Blow-ins on the cold desert wind

Featured in

  • Published 20070306
  • ISBN: 9780733320569
  • Extent: 280 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

EACH YEAR I drive from my home near Canberra to the Tanami Desert and spend several months in an Aboriginal community that has become my other home. The trip takes a week or two, allowing for the incremental adjustments that make my arrival one of recognition, pleasure and ambivalence.

There was a year I did it differently, flying directly to Alice Springs and travelling the thousand kilometres of corrugated and sandy desert track squashed into the back of a troop carrier with nine or ten elderly Aboriginal artists. We arrived in the early hours of the morning, less than twenty-four hours after I had left Canberra. The vehicle headlights lit a disorderly world of damaged houses, broken cars, lean furtive dogs and accumulated rubbish. This was a number of years ago, when I was still sorting out the uneasiness of my relationship to the place and people, and I felt the rise of old anxieties and discomfort. It seemed that, having departed from the orderly, over-planned surrealism of the national capital, I had arrived at its sinister twin. As I helped to drag tattered foam mattresses and assorted bundles from the back of the troop carrier, I thought of the plans and policies manufactured in the tidy hill-fort of Parliament House, and imagined them on their trajectory across the nation encountering a zone of refraction somewhere in the upper atmosphere, arriving as a mess of shattered fragments on this windy plateau. This image has stayed with me, a visual metaphor for the sustained capacity of remote Aboriginal Australia to subvert the best intentions of successive state and federal governments.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

More from author

Lost and found in translation

EssayThe vast continent is really void of speech...this speechless, aimless solitariness was in the air. It was natural to the country. DH Lawrence, Kangaroo   UNLIKE MANY...

More from this edition

The exiled child

EssayShortlisted, 2007 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, The Alfred Deakin Prize for an Essay Advancing Public DebateOUR BATTLE WITH the twenty-one-year-old party girl next door...

Sydney and me

MemoirFROM THE BEGINNING to the end of my twenties, I hated Sydney. It was a city whose high prices dictated the terms of its...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.