Increased Devotion

Cape York Partnership Building Launch

2016 June, 15

Increased Devotion

Thank you everyone. So many good friends, old friends, and colleagues working with us. I really appreciate your presence here today.

I've written a verse for today which I might ask your indulgence to listen to. It's called ‘Increased Devotion’.

1. These women and men of this great Peninsula. Now departed.

2. The last among us still, whose interred bones lie

3. in ancient homelands. Un-renowned the world,

4. Abiding still the sub-terrain of our tribal memory.

5. This day we honour this Pantheon of the living

6. and dead. Though dead these spirits give breath

7. to our living culture. Possessed with the fire

8. of fate and sacrifice for our future’s sake

9. Pama so brave, Jawunkarra so faithful

10. They dug these wells. From obdurate stone

11. cold hearts of our bloody legacy, they hewed

12. in blood, sweat, and swingeing pain, the stony edifice

13. of indifference when that great silence

14. Hung like a shroud over the land, leaving mute

15. justice and equality for this noble people’s kin.

16. We are come with heavy hearts, and swelling tears

17. of memory, love, and incommensurate privilege.

18. Undeserving, compared their deep privations.

19. Faces set strong against despair and hope’s loss.

20. The ceaseless struggle. Steadfast patience and belief

21. to cross Jordan to our promised lands

22. so our great children will know themselves

23. and stand. The immemorial footprints of their forebears,

24. mixed in the sovereign dust of native inheritance.

25. We come to honour. For the world will scarce

26. remember and never reverence our own.

27. Duty falls upon us to dedicate, by hallowed

28. lore of our traditions, of these heroes

29. never to lose memory. Never let their names

30. and more, pass from eternal gratitude.

31. For they be our inspiration, linked to the past.

32. Illumined our path to the present, and

33. guiding our future. No people can prevail

34. without memory. There can be no culture

35. without orthodoxy. Without communal

36. soul force we perish and be aboriginal

37. no more to this land. And so we bow our

38. heads today, in honour and praise,

39. to these whose love brought new succour.

40. New hope. Whose deep roots lie anchored in

41. the radical soil of our forefathers. But harken,

42. today is great sadness and great beseeching.

43. Forgiveness for great debt. How can people

44. granted with free hands such vivid wealth

45. and easy pleasure, brighter prospects

46. furnished in our daily bread, ensconced

47. in restoration of our entitlements. The battle

48. not yet won but far too advanced. Our generals,

49. warriors, strategists, philosophers, soothsayers

50. Medicine women and conjurers of magical potential,

51. our children. Enjoying the fruits

52. of ancestral resolution that we should endure

53. by will of sovereign God, long on this earth.

54. We are not ingrates who without grace and pause

55. fail to hallow those who possessing nothing,

56. gave us everything. We are people faithful to service

57. obliged to respect, amazing our fortune

58. to have ones as these glide our canoes.

59. Down beguiling rivers, hunting the darkling forests

60. Over steep mountainous climes safely led,

61. Wading ginger swamps, in sanguine view that

62. reptilian terror our most pitiless kin.

63. Our leader, this man, this colossal man of Ngakayenka

64. Oh vanished youth! Spent never so propitiously

65. as at this mighty man’s feet, Black Moses.

66. Among that band Zorzi called:

67. The Greatest Generation. Yeeum of that river

68. Holroyd, pious friend to all things good

69. implacable foe of injustice. In old age and

70. unyielding, shades of youthful vigour still.

71. Michaelangelo’s David in late evening repose.

72. Obsidian skin in ritual scars, barricades

73. with such a man, we gamely stormed.

74. Next him his brother, who swallowed the Taipan’s eye

75. Blue-eyed visionary, name-saked totem

76. from Musgrave marched, a child in chains

77. wrenched his mother’s arms. Stolen boy,

78. old woman’s wretched tears on infant footprints,

79. wailing cold campfires of happier memories.

80. To their fore that statesman Hobson, natural rhetorician

81. launched soaring this movement, cadenced

82. with deep culture and evangelical infusion.

