a land down under

Until we get the clearance for the cats to fly into quarantine in Australia, we can’t book our own flight and things are just going wrong. The vet this end made a mistake in her paperwork; the transport company in Australia didn’t query quarantine staff about delays till 20-something days after the usual time for processing had elapsed, then, to top it off, the container holding our chattels was pulled by customs in LA for a random inspection – unprecedented in her 40 years in the game, according to the agent handling our stuff.

President George W. Bush examines the details of a Yirrkala Bark Painting during a tour on September 6, 2007, of the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney. Wikipedia commons/USWhite House sources.
President George W. Bush examines the details of a Yirrkala Bark Painting during a tour on September 6, 2007, of the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.

Is this what I get for airing what I think needs improvement in the US of A? Did NSA read my last post for Like The Dew? Probably not. Did I take the god of America’s name in vain just one time too many? I doubt it, I’ve been very circumspect during my time here and wouldn’t have let a “jesus” slip more than 30 or 40 times. However, if said god can let me know I have offend-ed hym, then I’ll do something about it. I won’t take it back, but I’ll apologize – what’s sufficeth for Weiner and his ilk surely sufficeth for me.

There’s that bloody Celtic thing again – can’t just come straight out and get to the point. So here I am killing time, trying to avoid ——’s compulsive organizational frenzy – the suitcases have been packed for three weeks – and wondering why the world has gone mad.

To dispel the gloom, allow me to introduce you to Jeffrey Lee.

Mr Lee is an elder of the Djok, the clan whose land, Koongarra, was given to them in the Dreaming and is therefore held by the people in sacred trust. Jeffrey is its senior custodian, keeping strong and alive the rituals and ceremony needed to ensure its well-being until the end of time beyond time as it turns within the great cycle of its Dreaming. However, Koongarra is close by the world-renowned Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory, a region rich in the uranium so coveted by the modern world that governments often turn a blind eye to the methods mining companies will employ to gain rights over it.

For twenty-odd years Jeffrey Lee has been fighting to have Koongarra – with its precious burial sites and priceless rock art, and home to his people for tens upon tens of thousands of years – listed with other sites of World Heritage import, and in February this year he succeeded. Sacred Koongarra is now part of Kakadu in the white man’s eyes. To Jeffrey, of course it always was.

This little story would be to most of us remarkable enough, but to put it in terms that the bankers and economists of this world would understand, I’ll add just a little more. A mining company offered Jeffrey, and by extension the Djok, five billion Australian dollars – that’s A$5,000,000,000 – for the land those Dreamtime ancestors bequeathed them. Jeffrey refused it. To paraphrase this wonderful man: Money, he comes and he goes. You can always replace money but you can’t replace your land.

The artwork shown here is not Djok, but is from the broad general region in which Kakadu lies. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Frank Povah

Frank Povah

Arriving in the USA in late 2008, Frank Povah moved to Stamping Ground, Kentucky in mid 2009. Passionate about the written and spoken word and constantly bewildered by non-verbs and neo-nouns, Frank trained as a typesetter - though he has worked at many things - and later branched out into proofreading, writing and editing. For many years he has been copy editor, consultant and columnist with a prestigious Australian quarterly along with running his own editorial and typesetting business. His other interests are many and include traditional music, especially that of the south, folklore, natural history, and pigeons.