making tracks

May 24, 2014





Winter is only a week away, and it is warm here.

Every day is a glorious 25 degrees celsius. Sun shiny days where you go to stand outside and raise your face to greet the rays. It’s beautiful and it feels so wrong.

Where is the cold?

I still wear cardigans, coats, and boots in memory of the Autumn we should be having. My boys run around in shorts and t-shirts.

We put the heater on for about one hour each evening and then switch it off. We only put it on because it’s a habit for the youngest one in the ‘cooler’ months to sit in front of the heater after his bath.

I’ve never seen an Autumn like this.

I wrote about six weeks ago of the burnout I was feeling. I am coming through it, slowly. I have been kind to myself during this process, not pushing anything along, just going with the flow and listening to my heart.  I’m doing a spectacularly good job of separating work from home. Recently I have been experiencing a crisis of confidence. Probably because I have so loved my work for so very long, and now I am struggling with it, and I don’t know what else I should be doing.

Recently I have become involved in the Aboriginal community in my local area. This year there has been a programme for Aboriginal children in the local primary school and high school, and I discovered that they wanted the parents’ input and involvement. So, I have stepped out of the shadows. I have put my thoughts forward. I am concerned about relevance and identity, and being proud, strong, and modern. I am also concerned about sustainability and legacy.

I love, love, love the traditional knowledge aspect of Aboriginal culture, but I do wonder about relevance to today’s young people and sometimes how teaching children traditional knowledge perpetuates the stereotype that Indigenous people have dark skin, wear little clothing, hunt for their food, and live in bark huts. It’s a stereotype that is held throughout every layer of our society. Those stereotypes create an environment where the dominant white culture imposes restrictions and limits on Aboriginal people and continues to tell Aboriginal people how they should be living. In the ‘old days’ they weren’t allowed to be black and ‘now days’ they can’t be too white.

Food is trendy these days and Aboriginal people can contribute bush tucker. Bush tucker ties in with healthy eating and closing the gap between Aboriginal health and non-Aboriginal health. Aboriginal people die 20 to 30 years earlier than non-Aboriginal people.  I would like to see a bush tucker garden and grove at the school. A place where the small plants (midyim, bush tomato, saltbush) can be grown, and also where the bigger plants can grow big and strong (lilli pilli, macadamia, blueberry ash).

As we live surrounded by the bush, I think that bushcraft is a relevant skill and eco based tourism is a career path. How to walk the earth in a respectful way. Knowledge of survival in the bush. How to locate where you are by the position of the sun. How to care for the waterways. How to identify men’s places and women’s places. Calling out to the ancestors to ask permission to enter.

Identity is a tricky subject for fair skinned kids. My kids have grown up going to Aboriginal events and being with Aboriginal people when they come to my work events. My first boy doesn’t acknowledge his heritage, my second boy acknowledges and enjoys it, and the third boy thinks he is black. It would be helpful for the Aboriginal kids to have a male and female Elder talk to them about what it means to them to be an Aboriginal person. To talk about the strengths of both male and female, and respect for what each can do. How to grow up proud and strong, kind and quietly confident. The importance of family and everyone pitching in.

In his post “Walking Together“, Michael Watson mentions the choices we make regarding “personhood, ecology, spirituality, and ethics”. This is where I am right now. Wondering about my place in the community and how I may be of service. Trying to give my kids the opportunity to learn the Culture that I didn’t have access to. There is always so much learning and growing to do.



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4 Comments on “making tracks”

  1. greenmackenzie Says:

    What a fascinating post, and what a rich life you have lived. So much to offer indeed. I’m curious about the clan you mention not being a member of….why would that prevent you teaching about plants and the earth?
    I look to the aboriginal traditions in Australia and in America, when I’m trying to make sense of the way I feel about the earth beneath my feet here in Scotland, and trying to understand how my ancestors would have interacted and understood its energies and gifts. Respect and connection with earth is something I feel buried deeply in my DNA…..I think it’s there for everyone, if only they would still themselves enough to look 🙂


    • tree girl Says:

      Hi greenmackenzie

      It’s about respect. As there were hundreds of clans across Australia that spoke their own languages, and had their own land-based customs, traditions, stories, songs, ceremonies, and spirituality, then it is assumed that the best people to teach are those that come from the area. Aboriginal people were and still aren’t homogenous. They are all very different.

      My mother’s clan Eora is sometimes considered to be a group from the Dharug, and sometimes not. But Eora were located on the coast, and I live in the mountains. I feel more at home in this area, but the decision is not mine to make.

      You feel the history and spirits of the ancient lands in which you visit. You belong to that land, and connect with it. Your posts and photos are a reflection of that care and connection. We are all Indigenous because we all came from somewhere. I feel the energy of the ancestors when I am visiting certain places, it is polite to ask them if you may enter. Some people can see them, but I can’t. I hear their voices in the movement of the plants and in the wind. There are men’s places and women’s places, and sacred places, and I can feel that energy. Do you?

      I’m not sure how I would go visiting Scotland, so many spirits, so much violence. There is 60,000 years of history of Indigenous people in this land, but it was sparsely populated. The clans were small, and they had their skirmishes over territory and women, but there wasn’t the large-scale battles that you had there.

      Thank you for your comment.


  2. michaelwatsonvt Says:

    I awoke this morning to find your comments on the post. Made my day! Then I read your post. Broke my heart. I’m crying as I write this. Sad and angry. I have come to the place where I say I only speak for me. This gets me in trouble with liberal settler types, who want me to speak for all Indigenous people. I will only speak about my experience as a mixed race urban person who identifies as Native. The racism around us is too much. Both sides want to know your blood quantum and want the answer to be easy and clear. This in spite of 500 years of colonial oppression.

    I am glad you and your boys are claiming what each of you feels is important. My adult child does not identify as Native, although I think she appreciates me as Native. We must, I believe, accept that we have differing paths to ourselves and the Creator. We find our way as best we are able. Your list is superlative! A lovely guide to the future, a bright light in these increasingly dark times for Indigenous people

    Thank you for your writing, your sharing your life. This is beautiful resistance.


    • tree girl Says:

      Thank you Michael.

      I always appreciate your support and encouragement.

      I’m going to paste a comment that I made on your blog regarding ‘blood quantum’…

      I’m glad we’ve got past the blood quantum (we call it “percentage”) here. Well politically anyway. Socially you are still asked what percentage you are , or what “part Aboriginal are you?”. It makes me wild. An Aboriginal Elder recently told me that she responds to the “what part” question with her answer “the part that never left”.

      And you no longer need a piece of paper from the Lands Council to claim your Indigenous heritage, unless you want to claim for any special benefits.

      These political changes have removed the shame associated with being Indigenous. No other race in Australia has ever been asked to prove what percentage they are or to furnish a piece of paper to prove they belong here (such an odd thing to ask from First Nations peoples). It’s all going in the right direction, creating a pride in having Indigenous heritage and encouraging more sharing and acceptance.


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