83. The Bale mission’s illustrious All Souls scholar

84. On that River Nesbit, power of stunning argument.

85. To his right that wise warrior of the Y clan,

86. Charismatic philosopher-general, of Keerweer.

87. Hard of countenance, generous of heart. Wielding

88. fighting authority from fighting people, the Wik.

89. The Dutch of Duyfken expelled by fierce fathers fore.

90. Than his, no greater battle imprimatur,

91. No more sage tenderer of solicitude, like Pericles

92. urging patriots to civic duty, on behalf righteous cause.

93. Leadership, his presence all aspect exudes.

94. This poor song, can’t scant number all

95. this Pantheon in lapidary memorial:

96. Jacko, Gordon, Foote, Pablo, Creek, Bassani, Lawrence

97. Brumby, Blanco, Ropeyarn, Hall, George, Musgrave,

98. Flinders, Ahmat, Deemal, Port, Tarpencha

99. Chillagoe, Shortjoe, Powloo, Omeenyo

100.Boseun, Wasaga, Sellars, Nelson, Liddie

101. Hollingworth, Guivarra, Aken, Friday, McGreen

102. Burchill, Kulka, Darken, McLean, Salt

103. Patterson, Michael, Ross, Pearson, Ngallametta

104. Woibo, Walker, Ross-Kelly, Gibson, Hart,

105. Thancoupie, Kerindun, Poochemunka, Koowarta,

106. Tybingoompa, Chevathun, Rosendale, Woola,

107. Walmbeng, Brumby, Lakefield, Kepple and more.

108. Prodigious remembrance and copious gratitude.

109. At their hands the sweet water of justice flowed, struck

110. from parched stone. Slaking thirst on rivers of their sweat.

111. Oh forget these names not! Our children fortify

112. with their memory, example our youth to follow.

113. No lesson more profound did they impart,

114. than prior duty be our people serve.

115. Provision without tire or dereliction,

116. the future of our precious young, and secure

117. some immortality in this mortal world.

118. Is there humankind put more to trial than ours? Tribulation,

119. grief, sickness, and short lives seem our lot.

120. Condemned by iron laws of destiny, to gross

121. disproportion of misery and mean prospects.

122. Families asunder, a wreckage of bodies, children

123. too numerous from mothers’ bosoms alienated, Crying

124. tears of rage and unremitting despair. Yearning

125. fair share and respite. By the world alleged

126. inferior. Languishing the lowest bottom

127. of the world’s privilege and weal. Thus,

128. it was not always, oh how we have fallen.

129. Since that vandalous invasion, when the world

130. of beauty, right and worth, turned black to white.

131. Never again reversed. Never again that terrible

132. dialectic to resolve in harmonious equality.

133. For to be white in this new cosmos is right.

134. To be white is startling advantage. Startling

135. result after 53,000 years when racial contempt

136. and hatred, never before shadowed this continent.

137. It companied rats and roaches upon ships of sail.

138. Spilling vile cargo upon incorrupt shores. Here

139. to grow and thrive on bloody frontiers.

140. Of massacre, disease, and theft of estates, hitherto

141. held under deeds of natural right and law.

142. In hands of its native owners. That racism,

143. now flamed in virulent ideology, premised

144. ‘pon assumed bestiality of black people.

145. At best primates and worse, vermin

146. shot and poisoned. The casual parsimony

147. of colonial genocide. Its waste and remnant

148. still today seen in gutters, crannies and camps

149. of unfair, brutal life in such fair city.

150. It was into this doleful interregnum since

151. loss of Paradise and descent into perdition,

152. and their parents’ struggle for survival, out of ashes

153. the greatest generation came. Inculcated

154. from the first with notions foreign to their

155. ancestors. For injustice and racism, inequality

156. and poverty, thus far unknown. Happiness,

157. tragedy, starvation, work and pleasure

158. were parcel of tribal life. Nature’s bounty

159. gave plenitude and suffice. Sad day,

160. sailing ships disgorged new tribes with new

161. ideologies of beauty, right and worth. When

162. novel discovery of racial hierarchy, apartheid

163. and imperial right of Europe to world dominion,

164. Became the mind-frame of these elders. Politics

165. entered our world. Tribal politics always here

166. but this new politics, when peoples driven

167. diverse ways after Babel, turned the reverse,

168. Imperial plunder and colonial usurpation crushed

169. the splendid isolation of tribes and shrunk the earth.

