Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Manna from heaven

Gumtree blossoms on a cool wet morning

This afternoon I went along to a NAIDOC Week event hosted by a bunch of federal government departments. It wasn't the most community-oriented event I've been too – it appeared mainly targeted at those in community services or public service departments and agencies who work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Victoria. I went to this event for work reasons.

It was still good because there were a fair few Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in either federal public service delivery or Victorian community agencies there, and it was good to meet and greet and see some faces behind the organisation's names.

But the nicest thing about the event was the speech and Welcome to Country by Aunty Joy Murphy, a highly respected elder of the Wurrundjerri, the traditional owners of the land on which most of Melbourne is on, and certainly of Fitzory where the event was held.

Aunty Joy treated us to a potted history of the elders behind the movement for Aboriginal rights in Victoria and the beginnings of NAIDOC, and how Fitzroy has been an important location for Victoria's Aboriginal rights movement and community-controlled services since the early 1900s. But it was her welcome message that gave me the most food for thought.

After she welcomed us in language, Aunty Joy told us that part of the welcome was based the importance of the Manna Gum to her family and the
Wurrundjerri people. Bearing a branch of green lush Manna gum leaves from her traditional country near Healsville, she explained that the welcome invited us to share in the community and its country – from the very tips of the gum leaves high in the sky, down to the roots deep in the earth.

Being someone who likes to visualise things figuratively, this appealed to me a lot. It is lovely to think of sharing in a thousands-year-old culture and its connection to the land in this way. To imagine our connection to the air and the leaves reaching out through it, as well as to the earth via the roots.

It also makes me wonder a fair bit about what we're doing to our ecology and to the climate in our carbon-intensive society.

Friday's NAIDOC March and Rally will be quite a different event – with lots more community, and certainly more issue and politically based – but I value this opportunity for reflection today. Thanks, Aunty Joy.

[Image: The photo is of eucalyptus blossoms I took at my suburban train station a little while ago. I have no idea what type of gum, though.]

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At July 08, 2009 8:08 pm, Blogger unique_stephen said...

shame on me. I er, had to look it up.

At July 08, 2009 8:23 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Ah, that is the beauty of being a writer/editor, and not a scientist/science buff - I have every excuse to look things up.

At July 15, 2009 3:56 pm, Anonymous parlance said...

I didn't know the significance of the manna gum. I wonder if its name is a reflection of some good interaction between settlers and indigenous people - ie the settlers actually listening to what the locals said about the tree?

I'd be interested to know how it came to be called that.


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