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HIST106 Assignment 4

Mini-Essay
After an intriguing, not to mention challenging, journey through the
subject of HIST106, I come to the final assignment of the semester; the
site visit. My site of choice was the Koori Heritage Trust, found in King
Street in Melbourne. This essay will chronicle my thoughts towards this
site and what it has to say, as well as explain how this site, coupled with
the knowledge attained from studying HIST106, inspired me to write my
creative short story.
On the topic of the site visit, the Koori Heritage Trust contained a vast
amount of creation stories, most concerning local landmarks such as Port
Philip Bay, the Yarra River and the Murray River. These stories were
presented in an engaging format, with short animated films presenting
each creation story. There was also a large amount of description and
discussion of the cultural and practical practices of Indigenous Australians
before and during the arrival of Europeans. Practices such as firestick
farming and hunting, along with more cultural practices such as traditional
rituals, were discussed in great detail.
The Heritage Trust, however, had limited discussion of
European/Indigenous Australian relationships throughout time. Though it
did present the Indigenous counter narrative of the Europeans as
invaders, bringing with them conflict, disease and dispossession (HIST106
Lecture Week 4), it did not discuss the earlier parts of the Indigenous

counter narrative, the early exchanges between Europeans and
Indigenous Australians that involved tentative exchange of goods and
discourse (HIST106 Lecture Week 4). In this way, the Koori Heritage Trust
presented a slightly blinkered and limited view of Indigenous relations
with Europeans, which in a way inspired me to emphasise in my short
story that the weed, although invasive and destructive, is not totally ‘evil’,
just as the Europeans were.
Outside of the main informative presentations, the Koori Heritage Trust
presented an abundance of Indigenous Australian artworks, photographic
displays and sculptures, each of which had significance in regard to
Indigenous culture. One picture that inspired my short story, for example,
was a large painting of Bunjil who, as we were shown by the informative
video from Lecture Week 2, is one of the most significant of creator spirits
in the culture of Victorian Indigenous peoples. In the painting, Bunjil was
depicted as majestic, standing tall and proud as a being of great power,
and it left quite the impression on me. This, coupled with the knowledge of
Bunjil I had attained from Lecture Week 2, led to my development of the
symbolic eagle in my short story. The eagle is intended to represent the
deep spiritual aspects of Indigenous Australian culture, and its relationship
with the tree is symbolic of the deep connection of the Indigenous people
to their spirituality.
This lack of discussion persisted in the presentations of more recent
Indigenous Australian history. Whilst discussing the ultimately critical
events of the Stolen Generations and the 1967 Referendum, there was no

addressing of other iconic moments of Indigenous Australian activism,
such as the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and the Eddie Mabo Case (HIST106
Lecture Week 8). The only other major moment of Indigenous Australian
rights infringement and response mentioned on the information boards
concerned the Indigenous Australian soldiers who served in the World
Wars, along with a short overview of the Day of Mourning (HIST106
Lecture Week 8).
An accumulated knowledge base regarding the basis of Indigenous
culture, the land, gathered from a number of different lectures heavily
influenced me to write the piece I did. Specifically, the movie viewed
during Lecture 12 in Week Twelve set my mind on a specific path. The
song between Paul Kelly's character and the Aboriginal policeman that
concerned their differing concepts of the land's nature and their concepts
of land ownership opened my eyes in a very simple and straightforward
manner to how the Indigenous Australian people are connected to their
lands; as the song said, "This land is me. This land owns me”. This
knowledge had been stewing in my head for some time, and it developed
into the metaphor I used as the basis for my piece upon entering the Koori
Heritage Trust. In the middle of the spiral staircase leading to the second
floor of the Trust is a life size replica of a specific Scar Tree. A Scar Tree is a
tree that has had its bark utilised by Indigenous Australians to create
implements such as canoes, shelters and shields. The idea seized me
then, upon seeing this life-size replica (which itself had real gum branches
attached to its higher reaches), that Indigenous Australian culture, in its
deep connection to and dependence on the land, is like a gum tree itself,

