As you arrive at the monument, you see all the people who have been part of this journey with you and wonder how they got here so quickly. Everyone appears very calm, filling you with a sense of peace. Uncle Rick and Harley turn to you as you arrive and wave. You feel relieved to see them and wave back. Harley doesn’t seem fazed at all. You have a memory of him in the claws of an eagle but it is only a memory and you know the memory is not real. You know the difference now between truth and half-truths but also how to uncover the whole truth from stories now that you know the deeper meaning of all these stories. It feels more like a journey than a mystery now. Though you realise you haven’t solved the mystery yet and don’t want to disappoint Harley. After all he invited you here for a reason. You notice there’s a ceremony taking place near the monument so know this is an important moment.
Then Harley turns to you and says, “Monuments are shining symbols of identity. Statues everywhere tell a story of who we are as a nation and as a race of people.”
As you walk up the summit to the monument, you ponder this message about monuments and people. You notice Uncle Rick, presiding over the ceremony. His authority and presence calms you. But you feel there’s an expectation here; that you need to respond in some way to these stories; that the stories demand a response. It’s not just about listening, you need to take action.
As you realise this, smoke and song envelops you. You are part of the ceremony, you are part of this land, our common ground. You circle the statue, realising this whole journey, all the stories you discovered, that remade you, your memories, that helped you discover your identity, and made you close to whole again, they were all leading you here to this spot. To one final story. You walk around the monument, reading the names on the statue. One of the names is etched in gold: KING SURVIVOR.
Who is this person? What does it take for someone in history to be crowned a ‘King’ and a ‘Survivor’. You realise this person was John King, an Irish explorer, the sole survivor of the Burke and Wills expedition in the 1860s. But you wonder how he survived because no mention of this story is written on the statue. Since you’re now on friendly terms with Country and feel like you can ask Country anything, you decide to ask how King Survivor survived. Country tells you, “He was saved by the Aboriginal people in Cooper Creek, South Australia.” You wonder if you’ve heard about this part of the story before. You wonder if there are people still alive today who carry these oral histories. You are going to Google this when you get home.
It occurs to you that you need to let Harley know you get it now. So you tell him what you’ve discovered, that we are only half of who we really are if we allow these stories and knowledge to remain unacknowledged and ignored.
“Ah, so what are you going to do about it?” Harley asks.
You reflect on this a moment, your head swirling with ideas and possibilities. Then finally, you find your answer and you say, “I’m going to make sure people don’t forget it by passing on and sharing the stories.”
Everything has fallen into place for you. These recorded histories and colonial stories have significance but they can only tell one side of the story.
The journey you’ve been on is about First Peoples history, oral history. DJAARA HISTORY, the full history, the other half of the story of this land.
You know now that your challenge is not only to share the stories but to respond with stories of your own. This allows you to share these stories in new ways and in ways that are important and make sense to you. You now understand what it means to share the significance of First Peoples’ stories in ways that are true to the story.
“I love that response! I’d love to hear from all you story seekers about what you got from these stories. Do please submit a piece of history of your own or write a poem inspired by the stories you heard and experienced today. Tell us why they must be remembered. You’ll find our email address in the acknowledgments on the app and we’ll make sure to publish your letter or poem on our website.”
Now Uncle Rick chimes in.
“Some histories have been SILENCED, or shunted to the MARGINS, or dismissed as MYTHICAL. Listen to these stories, to understand the secrets and the age old lessons for what they reveal about the land, how to care for Country, for one another. Otherwise we are only ever half what we could truly be…”
You’re part of this Living History and there’s a sense of the spirit of this place you’ve come to know on your travels through this land. Then a memory pops into your head. It’s a flashback to another time and place. You look around to the surrounding landscape and you’re smiling a little to yourself, as the stories you’ve listened to return, because you realise that some stories are worth remembering. Stories of the land speak to us.
How many bird calls did you recognise?
Did you hear this sound? Say yes or no! Did you hear a bird call you didn’t recognise?
Make sure you go back to the start of the path and follow a new path so you can hear the other bird calls. Be sure to send us an audio or video clip of your favourite bird call.
Please send your poems, letters, oral history recordings or sound or video clips of bird calls to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be sure to put them on our website. The Djaara people of Dja Dja Wurrung Country are recognised as the First Peoples of this region. As Traditional Custodians, the Dja Dja Wurrung have cared for country for centuries and as a commitment to future generations as part of Dhelkunya Dja and Balak Kalik Manya.
With thanks to all First Nations storytellers for voicing these Djaara stories: Uncle Rick Nelson, Aunty Julie McHale, Harley Douglas, Jacinta Douglas and Claire Barker. Thanks to Trent Nelson for the feuding volcanoes story and Harley Dunolly-Lee for his language contributions and story of Mindi. We appreciate the support of the Dja Dja Wurrung Land Corporation and Rodney Carter. Thanks also to Uncle Rick for his permission to share his family’s Welcome to my Homeland, Welcome to Emu Country song as part of this cultural walk. We acknowledge these stories of land, water and sky.
The stories we soar with bring us hope.