Saturday, November 19, 2016

Kambarang - Parrots in the roses, Kangaroos in the front yard


Kangaroo enjoying the shade and very probably the much too long grass

 This week there have been kangaroos in the front garden and parrots  among the roses. Bush creatures are coming down for moisture, food and shade. In the bush, many more birds can be heard and seen taking advantage of all those burgeoning seed heads and the weather has become very hot and dry with several days above 35oC. We’ve also had the first bush fire alerts and warnings that this year – climate change deniers please note, the chance of catastrophic fires is particularly high. 

Whiskers the resident Bandicoot stealing the food we left out for a stray chicken
 There was such an abrupt shift in both the weather and the vegetation this week, that I wondered if it had meaning in the Aboriginal Calendar of Seasons. I had read that both the Tasmanian Aborigines and those of the Top End (Darwin, Kakadu) had six different seasons, even though Europeans consider the north to have only two. Here in the south of Western Australia, the Nyoongar*  people also note six and it looks like the season of Kambarang (hot and dry and the season of birth) is upon us. 

Alas, poor Bobtail. This poor lizard (about 30 cms long)  didn't make it to the garden. This is a pity because although they look fierce and can actually bite if threatened, they aren't poisonous and are very good at crunching snails.
They are slow moving creatures so watch out for them when they come to bask on the roads
Just like European seasons, these are based on observed changes in nature, but unlike European seasons they depend less on calendar dates than on actual changes in the environment, such as the flowering of a particular species, which signal a shift in the movement of Aboriginal people and a change in activities. For example, at this time of year the Nyoongar people traditionally migrated to the coast to take frogs and turtles or begin burning off to flush out game which they did before the ground dried out too much, making the risk of large wild fires less likely. Many native species do require fire for germination and regeneration and the resulting new shoots provide food for game. Marissa Verma, the speaker in the above video, describes the the necessity of moving to other locations (nomadism) as, “Nature’s way of restocking the shelves,” just as our supermarkets do at night.

Pods and seed heads are the order of the day
Late comers to Australia i.e. since 1788, are only beginning to appreciate some of the traditional wisdom of the Aborigines, particularly with respect to fire regimes, land management practices and the idea that humans belong to the land, not the other way around. Fortunately, several efforts are now underway to preserve indigenous knowledge.

Xanthorrhorea  provided many useful substances for Aborigines including a type of glue for spears
 When white people came to Australia, over three hundred different languages were spoken by the various tribal groups. Though many of them have been lost, the Nyoongar people of this region have  created their own Nyoongarpaedia and  just this month, the NSW government has legislated for the protection of  Aboriginal languages.

There are very few flowers now and most of these are white
Aspects of Aboriginal culture are also being taught in schools, and far more respect is being accorded to Aboriginal visual artists, dancers, sportspersons, storytellers and musicians. More importantly, increasingly it is Aboriginal people themselves who are doing the teaching, the recording, and conducting business and  tourism ventures such as Ecotours and introducing Europeans to things like Bush Tucker, the different notions of spirituality represented by the Dreamtime and their unique ways of looking at and treating the land.  

Tall Everlasting about 1 metre
 While this may not immediately bring about change in attitudes towards Aboriginal people nor immediately overcome generations of neglect, abuse and disadvantage, it is certainly a step in the right direction and may help to restore a sense of pride in a unique and ancient culture – possibly the oldest living culture in the world. For more on the origins of the Aboriginal people based on the latest palaeontological and genetic research, this You Tube video provides interesting background, though clearly the speaker is American. 
This is another .

Aboriginal people represent 3% of the Australian population and number just under half a million. Despite huge efforts – true, some misguided and paternalistic, by successive governments to heal the wounds of dispossession and raise the living standards and life expectancy of Aboriginal people, many continue to fall through the gaps. Voting Rights were granted in 1962, though recognition as Citizens did not occur until 1967. Land Rights started being granted in the 1970s and many Positive Discrimination measures were introduced. While there have been numerous success stories, alcoholism remains a problem for many and Indigenous Australians are overrepresented in the prison population where far too many continue to die in custody.  Visitors are often shocked by the conditions in which many live.

A new small white flower with small everlastings

The good news is that as of 2005, life expectancy has begun to increase – closing the 10.6 year gap between  Aboriginal males and non -Aboriginal  males (9.5 years for women) by 1.6 years for men  and .6 for females, but more needs to be done. Simply acknowledging Aboriginal people in the Australian Constitution would be an easy place to start.

* There are several spellings of Nyoongar/ Noogar etc - This is because Aboriginal languages were an oral tradition and thus there is no fixed way of writing a word



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