deeply connected to the land through its deep roots created over many,
many years, and dependent on the land itself for sustenance and security.
Furthermore, the gum does not simply take from the land, it gives back,
with leaf litter and fallen branches decaying and providing for healthy soil.
In the same fashion, the Indigenous Australian people live in a way that
does not take exponentially from the land; instead of felling a tree,
Indigenous Australians would more likely slough off bark and wood to
make the implements needed.
This metaphor was extended upon contemplation of the arrival of
Europeans in Australia. Europeans arrived swiftly and with great aplomb,
establishing a colony and, more significantly, a foothold in a very short
amount of time, and their society quickly 'took root', spreading and
multiplying fast. Thus, my mind trended towards seeing as them as a kind
of invasive foreign plant, with similar characteristics to that of a weed,
competing with other plant life for local resources.
Having the metaphor extend to encapsulate both the European settlers
and Indigenous Australia brought an extra dimension to the metaphor and
allowed me to extend it further. Weeds are generally known to strangle
native species through competition for resources, and in a similar fashion,
through assimilation policies as discussed in Lecture 6, European society
attempted to 'strangle', in a figurative way, Indigenous culture by
attempting to assimilate them into European society. Thus the weeds
attempts to block out sunlight are symbolic of the attempts of European
bureaucrats to stifle the attempts of Indigenous Australians to provide for

themselves. Furthermore, the weeds attempts to prevent the eagle from
landing on its only true perch, the gum, are symbolic of the attempts of
Europeans to divorce Indigenous Australians from their own culture and
assimilate them into their own.
Finally, the last part of the Heritage Trust that inspired my story was a
feature wall of photographs. These photographs were all of Indigenous
people who are successfully working and living in modern, and past,
Australian society. Nearby were various photographs of Australians of
European descent and Indigenous Australians working together on various
projects. This reminded me that although Indigenous culture is and has
been very different from that of Europeans, and despite the wrongs of the
past, there are hopes for reconciliation. This feeling is expressed
symbolically in my story’s final paragraph, with the narrator encouraging
the reader to ‘plant their own seed and watch it grow amongst those of
others’, and thus grow in understanding of other cultures. In that sense, it
seems that the aim of this course to ‘spread knowledge that supports
building a more positive future’ (HIST106 Lecture Week 11) has been
achieved in me, and I am glad of it.

Creative Piece: Short Story
Oh. Hello there. Come in and sit down. You want to hear a story, do you?
Excellent. Well, sit down and tell me who you are.
Oh, is that right? Very well then.
What’s that?
You want to know who I am.
Come now, don’t you know that it doesn’t matter who I am? It won’t
change my story. It will begin in the same way and come to the same

conclusion. It doesn’t matter who tells the story. What really matters here
is the listener.
Now, settle down, and I will unfold my story.
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away......
Forgive me. I couldn’t resist that little joke. Okay, I’ll be serious from now
on. Listen up.
Uncounted, uncountable years ago a wind blew across a barren
wasteland. Now, to you this may seem unremarkable, but this wind was
anything but. It was a wind that carried change upon its blustering
shoulders; change that came in a form as small as it was significant.
Seedlings, tiny but full of infinite promise, blew their way across the sea
on the back of a raging gale until alighting, scattered, on the open
landscape. In each separate location, each seedling took root by itself and
began to grow, feeding upon the energy and moisture provided from both
land and sky. As each grew, they took on slightly different shapes from
one another, but they were undisputedly of the same strain of tree; a
mighty gum tree, the kind that towers above your head as you walk
through the wilderness. Growth took many, many years, but the results
were magnificent. Each gum towered above all else, and was enormous
and immovable, sharing with the land a connection not seen before in this
land. Their roots extended deep into the earth, intricately connected with
the land in a way that provided for both. The land in which each tree taken
root provided the tree with an anchor, a place to which the tree belongs

above all else. Moisture collected by the earth after the rains would be
absorbed by the roots, providing sustenance for the tree without
damaging the land itself. The tree also anchored the soil in its own
fashion, ensuring it would not be broken up and scattered to the fickle
winds. When the time came, each gum released its own seedlings, and
they too took root and scattered seedlings of their own.
However, now we turn our attention to a singular gum, one of the first to
blow in to this now glorious land. This gum, like many of the other original
seedlings, now found itself home to a companion. The companion of this
gum was a majestic eagle, a beautiful creature that made its nest in the
upper branches. No matter where it flew during the day, it would return to
this specific gum and renew their relationship.
However, just as change had been wrought upon this land by the arrival of
the first seedlings, the winds would once again bring change to the land.
Once more, seedlings were borne upon the wind and scattered, including
some near our singular gum. These seedlings though, were vastly
different from those of the gum. The new seedlings took root incredibly
quickly, consuming the resources provided by the land at an alarming rate
and spreading rapidly. Unlike the gum, which gave back as it took away;
the fresh seedlings grew swiftly and extensively. Soon, the gum trees were
surrounded on every side. The gum trees stood tall and stoic, but made no
attempts to prevent the growth of this weed. There was plenty of space.
But, before too long, the roots of the fresh seedlings began to reach for
new ground. Though they now inhabited the majority of their borrowed

