Griffiths, Tom: Odyssey down under

Tom Griffiths

Odyssey down under‘, Inside Story, 8 September 2023

In the beginning, on a vast tract of continental crust in the southern hemisphere of planet Earth, the Dreaming brought forth the landscape, rendering it alive and full of meaning. It animates the landscape still, its power stirred constantly by human song, journey and ceremony. Past and present coalesce in these ritual bursts of energy. Creatures become mountains which become spirits that course again through the sentient lands and waters. People visit Country, listen to it, and cry for it; they sing it into being, they pay attention to it. They crave its beneficence and that of their ancestors. Their very souls are conceived by Country; life’s first quickening is felt in particular places and they become anchored forever to that beloved earth.

That’s how this extraordinary long essay commences and it goes on in similar vein, melding geology, astronomy, archaeology, anthropology and ‘traditional’ history. It concludes like this (with a couple of paras beyond that you can read for yourself):

The Australian story, in parallel with other colonial cataclysms, was a forerunner of the planetary crisis. Indigenous management was overwhelmed, forests cleared, wildlife annihilated, waters polluted and abused, the climate unhinged. Across the globe, imperial peoples used land and its creatures as commodities, as if Earth were inert. They forgot that the planet is alive.

Along the way, there was this, of particular interest to Honest History:

Descendants of the newcomers grew up under southern skies with stories of skylarks, village lanes and green hedgerows from the true, northern hemisphere. And they learned that their country had a short triumphant history that began with “a blank space on the map” and culminated in the writing of “a new name on the map” — Anzac. So the apotheosis of the new nation happened on a distant Mediterranean shore. The cult of overseas war supplanted recognition of the unending war at home, and the heroic defence of country by the first Australians was repressed. They were disdained as peoples without agriculture, literacy, cities, religion or government, and were allowed neither a history nor a future.

There is a useful list of references.

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