Welcome to my piece about The Kimberley.
In late 2010 I spent three weeks in Western Australia, in the Kimberley at ground zero investigating what is really going on. This is also a follow up to some shows we did during the August Subscriber drive where our major prize was sponsored by ‘Save The Kimberley’ organisation.... Bay Fm president Ros Eliot took a stance and inspired everyone she could to get involved. It was also her showing of the documentary ‘Old Country, New Country’ that sparked this journey for me.
I had done a couple of shows exploring a little of what was happening, made some interesting contacts and after much prompting and enticement, decided to head to the Kimberley... I felt like I had been plunged into a spy thriller. Blake’s dark satanic mills amalgamated into Governments and Multinational Corporations... Woodside, Shell, Chevron, BHP-Billiton, BP. The beast descending furiously upon one of the least developed and most beautiful regions of Western Australia to begin exploiting natural resources valued to them at hundreds of billions of dollars. They have clear strategies and are bypassing legitimate processes and impact studies, they have not adequately consulted the community and blatantly ignored community concerns as they bribe and bully in a stampede to cash in on this untapped capital resource.
In the Kimberley - I discovered something ancient, that can not be contained within stone monuments, that exists and lives in the landscape and sings to you and wants to hear your name, know your story and for you to just connect to it, breath with it. It is so simple, yet - so easily missed. On this journey I met so many remarkable people actively engaged with limited resources to do what they could to help the cause, SaveTheKimberley began when Peter Tucker took it upon himself to take action... Martin from the environmental group Environs Kimberley, the techno savvy ‘Hands of Country’ team... and then the First People, The Original Sovereigns, the ones who have been fighting all their lives, and as they say - we are still here - even after all of this we are still here and want some justice and some respect for our culture, for our belief systems, for our family values, for how we form relationships for our law. Please stop destroying our land, please stop bullying us into living your way...
I also had the pleasure of spending time with Award winning singer/songwriter and Indigenous leader Kerrianne Cox. We took a few road trips together and she personally introduced me to her culture and country. A true troubadour, who spontaneously breaks into song. I was really honored and privileged to be invited to share her world for a little while.
This is my journey....
Day 1: Sunday 26 September 2010
The journey begins to delays as Virgin’s check in system crashes.
There is no certainty when making plans, it makes making plans superfluous. One can never be sure of what is happening.
Flying south toward Melbourne, I gaze out the window and see endless patchwork of fields. I try to arrange the irregular lines of the pac man landscape into patterns but find only the uncaring cold inhumane chaos of man - patternless and ugly.
Agricultural land... It was the same flying in Europe - the lack of bush, of trees had deeply disturbed me. And now looking as far as the eye could see there was no bush, no wilderness!
It rips at my poets heart.I had grown up in different landscapes. Born in WA to migrants that travelled the Western Lands north and south. I was attuned to the spaciousness of Country... desert skies glimmer inside of me, I remember - I remember - inside dreams... Dreams disturbed by the patternless landscape before me and Blake’s poem ‘The Mental Traveller’ reflects in my mind (tbb-144). That dead landscape was the symptom of this momentum of Industry - this destruction that had never ended and now was claiming the Murray-Darling Basin - the most significant agricultural area of Australia. Destruction for short term agricultural profit gain (at the expense of future generations) because of a general view that land was wasted unless it was developed. Back then land clearing was seen as progressive! In NSW much of the remaining forest and woodland has been totally cleared. We know land clearing is a major source of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and the consequence of land clearing is dry land salinity and soil erosion. Not only that but of the approximate 13, 000 gigalitres of water flow in the basin - 11 500 giga litres are used for irrigation, Industry and domestic use - 95% of that is for Agricultural irrigation which includes growing rice and cotton. This is a very dire situation - ignored. Yet I was looking at the evidence of destruction. Perhaps this is maya when people cannot see what is directly in front of them. I was uncomfortable and weary of those out of tune to tangible physical realities.
It was dire because stupidity, greed and corruption was at the basis of the Murray-Darling basin crisis. The reality of that disturbed me. As an engineer I have this subconscious inclination to solve problems. I can’t help it, years of routing protocols, telecommunication networks, habit of analysis, verification, proof of concept, efficiency, design, architecture, integration of systems - When you physically construct design theories into real-time environments - you understanding of time and how things truly operate in real world environments renders this difference in how you perceive and physically interface with reality.
