In the centre, I was confronted by Australia’s past and current crimes. Viewing Australia’s designed cruelty first-hand left me both sorrowful and angry. Manus is a festering wound. Australians can ignore the sickness, but slowly, surely, it is poisoning our country. This is a sickness that was contracted during our violent invasion of Aboriginal land and it surfaces every time we condone state cruelty against a person.
These are words, phrases and stanzas that work the teeth and tongue, and the dense packages of syllables and consonants are often delivered in bite-sized chunks. Longer poems, such as ‘Dunes’, ‘Nether’ and ‘Mostly water’, are broken into shorter sections, so that there is a perpetual sense of ongoing creation and destruction, of worlds and substances forming only to dissolve again at a touch.
Having only lived in town for a few weeks, I asked one of my new co-workers why council would be so committed to vigorously cleaning the play equipment. She explained that just a few years ago there were no playground washers, until some environmental researchers from Sydney found dangerous amounts of lead dust on the hands of children who had used the playground for just 20 minutes.
Alice Springs, 28 September 1958: Albert Namatjira, first Australia’s first citizen, enjoying a quiet drink with his mates down at the local. That’s Albert on the left of the photo, hand in pocket standing alone appearing bemused – the man whom fellow painter Charles Blackman said had the saddest eyes he’d ever seen – looking through the crowded room into the distance.
It began as a loose congregation in Victoria Park. The Parramatta Road smog stifled by the last bout of rain and the air smelt like fresh laundry. The plan was they would march down Broadway and George Street and loop around. Gradually, more arrived and were met with warm embrace.