Not only does the quote illuminate a prejudiced and ambivalent attitude to Indigenous recruitment, it reveals how much it depended on a white person’s assessment of them. It also ignored whether the Indigenous community viewed them as being Indigenous, either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

The very ambiguity reveals why some Aboriginal people did manage to enlist and serve side-by-side with their fellow Australians in all sites of war. Some 500 Indigenous men were among the 80,000 servicemen in the AIF, and 80 came from the Northern Territory[i].

The wedding of an Aboriginal servicemen in Brisbane 1917. Negative number: 60511 SLQ.

The wedding of an Aboriginal servicemen in Brisbane 1917. Negative number: 60511 SLQ. The men were Jim Lingwoodock and John Geary. Their brides are not identifed.

In World War II the situation was similar though the fear for Australia’s northern shores meant that Aboriginal people were also at the forefront of the country’s protection, whether actually serving or not.

It was the missionary at Bathurst Island from the Tiwi Islands, about 30 minutes flying time north of Darwin, who radioed the news of the Japanese bombers flying in to bomb the city. . Unfortunately it was regarded as some allied aircraft returning and the warning ignored. The Tiwis also played a role as the Japanese aircraft returned to their carriers. A couple of Zero aircraft detoured to strafe the Catholic church at Nguiu and also a DC3 on the runway. One crash-landed and it was a Tiwi man, Matthias Ungura, who captured the first Japanese Prisoner of War on Australian soil, Hajime Toyoshima, who would later be a key instigator, and die, in the Cowra POW breakout. To this day the Tiwi Islanders commemorate the capture of the POW and their attempt to warn Darwin in time.

A ceremony commemorating the Bombing of Darwin at Nguiu, and the Tiwis involvement in the war. 1995

A ceremony commemorating the Bombing of Darwin at Nguiu, and the Tiwis involvement in the war. 1995

Matthias Ungura stalked the Japanese pilot who was armed with a revolver and a knife. He is quoted as saying “He got proper big fright”. “I take revolver from his right side near his knee. Then I walk backwards pointing my gun. I say ‘Stick em up…right up…two hands…no more holding hands on head[ii]

Although still restricted in their ability to volunteer and enlist, some managed to do so, serving as officers, pilots and naval seamen. Others worked side by side with the extensive military deployment in the Northern Territory while some performed patrols searching out crashed aircraft and downed pilots, or monitored the coastline for Japanese military and naval activity. Their bush skills and knowledge of country meant that they could survive only on bush tucker and not need a supply line. Some women joined the Volunteer Air Observers Corp (as did my mother in Brisbane) learning to identify aircraft types and monitor the skies for enemy aircraft.

Japanese POWs on the Tiwi Islands with their Aboriginal capturers. AWM P00296.052 AWM

Japanese POWs on the Tiwi Islands with their Aboriginal capturers. AWM P00296.052 AWM

Aboriginal Pilot Flight Sgt Len Waters P01659.001 AWM image.

Aboriginal Pilot Flight Sgt Len Waters P01659.001 AWM image.

Probably the Indigenous men joined for many of the same reasons as the white volunteers: for adventure, seeing new places and defending their own country. However some would almost certainly have joined in the hope it might gain Aboriginal people citizenship rights on the land their ancestors had called home for over 40,000 years. This was not to be though, because that took another 25 years to come to pass, and it was not until the 1980s that they gained the back-pay they were due to put them on parity with their military peers and also official recognition of their service.

They returned home to the disenfranchised condition they had left, with few job opportunities, and extensive racial discrimination. Like their peers they had to face their wartime demons on their own –they couldn’t even go to the bar and have a drink with their former colleagues on Anzac Day, a traditional opportunity for the servicemen to re-bond and talk frankly among themselves, and have an equally traditional game of two-up.

The Australian Aboriginal League in the Sydney May Day procession 1947. Banners protest against restrictions on Aboriginal people. AWM Image P01248.00

The Australian Aboriginal League in the Sydney May Day procession 1947. Banners protest against restrictions on Aboriginal people. AWM Image P01248.00

The Australian War Memorial gallery of names.

The Australian War Memorial gallery of names.

