May 09, 2012

Four things that made me cry today

1.Watching for the first time video footage from Ngukurr in the 1980s of two old men speaking the Ngalakgan language to each other. I’ve never heard a conversation in Ngalakgan before. The last person I knew of who spoke Ngalakgan fluently died around 2005.

2. Watching another old video for the first time that featured one of the old Marra ladies I’ve worked with quite a few times in the past couple of years. She’s old and frail and lovely and likes to speak Marra more than English or Kriol. Watching the video of her 30 years ago, speaking only Marra for 45 minutes, made me cry. It made me mourn for a time when the Marra language and the few old people who still speak it were in a much healthier state.

3. I’m currently reading the brilliant book ‘TheTall Man’ by Chloe Hooper. It’s about Cameron Doomadgee who died of horrific internal injuries in a cell of the Palm Island police station in 2004. It’s a horrific, tragic story and very well written book. The book didn’t make me cry today, but finding the trailer for the documentary about it that came out last year did.

4. Then I decided to watch Monday’s 4 Corners program called "Judgement Day" about what happened in Australian politics after the High Court’s Mabo decision that overturned over 200 years of the common law principle of “Terra Nullius” – the premise that Indigenous people didn’t have any rights over their land. It’s a brilliant documentary and quite moving in parts. I love Mick Dodson’s words at the end of the program:
What we want is an acceptance of our history and what has happened to us, the First Australians. Don’t deny the historical truth. If you can do that, you’ll free your heart.
I’ve been moved to tears a lot recently, as I write a chapter in my PhD thesis about the history of the Roper River Region, where Aboriginal people had to deal with invasion, violence, dispossession, the ‘civilising’ and ‘Christianising’ agendas of missionaries and more. Basically, any injustice or tragic story you can think of, that mob have dealt with it. It helps paint the picture about the history and changes that Marra people have gone through and why their language is now critically endangered, usurped by Kriol.

What moves me even more sometimes are the people I work with at Ngukurr who still manage to laugh, joke, smile, nurture their families, welcome and encourage me and continue to struggle on with their difficult lives. I'm looking forward to going back again next week.

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