In order to move toward the solution one must understand root causes, the basis for the multitudes of symptoms. Here we go back to the beginning to discover the source of the corruption...
This constant trickery... the white mans way that has lead to this point now. Me gazing out the window at this dead land, to the north east lies Sydney...
Sydney built upon the blood of Pemulwuy.
The Rainbow Warrior who lead his people in the war against British invaders from 1788 until his death in 1802.
The existence of armed resistance to white settlement was generally not acknowledged by historians until the 1970s. This time being deemed as the 'great Australian silence' where historians failed to include Indigenous Australians in histories or acknowledge widespread frontier conflict. In the real History of Australia it is considered pure fiction that Australia was uninhabited when Captain Cook claimed it for the King of England. This has lead to a psychological state that amounted to one of this countries foundation myths --> Terra Nullius or ‘no man’s land’ land belonging to no one.
Upon leaving Australia in 1791 Lieutenant Watkin Tench admitted that he had lost to a worthy enemy. “I cannot blame it all on the Rum Corps, on the intrigues or on Grose’s incompetence. Pemulwuy had the match of me. he knew how to use the terrain, knew our weaknesses.”
The incompetent Major Francis Grose led the notorious Rum Corps or The New South Corps consisting of officers on half pay, troublemakers, soldiers paroled from military prisons and those with few prospects, who were gambling on making a life for themselves in the new colony. The regiment began arriving as guards on the Second Fleet in 1790. Major Grose arrived in Sydney in 1792 to take command and assume role of Lieutenant-Governor of the colony. He established military rule and set out to secure the authority of the Corps and unmercifully exploited the convicts. A great traffic in alcoholic spirits sprang up, on which there was an enormous profit for the officers concerned. They had obtained the control of the courts and the management of the lands, public stores, and convict labour. Peace was never on the agenda. Even though Governor of NSW Admiral Arthur Philip had adopted a policy towards the Eora people, who lived around the waters of Sydney Harbour. He ordered that they must be well-treated, and that anyone killing Aboriginal people would be hanged.
The next Governor, John Hunter was no match for Major Grose and his alley John MacArthur who arranged for him to be sent back to England to defend charges against Hunter with participation in the very abuses he was striving to prevent. In spite of Hunter's vehement defence of the charges made against him, he was recalled in a dispatch in November 1799.
In the book Pemulwuy - The Rainbow Warrior, Watkin Tench said “He (Pemulwuy) believes us to be rogues and thieves... In part he is right. Nonetheless, it is the white races that have the will and determination to master nature. Pemulwuy’s choice and the choice of other primitives - is to become as the horse, a well-cared for servant, or be driven to extinction. It is the way of the world. If it were not us here it would be the Dutch or the Spanish. Or the French, revolution or no revolution.”
...“Well, sir, the day will come when this land will be truly British. I shall do my utmost, when you are gone.” Carpenter said.
“I’m sure you will,” Tench said. “And in the meantime I leave in admiration of Pemulwuy. If I were him, I would do as he has done... We had in ancient Britain a warrior like Pemulwuy. A woman called Boadicea. Hannibal and Vercingetorix were also great warriors, but Rome prevailed, as England, the new Rome, must. God, but history is brutal and filled with ironies.”
In Willmot’s book, Watkin contemplates if the Roman forces in Britain had been as bad as the Rum Corps and if perhaps one of his own ancestors, seventeen hundred years before, might have died at the hands of a Roman...
British history did not really begin until Roman conquest in AD 43. Britain from the latin name Britannia used by the Romans from the 1st century BC.
In 320 BC Latin ‘Britannia’ derived from the travel writings of the ancient Greek Pytheas who described various islands in the North Atlantic. His observations are of the earliest report of Stonehenge. He describes the numerous population of natives, ‘they live in thatched cottages, store their grain in subterranean caches and bake bread from it. They are "of simple manners" and are content with plain fare. They are ruled by many kings and princes who live in peace with each other. Their troops fight from chariots, as did the Greeks in the Trojan War.”
I love reading about ancient explorers. Pytheas was born in 350 BC and another Greek born 140 years prior in 490 BC was the famous explorer and historian Herodotus, known as the Father of History. He was born in the city of Halicarnassus on the Aegean Sea (now present day Turkey).
