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.