Friday, July 16, 2010


I've just finished reading a biography of Oodgeroo, Aboriginal rights activist and poet. She took her name from the Paperbark trees of her homeland, Stradbroke Island. For me reading the biography brought a response that is becoming all too familiar when I try to learn about Indigenous affairs: "I'm sorry, I had no idea". Poems by Kath Walker (the name she had for most of her life) were a small, but significant part of my education. Their strong rhythms are like a heart-beat. But I don't remember anyone pointing out that this poet was fighting for basic human rights for her people; that the power of her words drew from deep loss and anger at injustice. That wasn't part of a 70's education in Queensland! With Oodgeroo and her land on my mind--visits to the beaches of Stradbroke Island were another part of my growing up--I picked up the silk hankies from last weekend's natural dyeing with a new set of eyes. I wonder if I could explore the paperbark tree with these fibres dyed with eucalypt and peach leaves. It wouldn't be Oodgeroo's paperbark tree--I don't know enough to claim that right--but some sort of response and exploration seems appropriate.

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