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Grandfather Koori by Kevin Gilbert

Grandfather Koori by Kevin Gilbert

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Published by Aquamania
This short "story" is about the so-called Aboriginal situation and possible way-out; it is an Aboriginal perspective — written by an Aboriginal, about Aboriginals and their lifestyle. Although written in the 1970s, I believe much of what is stated and described still, unfortunately, applies to the current “state of affairs” for the majority of Aboriginals of Australia (2008).
This short "story" is about the so-called Aboriginal situation and possible way-out; it is an Aboriginal perspective — written by an Aboriginal, about Aboriginals and their lifestyle. Although written in the 1970s, I believe much of what is stated and described still, unfortunately, applies to the current “state of affairs” for the majority of Aboriginals of Australia (2008).

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Aquamania on Feb 06, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/06/2012

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Grandfather Koori
 by Kevin GilbertAustralian - Aboriginal - Wiradjuri; activist, writer, poet (1933-1993)
 It seemed appropriate that I met him in the twilight at his camp-fire. The deep fire-glowreflecting all the pain he'd ever seen. Yet he had survived and conquered despite the barbs pierced through him, and mirrored in his eyes were all the horrors ever dreamed.The sun-parched tussocks of grass sat oddly on small mounds of earth jutting out of the eroded  plains country. It was a sick land, dying from overstocking and scarred by greed. The river gumsof the Lachlan were older, grayer and more tired than I had remembered them. The spirit wasbeing sucked from this land or maybe it was just retiring from it in defeat. There was a time whenit had been Wiradjuri country, the land that had been cherished in gladness by my ancestors. Now it showed only the effects of greed and soul loss. Perhaps it was just my emotions and  pessimism at work but seeing how old Grandfather Koori sat at his camp-fire didn't help either. As I drew nearer, he grunted a welcome, then wanted to know why I'd come:Grandfather Koori:
What're you wanting? Why'd you come here? Want me to tell you a storylike in the old days when you was a little snot eh? You lost your tongue or grown ignorant?
There was a silence. His aggressiveness died down only to rekindle again.Grandfather Koori:
Don't give me any bullshit: you're a writer of books, ain't you? You ain't a black power man,. are you, because I reckon I've got more power in a daggy old hair on me back-side than any black power boy got in his whole body... or in the whole dog-pack that runs after him, come to that. Yellow bellied mongrels, you all are. Stand in front of a TV camera, howlabout black kids dyin' of starvation, then off to the pub with your white friends! Like the N.A.C.C. [National Aboriginal Consultative Committee] blokes screaming how they don't getenough expenses to travel their electorates 'n seeing their people. What do they want moreexpenses for? They never come near their people anyhow! It's just a perk with nothing to do in between hot-air meetings! Na! Self first, self last, that's the trouble.The leaders? Ain't no such animal! They talk fight but piss themselves in fear... not men but a pack of bludgin', drunken, loud-mouthed mongrels hoonin' [living-it-up] on the misery of their own people and using [their situation] it to make big men of themselves!Don't look like that, with you head down! If I was wrong, you'd shut me up or walk away. If I waswrong, those cringing things would be forgetting their personal fights and hates and be working atan answer together, helping their people to grow.Every human being is born with a sense of right and wrong. Everyone knows the laws of human justice and how to deal with those who break those laws. No good you crying out for righteousness, for justice, for compassion, when you ain't practicing it yourself.You call for Aboriginal dignity? Huh! Look how undignified you were at the [Tent] Embassy!Rolling drunk, swearing at old women, raping young black girls, bludging grog money! Christ,you shamed our nation in one of its proudest moments. You bastards'll only be able to put in talldemands when you learn to stand tall. You'll only be given dignity when you have dignity. You'llonly get justice when you get unity and act with pride in a just cause. The white man has takenyour land, my land. He's taken the throne and made himself king. Is he going to listen to a slave?A nothing?Will he listen to you when he knows that you're dust? That you're damp-dust ashes in a dead
 
