Highly Commended: Descendant, MABO and Woman

A suite of three poems



My voice echoes the cries of my forefathers

My feet trek truths of my ancestors

I rise in the essence of my predecessors

In pursuit of visions once dreamt






The land, the skies, the seas
In all their intricacies
We belong
There is no ownership; nor commercialism
But a spiritual knowing and connectedness
That they care for us and us for them
How can we own what existed long before we ever did?

We merely entered into a belonging to boundaries of space
For which we caretake
Our landmarks define our lore ‘Tag mauki mauki; teter mauki mauki’ Long before terra nullius, not my tongue, but a legal fiction
I fought against ink, paper and exploitation
A battle unto death … my death
Yet a rebirth of rights regained for a people
You cannot give me what was never yours
I attested our lore
I have fulfilled my call, my cause
I am Mabo




Aka (Grandmother), undisputed Matriarch
Your soul haunts my desires to wear your crown standing tall, Before all.
Scattered seeds from your womb wander country, sprouting hope. Rest those weathered hands, rest now and see
Kinship connections swell as the sea, satisfied with descendants Because of you, we can.

Ama (Mother), never question your ability in the receding tide
Your giving heart overflows into thirsty souls not yet knowing when to drink Pillar of strength, fortress to all
Selfless resilience saturated in love
Your attentiveness acknowledged by unseen guests
Rewards returning in welcomed waves, cry no more.
Because of you, we can.

Yapa (Sister), strive with me
In the essence of our mothers, thrive with me
Let us breathe the breath of our ancestors and drink from their spring, cascading into our mouths As we journey on
Hand in hand, soul to soul
Furnishing our purpose with pride
Because of us, we can.

Waku (Daughter), embrace instruction
They are a blessing to your paths, a blanket in the cold. Capture the spirit of your mothers, endow it in sundrenched flair Grasp the baton of fire that came from old frail hands
And run.
Run like the wind gusting through the seasons of change. Because of you, we will.

Footnote: Traditional words taken from both Aboriginal & Torres Strait languages, Kala Lagaw Ya, Meriam Mir and Yolgnu Matha.


Image: James St John / flickr


Jilian Boyd Bowie

Jillian Boyd Bowie is a Torres Strait Islander woman from the Samsep and Zagareb tribes of Erub and Mer. She was born and raised on Thursday Island and now lives in Darwin, Northern Territory where she works as a mentor for an Indigenous employment program. Mother of six, budding author, poet and songwriter, Jillian is passionate about her people, culture and investing into our future leaders, our children and youth. She is committed to inspiring and empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to find their voice and build up their people.

More by Jilian Boyd Bowie ›

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