The more you read of our Indigenous history, the more you appreciate why we have such a comprehensive social problem which seems almost unable to be resolved. As I’ve prepared this post I’ve come to realise just how paltry my own knowledge is, so my goal is to read more around the topic.

This is the first stanza of a poem called Black Anzac by Cecil Fisher.

They have forgotten him, need him no more

He who fought for his land in nearly every war

Tribal fights before his country was taken by Captain Cook

Then went overseas to fight at Gallipoli and Tobruk.

This Anzac Day, please remember our Indigenous servicemen who gave their lives, and their courage, to make life better for others.

LEST WE FORGET

[i] This story has been greatly assisted by a teaching resource Indigenous Service, a collaboration between the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance. It draws on an exhibition held at the Shrine in 2009 called Indigenous Australians at war, from the Boer War to the present.

[ii] Smith, Heide. Tiwi: The life and art of Australia’s Tiwi People. Edition Habit Press, Adelaide, 1990, page 25.

OTHER STORIES/REFERENCES

Indigenous Australians at War

The Australian series of Who Do You Think You Are? have two excellent shows on Indigenous Australians, Olympic runner Cathy Freeman and footballer Michael O’Loughlin. Both were amazing for revealing what life was like for their Aboriginal ancestors, as well as their ANZAC heritage (Cathy Freeman) and cultural foresight (Michael O’Loughlin).

Or some of my own posts on Australian service during the war:

V is for the Valiant of Villers-Brettoneux (the 2012 Anzac Day post)

Fromelles, Lt WEH Cass and family collections (another exhibition at the Shrine)

Battle of Fromelles: In Memoriam: L/Cpl James Augustus Gavin KIA

Remembrance Day 2012: Honouring the Australian-born Diggers with German ancestry.

The Battle of Milne Bay remembered in stained glass.

Australia Day 2012: Life for toil on the railway (including WWI Railway military service)

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS
Again a quiet day:
Veg out: chill out, take it easy, relax
Verbal diarrhoea: talks non-stop/doesn’t know when to stops, blathers on “That bloke’s got verbal diarrhoea, you can’t shut him up”.
Happy little Vegemite: after an iconic advertisement for Vegemite – many Australians’ favourite sandwich spread. Expats have been known to get very desperate for a “fix” of vegemite. A happy little vegemite indicates someone is “as happy as Larry”, presumably because they’d had their Vegemite.
We’re back on the road in Central Australia tomorrow.

Uluru will woo you

U is for ULURU

Once again we’re off to the Red Centre today, right to the cultural, geographic and iconic heart of Australia, Uluru or Ayers Rock as it used to be known.

The colours of the desert and the Red Centre.

The colours of the desert and the Red Centre.

I can’t imagine there’d be too many of my readers who won’t have seen an image of this monolith either in a TV show or in a book.  Perhaps you might think that, like the EiffelTower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you’ve seen it so often “virtually” that’s there’s little point in actually visiting. You expect that you’ll arrive and think “oh, yes, that’s what it’s supposed to look like”.

Uluru colours

We were surprised when we visited Uluru on a long road trip from Brisbane via Adelaide, that it actually took our breath away. Like many we were initially fooled by Mt Connor with its look-alike appearance, but when you see the real thing, you’re in no doubt. I had no difficulty believing the Aboriginal sense of its religious significance. It may seem strange to say that a large lump of rock has an aura, but we found that it did. There is just something about it that holds you in thrall. Perhaps all those centuries of humans around it have imparted some human spirit as well.

Hidden nooks, crannies and eco[systems.

Hidden nooks, crannies and eco-systems.

I have a fear of heights so had no inclination whatsoever to climb the rock and was happy to abide by the local Aboriginal people’s request not to do so. Our two then-teenaged daughters did go to the top and took their time steadily getting there. I doubt that having lived in the Territory for so long now that they’d ever climb it again.

uluru close up

Huge variations in the rock face add interest and mystery.

Apart from the cultural prohibitions, there are practical reasons not to climb. It’s far from uncommon for people to die high up the rock from exertion, heat stroke or whatever. This means that the poor emergency service workers have to put their own lives at risk to get someone down.