camp-fire? You've got to re-kindle, blaze again. To get justice you've got to exercise justice. Toregain respect you have to force your enemy to respect you and your rights. To get his ear and hisadmiration you've got to wrap him in your humanity because men are the same everywhere. Youdon't want black power or white power but human power, human justice, human right.I won't tell you about the law because every man in his heart knows the law. You're born with itand as you grow so does your knowledge of the law. That's what life is. isn't it? Initiation? You're black, aren't you? Hear that bird that's calling? You keep looking about and listening, eh? That'syour bird, your nulli [guide, spirit], your meat! Your soul knows this. It talks into your head. Thespirit is inside your head, talking to you. same as every Aboriginal who wants to stop and listen.What's gone wrong with the Aboriginal people? We were once in tune with our spirits, the greatcreator. Was a time when we were drunk on that, not poison grog! All that the spirits created wassacred. Stones, grass, trees, animals, men — all were sacred, valuable and to be loved as sacred.Everywhere you walked was holy ground. Nothing has changed except the way you look at life.History has changed how our people look at themselves, too. When the whites came to thiscountry, they didn't make treaties, they started raping and killing and poisoning. Our peoplefought them until they had to clear out of the way and hide. Then they got the pox. The syphilis.The gonorrhoea, colds, pneumonia, TB (tuberculosis), that the ships brought in. They brought inalcohol, muskets, sabres, strychnine, the flogging-whip and chains. Murderous, cruel, unholy people. The bloated. poisoned bodies of our men, women and children couldn't move their heartsand we weren't prepared for hell. Wed never had hell before. Before them, everything in thissacred land had been sacred and we were one with all created life and whole until white savagescame and called us 'black apes' and 'primitive'. It's past now, but we are products of the past. Our  people have forgotten that there was a time when our men fought them and fought well... in thedays before our souls were crushed.The white men wouldn't declare war and make treaties because that would've meant having todeal with us as people, having to care about our rights. It was much easier to steal our land andignore their own guilt by calling us vermin. Our people, what was left of them, hid-out andstarved while friendly Christianised whites led us out to the rubbish tips
[fringe camps]
where pox, diseases and grog eat into us. That's how the people lost the law and lost themselves. Thenthey welcomed the white man who brought them the grog and tobacco and flour. They cringed tohim like whipped dogs cringing to the man who kicks and feeds them. Then the towns gotfrightened about blacks dying around their rubbish tips [area]. They got worried about diseasesspreading so they pushed the people out, out further from the towns. And our people lost allvalue, started spending their lives looking for grog and waiting to die.It's still like that. Go onto any mission, reserve. See the gins' hair all mailed. uncombed. It's thesurest signs of mental illness when people neglect themselves. See how fat a lot of them are fromeating rubbish all the time because they got nothing else in their lives. Look in their houses. Dirteverywhere. Dogs sleeping in the baby's cradle. Dirty clothes left wet in laundry tubs, left to stink and rot. Look at the table. Fat stains, tea stains, dirty plates, spoons, cups. Flies everywhere.Kid-shit everywhere, like untrained dogs. Kids' noses all yellow and running men and womenwho stink because they ain't old enough in the head [mind] to have a bath once a week even.Heads full of lice... and those women who say they love their kids don't love them enough to dosomething about it. Because no one really gives a dam.Get onto the men. Men? Huh! Unwashed, stinking grog and vomit on their clothes. Can'tunderstand how any woman could sleep with 'em. See 'em get pissed, then punch a woman up,smash her teeth, black her eyes, and when she's smashed and bleeding on the floor, put the boot infor good measure. And they want to call themselves men! Have you seen 'em leave the kids gohungry while they scratch out their pockets for money for fags and plonk [cheap wine] ? Haveyou seen 'em hindering up to a captain* who's just come onto the mission with money in his pocket? Have you seen 'em cheat and rob each other for the price of a flagon? Have you seen how
 
they hate the cops yet run like yelping mongrel dogs to lag each other in? Have you seen 'emcrying and miserable and sick and vomiting? Yeah... then you've seen it all. haven't you?What for, you want 'self-determination' ? What for, when you can't even feed or control or evenwash your kids properly? The way you are, self-determination would only be a license to bugger yourselves up some more. What could any of you determine while our people stay like this? Youwant rights but you ain't got the discipline or the guts to deserve them. You're not grown upenough in yourselves to even teach your kids what's right. And their silly mothers shield them andshelter them from everything so that they never have to face up to anything tough. How can the boys become men with mothers like that? How will they ever learn to have any guts whennobody ever expects anything from them? They can't and they don't. But you can't have rightswithout responsibility. You keep saying you want a chance for your kids but yet you yourselveswon't give it to them. You say you want land but land can't mean anything without soul in h. Iyou say you love your people, then get out onto the missions to where it hurts the most. Get outthere and start making rules! Kids can't grow up without rules. ...
There was a silence as he raked the coals and motioned for me to get another tree-branch. As hemoved his head I saw the marks on his chest where his shirt opened out. They were his initiation scars, hard, raised-up welts that I used to finger and wonder about as a lad. Then he spokeagain.Grandfather Koori:
Boy. when you ask yourself why are the women drinking why are the housesfilthy, why are the kids' noses running, kid-shit everywhere, worms, flies, misery, remember whatI said earlier. When a man or a woman gets depressed and feels helpless then the first signs omadness or mental break-down shows in self-neglect. When they lose pride in themselves it's
 
thesure sign of soul-sickness. If you've got any love and an ounce of guts you'll start the healingworking. It's a soul problem, a health problem. You have to apply the only medicine that can helpthem, the rules. When a man grogs up his lads' food money you straighten him out. When he bashes his woman, a bunch of women get together and lay him out. When young men get out of control too badly, you bring 'em back under control in the night so they never know who or whathit them. That's part of the law. When a kid shits on the doorstep you belt his arse [buttocks] andrub his nose in it. When a bludger won't work you cast him out. When a home is filthy you sendin your own committee to straighten that woman out. Aboriginality, eh? You say you want your Aboriginalitv back? That means having some rules, don't it? And the first two orders of thoserules is share and care. You go back just a little bit in time when we weren't quite as broken as weare now. If a kid smashed a window or was cheeky, or vicious his uncle or aunt whaled his back-side. If a feller kept belting his woman and kids, one of the men called him out on the grass and punched shit out of him. If he was too big to tackle, somebody bottled him. Whatever the way,he followed the rules or he got it. Nowadays, you even talk about punching him up or yell at alad that's pesting and the mongrels run for the white policeman.I don't care how hard it is
.
You build Aboriginalitv, boy, or you got nothing. There's no choice toit. It'll be easier now, with bits of land handed back to us, here'n there. It means there's no whitemanager for the people to dob each other in to. It means that you collect your own rents to doyour own maintenance. You form a committee to collect the rent. If a family won't pay. you throwthem out. You get the young blokes to set up youth committees that backs the elders up. Youinspect the houses because rules save lives and health and happiness. You give every man,woman and child his due because life is sacred. You treat your own and every life like that. Every person is entitled to be treated with good nature and dignity. You never steal from the poor. If you steal from a black family you get cast out. If you stand over or hoon from the goomees[abuse of alcohol] you get bottled or lacked. If a woman neglects her kids, the women belt her. If 

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