It is balmy in Darwin, but cool. Hot in the sun in the day, but the evenings are just the way I like them. It’s festival time here, and together with the touristy vibe of town centre where we are staying, you almost forget that you are still in the Northern Territory. You almost forget about the Don Dale media story a couple of weeks ago. You almost forget a lot of things – your shoulders relaxed. You lounge around in a sarong in the apartment. You hang out by the waterfront as much as you can. You dance at a pumping gig. You tear up at a beautifully crafted puppet theatre show. You go on a laksa hunt. You do normal people things. You update your instagram #lifeofanartist
All the while at the back of your head something nags at you.
I listened to a new friend talk about her working with Purple House in Alice Springs/Mparntwe. Purple House brings treatment, care, and dialysis to Aboriginal folks suffering from renal failure. Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation, also known as Western Desert Dialysis, is Aboriginal owned and managed – and working with this organisation has taught my friend so much. It has become an anchor for her to stay.
As I learned about more of these Aboriginal owned and run organisations and businesses, I also learned, though little, about the land councils, and the moves towards rightfully returning land ownership to the different Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
There are certainly complexities in all of these – and definitely problematic relationships with the territory government, federal government, big corporations who still run businesses on these lands (let’s not start on the damage some of these businesses cause like mining and fracking and what not) – with the rest of the local population, and with the rest of Australia…
But this is not a critical assessment of any of that. I am far too ignorant in these areas to speak intelligently or with much depth of these issues.
What I can speak of is what I have been left with.
For the last week, I was standing in the midst of what has been described as the centre – the heart of the country. I saw myself. And for that little bit of time, I had a window into the profundity of how this land does indeed teach us – as the Aboriginal population has held onto the belief for so, so long. So yes to returning ownership to the communities! Yes to spaces like the Institute for Aboriginal Development providing youth at risk with the opportunity to return to country! Yes to returning to country.
And for all the complexities that IS the Northen Territory – this is actually happening. Yes! Right?
Which leaves me to wonder:
How can we do the same for Aboriginal populations in a place like Melbourne? Where would they return to? How could they return to country when country is now towering blocks of cheaply built apartments and mega complexes of Woolworths and Coles and socially conscious lefty arty farty types?
More so, how do I return to occupying Melbourne?