Sunset over Uluru with a view to Kata Tjuta.

Sunset over Uluru with a view to Kata Tjuta.

There are alternative activities which will give you a much better sense of the place and my favourite was walking around the base looking at the colonies of plants and animals and seeing the impact of the heavy rains. I only wish we’d been there when it rained! If you’re there and it pours, don’t bemoan your fate, dash out with your camera and get some amazing photos. Check out this story about how a local photographer captured Uluru in a downpour. I’d give my eye teeth to see it running with rain like this and I was green as a shamrock when some of my work colleagues fluked exactly that.

The finger-like detail of the rock face.

The finger-like detail of the rock face.

We have some special memories of our camping stay at nearby Yulara. The ice on the water bucket in the morning (it was sub-zero) and the sound of our daughters tossing and turning under their heat blanket (they forgot their parkas when they left home to catch the plane to meet us). The sounds of the didgeridoo and singing from a corroboree nearby, and the howl of the dingoes.

One of the things this A to Z has done for me, is remind me how many places we need to revisit ourselves.

Why visit: to see Australia’s red heart and an iconic site. To learn more about Indigenous culture and life in the desert.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Not much to add here today so I’ll add a complete red-herring:

Rellie Run: the compulsory visit to the family interstate, very common in a place with many transient residents and where few have deep roots in the state. Hard to believe we’re now a three generation Territory family….where did the years go.

 Up the creek without a paddle: no hope

O is for the Olgas ( Kata Tjuta) and Open Gardens

O is for the OLGAS

The Olgas or Kata Tjuta, as this rock formation is now known, is part of the Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta’s more famous big sister tends to take the highest profile but if you’re heading for the Red Centre you should allow time to do both parts of the park. This national park is truly Australia’s red heart and is smack bang in the middle of the country and probably encapsulates the sense of the Outback more than anywhere else.

The Olgas from a distance. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

The Olgas from a distance. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

Kata Tjuta is all curves as each rocky dune looms against the vivid blue of the desert sky. The contrasting colours are magnificent with the green of the Spinifex looking almost lime-coloured on film and in some light. It provides its own dot-painting effect against the vivid ochre red of the rock formation. Tucked among the rocks are hidden spots where the desert animals can live, survive and even thrive. A quiet bushwalker has the benefit of hearing the birds and may even see some creatures as well.

On the Valley of the Winds walk. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

On the Valley of the Winds walk. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

The track through the Valley of the Winds is peaceful and restorative, as well as tiring! This is certainly an experience best savoured in the cooler months of the year when overnight it can be decidedly chilly, especially in a tent or swag. Those hot summer months (about October to April) are best avoided as most people will find them unbearable. Do plan to hang around at the Olgas towards the end of the day so you can see the setting sun light the dunes with varying shades of pink and red. Just magnificent!

068 Kata Juta moonrise and sunset

O is for OPEN GARDENS

Welcome to the garden.

Welcome to the garden.

If you love gardens it’s always worth keeping an eye out for the local Open Gardens events   when you travel – they’re a great Opportunity to see new and different garden designs as well as plants you may not be familiar with.

The 2013 season Open Gardens NT commenced last weekend and we have a feast of Top End gardens to choose from throughout the Dry. It’s one of our favourite weekend activities to visit a garden and have a coffee and cake while soaking up the ambience. You can see my stories and photos from 2012 through this link.

Why visit: To see a unique natural wonder of Australia and the amazing colours, vegetation and animals of the Outback.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

On the turps: big drinking session

Old mate: A NT special gradually soaking into the vernacular elsewhere. A generic expression meaning, roughly, bloke, someone you don’t know. So old mate drove his (Land) Cruiser through the creek….

Outback: Australia’s vast interior. The iconic idea of Australia often completely unfamiliar to its many coastal dwellers. The people are typically unemotional and physically tough and laconic.

Ordinary: not the usual meaning of “normal” but also in the Aussie sense can mean sub-par, inferior, not much good. How’re ya going mate? Feeling a bit ordinary today…

I wonder where the letter P will take us tomorrow? How about back into the Kimberley?