Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Sacred Ground

I have felt very conflicted over the last few days with the build up to Australia Day. My Facebook feed has been full of various views and opinions. Some of my friends are calling today Survival Day and I fully support the reasoning behind this. Some of my friends are calling for a change in date for similar reasons. Some are posting pictures of very "Aussie things", like shrimps on the barbie, vegemite jokes and numerous Aussie flags. And there are a few, with views I don't agree with, posting "Love it or leave" style messages. I could spend all day reading these and responding with my own personal views, but I am sure there is a more positive, life giving way for me to spend this public holiday. 

Photo: Harrison Lambert
So what have I done? Well, we spent a good portion of the day down at Contos Spring, a stunning local beach. I took my shoes off, let the sand creep between my toes, and remembered the Wardandi people, the First peoples of this area, who have taken care of this land for thousands of years. As the water splashed around my knees (it was rather cool) I thought of these people of the sea who have been custodians of this coastline and the caves under the ground for longer than I can imagine. What a privilege to live in such a stunning land!

My thoughts turned to my own being here in this land. As one of many second peoples who have called Australia home, I reflected on emigrating to Australia some 35 years ago. My parents brought me to this land for a fresh start, a new beginning. We were not fleeing a war torn land as many who come today may be, but we were certainly in search of a better life. I will always be grateful to my parents for making that choice. I would have it no other way. But I am also grateful for those people we found so welcoming when we arrived and settled here.

As I looked out at the sea, which was getting a little choppy at times, I thought of those risking their lives to seek refuge in our land. I wondered about the welcome (or lack of) that they might receive here in the years to come. I hoped that some day they might feel this sand between their toes too.

And so, I haven't felt the need today to seek out some amazing fireworks display or buy cheap Aussie bits and pieces that were all made in some other country. Instead, it has been important to remind myself of this sacred land in which we live. We can become so caught up with who owns this land, who it belongs to and who is allowed in that we have forgotten its sacredness. Millions of people have walked this beach before me, fished for their dinner and cooled off in the clear ocean. Millions of people will follow in the future. I belong here, but this sacred land does not belong to me.

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