Where 140 years later in 350 BC - existed one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World the ‘Mausoleum of Mausolus’ a monument of love built by the grieving Queen Artemisia for her husband King Mausolus. Who had moved his capital from Mylasa the ancient seat of the Carian kings - to Halicarnassus
The city fell to Alexander the Great in 334 BC and the Mausoleum survived and still remained undamaged during pirate attacks in 62 BC and then again in 58 BC.
The Mausoleum overlooked the city’s ruins for for sixteen centuries. Then a series of earthquakes shattered the columns and sent the bronze chariot crashing to the ground.
By 1404 AD only the very base of the Mausoleum was still recognizable.
The Knights of St John of Malta invaded the region and built a massive castle called Bodrum Castle. They used those squared green volcanic stone, marble columns and reliefs used to fortify the Castle, the first walls completed in 1437 AD. Then again in 1494 when the Knights deciding to fortify the castle they used stones of the Mausoleum...In 1507 the few sculptures left that hadn’t been smashed and burnt for lime were integrated as decoration into the castle. By 1522 almost every block of the mausoleum had been removed to further fortify the castle...
But I digress - Herodotus lived much later in the 5th Century BC, his master piece ‘The Histories’ was an investigation into the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. My muses are interrupted as the plane descends into Melbourne. I consider these endless cycles and recall again Blake’s ‘The Mental Traveller’.
I travelled through a land of men,
A land of men and women too,
And heard and saw such dreadful things
As cold earth wanderers never knew...
Melbourne is frustrating - I cannot find any information about my connecting flight or if my luggage has been transferred through to Broome.
The staff look at me with plastic smiles and vacant eyes unable to tell me anything useful. One says go to this terminal, another says the flight has left. Then they become aggressive when you insist upon some type of direction and accountability. Finally I discover my luggage may be in baggage claim after much tact on my part, I am infuriated to have to resort to charm and manipulation to get a straight answer.
I am advised to call a number to find out what is going on, as they do not have any idea. I am on the phone, the number rings out, then finally when I get through they tell me to go to some service desk, which had prior told me to call the number (after waiting for forty minutes). I find my baggage and rush back to the queue, lucky for me I am only 10 meters from the desk and within five minutes the queue has quadripled. I wait nearly two hours before finally speaking with someone at the desk who then say all I can do is call that number. I said I did and they told me to come to the desk. Finally I am told that I should try and call that number again after 10pm!
Lucky for me I had called my partner who had booked me into a hotel nearby upon which I could cancel up to 6pm if needed.
I head to the hotel. I call again the number after 10pm after an hour on hold, the line drops out.
I had checked other airlines and was tempted to buy another ticket, yet I couldn’t take the chance that Virgin would not refund my ticket. I asses my situation. Waiting in Melbourne a couple of days was not an option and the accommodation was eating into my budget and I had not yet got to my destination. Finally I get through - and they cannot tell me anything - expect to call back after 2am.
I check again on-line tempted now to get another ticket. Unfortunately the price has now more than doubled.
Day 2: Monday 27 September 2010
Its 4am - and I am still on hold. I decide to head back to the airport, though am informed that there is no staff there to assist. I take my chances and join the queue waiting for Virgin staff to come in. I am unable to comprehend how they can have no staff on when so many people were left stranded with no way of getting any information. I wish I had not bothered trying to get through and had gotten some sleep instead.
The whole situation reminds me of travels in Asia, yet there you did not have expectations that things would run smoothly. For example, traveling by train in India, one has to surrender themselves to the journey - rather than the destination.
Finally the desks open and I am put on an 11am flight to Perth.
Waiting in Melbourne the atmosphere is really unpleasant there are so many people all jammed in together! VirginBlue had been saying that people who did not need to fly shouldn’t. Yet there was no number for these people to call to rearrange their itinerary. Many passengers told me that they would have happily delayed their trip, yet they could not get through and did not want to risk not being refunded.
The lack of communication between staff was almost comical and they had hired an entertainer to mollify the crowd, although he told us nothing useful. It was very frustrating. I was amazed though how well behaved the passengers were. Though some getting rather annoyed, one lady yelling at me for running over her toes. I tried to hold back laughter at the absurdity of it all. You literarily could not move.
