Sunday, 25 March 2012

Central Australia again

This week, for a change, my peripatetic life brings me to Alice Springs, to attend an Indigenous employment conference. With such illustrious speakers as federal government representatives, NT government representatives ("look at all the great things we're doing to encourage Aboriginal people to buy some white socks, put them on, pull them up, leave their land and get a job. They'll thank us one day"), and Generation One spokespeople (Aboriginal Australia's greatest friend, mining magnate Twiggy Forrest, reckons it's great if blackfellas can be just like whitefellas and become wage slaves to mining companies that have so far been such good news for Aboriginal people)... the less said about the conference the better.

I am, however, being put up at a rather flash hotel, a bit of a change from my usual field trip digs.

Here's the view from my hotel room:

I do love the landscape around Alice Springs. It seems art is never far away in this part of the country, and I was very pleased to see the yarn bombing movement has arrived in Central Australia.

Here's two pics from the Desert Knowledge Precinct, just south of town.

We were visiting the precinct as part of the conference, to see examples of some Aboriginal-owned social enterprises. I don't have a lot to say about that, wish I'd pay more attention to the awesome work the Centre for Appropriate Technology is doing though.

But some happened out there that made me see red. We were all sitting about in the sun, resting after lunch. I was sitting on a park bench beside a Balanda (non-Aboriginal person), and a few metres away a Yolŋu woman from up near where I work was playing with her young  daughter on the grass. The Balanda  was playing with her iPhone, and I soon realised she was taking photos of the woman and her daughter, zooming in to take photos of their faces etc.

Each time they turned our way, she quickly put her phone away and looked the other way. I'm not suggesting anything inappropriate here - well, yes I am actually: do people tend to sneakily take photos of white children? Was there some noble savage fascination going on? Why couldn't she just say "your daughter is so cute! Do you mind if I take a photo?"

I hated myself for not saying anything to her, but I was tired and avoiding all forms of confrontation, indeed any sort of interaction.

But then the woman playing on  the grass, who I know through work, struck up a conversation with me, in Yolŋu Matha. I managed to say to her, in language, "Is it ok that this Balanda  is taking photos of your daughter?", and while the Balanda focused on me with naive questions about Aboriginal language, Yapa and her daughter smiled at me and slipped away. So I guess at least they got to know what was happening and chose to leave the situation, but I reckon really it's incumbent on all of us to not tolerate racism, and to challenge it when we can, and on that count I failed...

When the conference was over, I grabbed the camera (you might have noticed I'm a bit enamoured with taking photos at the moment), and headed to a nearby Botanic Garden, with the rather pleasant name of Olive Pink.

After six days at this very flash, but rather lifeless, hotel here in Alice, I am missing Pete, and the tropics (where my skin isn't so dry it's itchy), and our rather humble but much more homely home in paradise, and the simple pleasure of being able to look in the fridge, rather than at a ridiculously expensive menu, to decide what to eat.

So tomorrow I check out and head to the airport - but not to fly home! I have five days of adventure to get through first. I am picking up my Yolŋu colleague (also my adopted sister), collecting a campervan, and driving to Yulara (the famed Ayers Rock resort about which I am sure I blogged last year). Yapa is beside herself with excitement at seeing Central Australia, and Uluru for the first time (I'm worried the cold is going to hit her like a tonne of bricks, that saltwater woman).  

I am beside myself with excitement because my aṉangu friends and family from Irrunytju, where I used to live and work, are meeting us at the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjarra Women's Council Kungka Careers Conference. Two very special parts of my ḻife are coming together, and we're going to do lots of radio work - multi-lingual, cross-station interviews between aṉangu and yolŋu, as well as lots of fun workshops, and maybe teaching each other songs in Top End and Desert languages....

So, despite feeling tired and wanting to go home, I believe we shall have a ball.

Stay tuned...

Monday, 19 March 2012

Just cos it's cute

I have saved this photo onto my work phone, so whenever things get a bit stressful...

I am suddenly overwhelmed with cuteness and there is nothing to worry about anymore :)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Stormy afternoon at Mandorah

Today we decided to catch the ferry across to Mandorah. We had heard good things about the pub there. Mandorah is connected  to Darwin by land, but it's a long meandering drive, as opposed to 20 minutes on a ferry.

Privately I have been hoping for a cyclone this evening, so I get out of a two-day "team-building" work trip starting at 5:30am tomorrow. But that's another story. Anyway as we set out the skies seemed clear enough, and we happily left Darwin behind us.

Apart from the pub, with a few hotel rooms and a very lovely view back across the water, we're not sure what else there is at Mandorah. Possibly with bikes we could explore further afield, if Pete wasn't allergic to cycling. Nonetheless, we found  the pub had everything a pub needs to make a pleasant afternoon:

A child-friendly attitude;

a praying mantis, good for practicing close-up photography;

and plenty of fine Irish cider.

So we settled in, and much to my delight a storm brewed over Darwin. We watched, and photographed, the city disappear, reappear, and disappear again as the storm moved across the water.

As I watched the storm move towards us, and seemingly engulf the jetty from where we were about to catch our return ferry, I fantasised about getting stuck overnight at Mandorah, with nothing but pub food and whiskey chasers, and missing  my early flight to Nhulunbuy tomorrow.

Alas, we got home safely, although negotiating a wet jetty and  slippery boat deck after a few drinks is inadvisable, to say the least.

So, it's off to Nhulunbuy I go tomorrow, the less said  the better, then two weeks in Central Australia, which I am truly looking forward to, then the national Easter refugee rights convergence in Darwin (see, then three weeks in Vietnam! Woohoo! If nothing else, hopefully my blog posts should get more exciting...

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Weird dream

I had a dream last night that Earth was conquered by alien shellfish in giant city-destroying spacecraft. The aliens themselves were tiny, prawn-size things with lobster claws. They wore preppy little vests and long-sleeve shirts.

They provided English-language pamphlets on how we were to behave BUT THEY MADE NO SENSE.

It bugged me all day.