170. It fell this Pantheon to lead from these vales

171. of strife and ruin. The pilot light of vision

172. and start the long climb to sunnier uplands.

173. Their work and determination, up arduous

174. cliffs of cold unforgiving granite, with hope

175. our only engine and animations of doubt

176. grasping from every crevice, tripping

177. our path, impeding our progress, jealousing

178. our future, envying earth’s most wretched.

179. How perverse to resent the lowliest better lives?

180. No matter these travails, these elders

181. set us on the path of righteousness, to ever rail

182. against injustice and prejudice. All gains

183. made these years since, are to their spirits owed.

184. Base camp recedes far below us, but the summit sought,

185. clouds obscure. Danger and calamity still

186. challenge the path ahead, but this odyssey will

187. never pause till our last child can choose a life

188. she has reason to value.

189. One word of warning. We sail parlous straits,

190. siren songs on every side. The cause

191. these elders their lives dedicated,

192. imperilled because those in their wake

193. little know struggle and fight. Sacrifice

194. is not their ken. The need for struggle far from

195. unabated still, and setbacks, backlash,

196. necessity to redoubt our gains, ever-abides.

197. Yet that fund of opportunity curated, by those who

198. struggled and gave selfless chance to the future

199. which their time denied them, is now easy leverage

200. For opportunists who decline to carry

201. their weight in fight. Easy advantage gained from

202. conniving those who oppose our dignity.

203. For them to sidle those whose purpose

204. has ever been to resist our progress, dishonour

205. this Pantheon and shame noble motivation.

206. Those who use implements created by these men and women

207. to betray the cause for which

208. these levers were forged, on hot anvils,

209. see them for what they are: rank opportunists, seduced

210. by force of personal gain. For 30 pieces of silver be

211. a great power in the world.

212. True balance and equanimity between

213. regard for one’s self, filial duty to our people

214. dnd fealty to our communal hearth,

215. is for our young their greatest challenge.

216. Those who guise individual gain at communal expense

217. Will rankle this heritance and dishonour our elders.

218. Let us forsake but never forget those darkest days

219. When as wild dogs, our great parents shot

220. and incarcerated on that infamous island. Let us be reminded that

221. genecide and murder, mayhem and disemation

222. was at the hands of troopers

223. of native origin, cavalries of Judas

224. on horseback, who tracked and hunted

225. bludgeoned and chained, and sold out for rations

226. and a mess of pottage, their own people.

227. All for the glory of uniforms, handsome livery

228. and age-old desire to please, their cutthroat masters.

229. How could such people oppose their native title

230. and tear down educational

231. chances of their own children to be new packhorses

232. for an old colonial cause?

233. As this song’s end draws nigh we recall,

234. the tale this old Taipan man told

235. in rampant days when troopers stalked our peninsula,

236. with his brother a stockyard

237. in the hottest day through hardest soil,

238. for a white station owner. In the distance

239. a caravan of horses, in chains

240. a line of black humans,

241. neck-bound to Laura,

242. ‘here comes another mob’, they dryly observed.

243. That miserable sight of human bondage.

244. Native troopers on horseback led

245. This chained gang walking,

246. white sergeant in lead. RIding the dusty road in sweltering heat.

247. From afar these brothers saw these troops, seemed

248. half-carried, half dragging,

249. a log or some heavy bundle between their chains.

250. When they neared the yard they saw an old woman, dead,

251. still bondaged to her fellows.

252. After pause the dismal caravan moved on

253. till these siblings emboldened asked if their white boss could

254. Intervene. And asked the Sargent whether they may take

255. and bury this woman. For it was their aunt.

256. Their boss replied if they were willing to brave

257. the hot sun and hard soil to dig a grave,

258. it was up to them. This man then in early

259. youth said, ‘we digging holes anyway’.

260. If I knew these men and women. If I knew

261. the content of their hearts, the convictions

262. of their souls. It was to bequeath our children

263. the means for our nativr nations on this earth

264. to long endure. Let us redouble our commitment.

265. Let us increase our devotion, to that cause

266. which these elders have so far nobly advanced.

Thank you.