I found a space next to an escalator so I’d have something to lean against. People were friendly and taking things in their stride, many saying, “Oh well, these things happen.”
In another situation perhaps this attitude would have been considered admirable.
Finally I said, “Actually it shouldn’t happen.”
I was sitting with a group of people, who were engaging in small talk.
They turned to me.
“Its cost cutting, and seriously bad management.”
One lady tried to keep up the cheer, “Regardless these things do happen.”
“No they don’t...” I attempted to explain about redundancy, backup plans, fall back systems, disaster management, risk management, SLAs (Service Level Agreements) etc. I had worked and dealt with outsourcers and their was no excuse for this type of failure.
The women regarded me curiously and I could see to her credit she was actually processing what I had said. After a time she nodded in acknowledgement and perhaps appreciation at an alternative view.
“If they cannot get their fundamental technology systems to operate properly, how can you have faith in their technical ability to maintain aircraft in the air?” They failed to instill any confidence in me during this whole debacle. Everyone looked about uncomfortably.
Perhaps it’s my Aquarian nature that makes me push, perhaps I was bored and fed up. Regardless the conversation became more interesting and some other more worldly people eagerly joined to share their experiences and understanding.
I stood back and observed and took it all in. That was what I was here to do. It was interesting as it seemed to represent the demise of civilisation - something I had been contemplating for a long time. I recalled a conversation while studying archaeology at UNE with one of the lecturers. As a technologist the lecturer was discussing with me his ideas about the criteria that would eventually lead to the demise of civilisation.
I had applied that same model to the Corporate environment as I had seen in the frenzy for participation in Globalization, mergers and acquisitions that lead to the fall of many Corporations and medium size business as they were swallowed up and then discarded by a larger entity. This kept continuing and yet at that time I was trying to understand the logic behind it....
As a technologist - I am infuriated by this completely avoidable failure. Cost-cutting and total incompetence. One expects delays in 3rd world countries not here. On the other hand I am not surprised as this was something I had predicated. Australia once leading the way in technology had been losing ground since the nineties. Forcing those at the forefront to relocate to Europe as the deterioration continued. Australia is full of techno-cowboys, unfortunately gullibility and lack of exposure beyond the Pacific rim has created a rather narrow understanding of technological infrastructure. I recall working in integrating new technology into Asia and the complete chaos and crisis of their technological infrastructure unable to sustain the growing mass of corporates moving into the region and demands of real time transactions.
I recall a piece I wrote years ago...
The world’s greatest enemy is corporate greed,
the corporation’s greatest enemy is their own employees.
It’s a curious negative effect, that reeks of a downward spiral,
but where does it leave us?
Humanity, ah humanity – we are losing the essence of ourselves,
vacant, dead eyed people who have been assimilated
into the mechanised world of the machine,
with the only option out at our disposal,
is a little quick fix, to numb our senses with capitalistic consumption.
Constant bombardment of subliminal advertisements
that manipulate and destroy freedom of choice,
for how do you really know what your tastes are,
are you really making the decision for yourself
or did the TV do it for you at five years of age?
Yes bow your head to the science of behaviourism,
they may not understand or be able to fully say
that we are merely biological entities that respond
in a conditioned manner to stimuli.
BEAUSE WHO CARES - they make billions of dollars from the media
by suggesting ways in which their so called science
can manipulate mass audiences into buying their products.
Perhaps because people are so preoccupied
by their own dysfunctionalism and fears
it blocks them from seeing how easily manipulated they are,
by mirroring their conditions onto others.
Yes the secrets of life are not very pleasant
but I am sure that if you buy that six-piece dinner set
it will satisfy or distract that void within you for perhaps a very short time.
Finally after much mayhem I board the plane to Perth.
Sitting here, notebook in hand I am able to reflect upon the strange confrontation in Melbourne. My name was called, quite unexpectedly and it was very lucky that I heard it! Then desperately trying to figure out where to go, cause no one knew and we were jammed in pretty tight. I reached the side of the check in counter where other passengers who had been called to the Perth flight had gathered and amongst ourselves organised to find out what was going on. A plumb VirginBlue woman in her twenties with a scowling demeanor informed us that the flight had already left...
