Tag Archives: Central Australia

Stories I (don’t) tell …

4 May

There are some stories I tell all the time about my experiences as a volunteer in unusual places.  They become rote stories that have the same intonation and wording from repeated tellings.  They belong to the collective consciousness of my friends and family, who have heard them so many times they know when they are coming.

This is one story I tell that has become part of a body of stories I no longer own but have been told so many times they exist in the collective mind of my family and friends.

This house was opposite mine, and every morning and evening when I left and came home the ladies who lived here said hello.  One day in the middle of winter I stayed inside all day.  The next day, on my way to school one old lady called, “Nakamarra, you lazy one!  You didn’t go anywhere yesterday!”

I tell this story because it reflects the extreme belonging I felt during my time in Yuendumu and the everyone-knowing-everything-about-everyone feeling that existed in the community.

But there are some stories I don’t tell.  I don’t tell them because I still can’t make sense of them in my mind, or because I worry about people’s reactions and my ability to enter into the resultant conversation, or simply because they are precious memories.


This is a Voicethread of photos and stories I don’t tell.

Are there stories you don’t tell?

A response to Honey Ants and Chip Packets

29 Apr

Palm Valley - the kids call this place Puerta nemo (it means Nemo rock)

They say you can never really go somewhere
you always leave part of yourself here
Have you ever been to Central Australia?
I think that’s a place
that left itself
somewhere long ago,
before the new people brought themselves there
and tried to make it
part of here
They shouldn’t really call
it Australia up there.
Not if they call it Australia
down here.
It is this country’s heart,
but we have cut it off from the rest of the body
it beats now
only for its soul
and the spirits that still
sit and sing
in the sand.
It still beats. But now, and for such a long time
it beats alone

like a bone that has split amongst the sand
It has lost what keeps it all together
and keeps it together
with us.

some white people
in black suits
might not think so…
but they might not
what they think they know
and might not i
white as any other you’d find
but not one to pretend
I can take a place away from its heart
and just put its heart
back in.

I remember when I first returned from Ntaria, the plane ride home was one of the scariest experiences of my life. I had spent 3 months in Ntaria, only going into Alice Springs for about 1 hour every 2 weeks for food, because as Im sure you know (and we should probably talk about on this blog) the food available in supermarkets in remote communities in Central Aus is ridiculously expensive and horribly bad quality.

But I remember the plane ride home vividly. As we flew back over Sydney, and I saw all the houses and built up buildings so close together. As I swooped over the highways and city streets. As we glided over residential pools and excessive excuses of money spent and wasted on luxuries for personal use…I wanted to turn the plane around

I was so scared to be back in a society like this. I had grown old in Ntaria and was an old man flying into a different universe. I so craved the taste of dry open red dirt flung against my lips and flies against my eyes.

I never felt like that before. In all the places I had travelled, I had never been so ashamed to return home.

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