ground, the growth of these seedlings, no, weeds was unstoppable. In
their search for new grounds, the thin, numerous roots of the myriad
weeds began to share space and intertwine with the thick, strong, deeply
connected roots of the gum.
Contact was at first tentative. The gum trees did not welcome the
intrusion of the weeds, but allowed them the use of some resources. The
weeds continue to take, however, and soon the gum trees found
themselves without resources, finding the land on which they had
originally taken root riddled with the spindly, invasive roots of the weeds.
Some of the gum trees, the ones at the forefront of the oncoming tide of
weeds, found themselves without resources, and slowly began to wither.
Some trees held on with their strong roots to their land, but for the most
part the tide rolled on.
Then, one day, the tide stopped.
The gum trees, at first, were relieved, but what was apparent was that the
weeds had now sunk their inconstant roots into the majority of the land,
land that had once been home to the strong and proud gum trees. Of
course, as with all things involving these weeds, this new dominance
proved detrimental to the gum. Any attempt to extend roots was quickly
rebuffed by those of the numerous weeds, but the worst was yet to come.
It had become time to spread fresh seedlings.
When each gum released its seedlings, the weeds responded in terrible
fashion. Seedlings landing close by other gum trees found themselves

quickly deprived of resources, and soon withered under the bale influence
of the weeds. However, those alighting farther found themselves able to
grow, though only through resources allocated to it by the weeds, and as
each grew the weeds would grow with them, entangling and attempting to
cover them, making each seem as though they were just another clump of
weeds.
As this continued, the weeds began to grow upwards, rather than
spreading outwards. They speared towards the sky, wishing for dominance
over the sky as well as the land. They grew as tall as to block out the
sunlight, which could now only filter through to the gum trees below. Now,
you must be wondering, how does this affect our singular gum and his
avian companion? Well, as high as the weeds grew and blocked out the
sunlight, the eagle still returned to that tree, winging its way through the
grasping weeds to rest upon its perch. Just as the tree is intricately connected to
the ground, the eagle is connected to the tree, and as such there was no way
that the majestic eagle could among the weeds.
This state of affairs lasted for a long time. Now, as the listener, you might be
thinking; what hope is there? What happens next? Well....
In the days that passed, the gum seedlings finally discovered their true growth
potential, bursting forth, scattering the weeds and showing themselves as they
are; tall, proud and majestic. No longer would the gum trees previously covered
by weeds be seen as weeds; they were now obviously, undeniably gum trees.
That is the end of my tale.
What?

What of the weeds, you ask?
Eventually, they had become so well established in their stolen land that they
settled, ceasing their voracious consuming of resources and space, but not
returning any at the same time. As such, the gum trees again began to grow,
though not always without difficulty.
What did you think of my tale? I need to know. Why?
I told you before; the listener is what matters. It is the listener who takes facts
and fits them to their perspective. I wish to know your perspective. Though, if I’m
not wrong, you believe the weeds to be evil due to their treatment of the gum
trees, am I right?
Before you make your judgement, however, consider this. Were the weeds
inherently evil? Or were they just living in the only manner they knew how?
Undeniably, the actions of the weeds were wrong, and had terrible
consequences. However, if you, the listener, for example, visited the barren land,
you might hear a voice whispering in the wind as it whistles through the gum
trees.
‘Time....accountable...no longer shall this be the case...worth......personal and
cultural...as much to give as any other...this voice must be heard”
And in response, you might hear another voice, whispered from the weeds.
“"It is time...we are accountable...it shall no longer be the case...equals...you are
heard”
Finally, echoing across the land, you would hear one word.
“Sorry”