She insisted aggressively it had been called and we should have been listening.
“No we were waiting by the whiteboard where we were told to wait where they were announcing the flights.” I said, the other passengers backed me up.
“Can you please find someone who knows what is going on?”
As we waited a fair haired lady of about fifty, who had been crying, told us her flight had left without her, even though she had been there all along and they would not refund her ticket.
The young Virgin Blue woman was becoming more aggressive, saying it was our fault we had missed the flight and there was nothing that could be done about it.
I told my fellow passengers that we risked not getting another flight as they would blame us for it.The only thing that prevented that woman from being mobbed was the lack of space and the sudden discovery that the plane was still there. We jammed in at the front of the checking in desk. It was a nightmare. The Virgin Staff were panicking saying they did not know how long the plane would be there for or even if it was still there. I rushed forward with the other passengers and as my bag was being checked in (I so hoped it would get to Broome) we devised a plan. Since I looked like I would be the fastest - my job was to make a dash for the plane and ensure they waited for the others to get through.
I made a dash for it, pushed through security and got to the terminal just as they were closing the gate. I told them other passengers were on their way. The staff at the terminal looked very surprised and dazed. They assured me with not much confidence they would wait for the others.
The system was failing everyone. Perhaps the beginning of this journey was to highlight this...
Perth -> Broome / Notebook entry
Finally - The last leg of the journey on the plane to Broome -
Spent the last few hours in Perth - another delayed flight by about 3.5 hours. Had a beer in the bar recharged my phone and chatted a while to a man who trains in chemical and oil spills.
I was to go to the John Butler concert at the Mangrove Hotel that evening and meet up with people from ‘Save The Kimberley’ as well as Deborah, a researcher/poet I had connected with. Deborah said she could sell my ticket. I was disappointed but also quite knackered. The last hour wait at Perth had been difficult as I felt that groggy sleepiness taking hold...
The whole crazy experience seems to highlight the collapsing infrastructure, apathy and strange acceptance of this deterioration - Where Quality if forfeited for what exactly? Profits at the expense of operations... a greed that destroys - ultimately itself (the system comprises individuals - easy to forget that). Again I am intrigued by these attitudes and beliefs that render impotence. Silent acceptance of this ludicrous demise, this shallow dying of this civilisation.
This also makes me more determined and courageous upon the path of action.
I have no idea what to expect or have any idea of what direction it will take. I have learned to just let things unfold and not to construct any outcomes - just let it happen. One is never prepared for the journey anyway and the journey is long with many roads.
A minibus full of weary travelers dropped me off at The Roey in Broome. It was late (11pm)and smokey dark. The staff at the Roey were unhelpful, eyes hard and indifferent to tourists. The bar was closing and the twenty-something European women regarded me with disdain. They were having trouble locating the key to my room. While I waited, I asked her for some water, but the till had been closed. I said I had the correct change. No the till had been closed. Could she charge it to my room? No.
The male manager who had been looking for the keys handed them over and asked out of habit if there was anything else I needed.
“I could really do with some water.”
He didn’t hesitate and handed me two bottles of water. “On the house.”
“Thank you.” I gathered my gear and headed outside, the lights creating a grey haziness beyond the inky blackness of night. I could feel the space and a difference in my spatial awareness, something reminiscent of long ago.
Big gates and elaborate locks gave the sense of entering into a prison. I was too exhausted to pay too much attention to the intense heat. The room was spacious and reminded me of places I had stayed in Asia, sparse and tacky.
Dazed I sat for a few moments, I realised I was coming to my third night of hardly any sleep and not much food, it had been difficult to get food at the airport. I drank some water, ate the rest of a health bar, ignoring the unpleasant taste. Showered and was soon asleep.
Program 154 - The Kimberley Trip Sep-Oct 2010
Join Riddhi as she shares her adventures in the Kimberley as she connects in with grass-roots organisations fighting against Industrialisation of their communities in one of the least developed and most beautiful regions of Western Australia.
The audio of the show below has been split into 3 audio files for faster download. Just click the play button on any of the show parts below and enjoy.
CRN_Date of Broadcast: 31 October 2010
Part One: MP3 | 8.1MB
Part Two: MP3 | 9.2MB
Part Three: MP3 | 10.3MB