More Relevance in Indigenous Culture, Than ABC Culture

EASTER is about religion, which is about culture, which is about myth. I was raised on the myths of the Australian Outback, on the poems of Banjo Paterson where the heroes could be “hard and tough and wiry – just the sought that won’t say die”. The landscape was also tough, harsh, and certainly ready to break the individual who was not resilient and innovative. Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 10.09.06 PM

Modern Australia still likes a hero, but our relationship with the landscape has changed. The idea now is that we have broken the landscape, that collectively we have changed the environment and not for the better.

It’s generally acknowledged that all religions attempt two things: to explain existence and to regulate behavior. More than ever, Australians congregate in cities, carry on about greed destroying the environment, and campaign for more wildlife, wilderness and against climate change. Rural Australia receives much of this new culture through the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – through television and radio.

It’s interesting to reflect that in aboriginal culture, wilderness was not a cause for fond nostalgia, but rather a landscape without a custodian. Indeed for the first Australians the health of a landscape was measured less by how much water was in a river, and more by how many kangaroos it could support.

The new culture, however, is generally against the active management of “nature” – mankind’s role, and especially that of industry, is always portrayed in the negative. There is now a regime of legislation and regulation in place, supposedly promoting sustainability, but in reality it hampers good land management and would make no sense to either Clancy of the Overflow or the Dreamtime hunter, Ngurunderi.

Perhaps its time those with a real connection to the Australian landscape, with a real love of country, got together to talk about a new vision for the Outback. If you don’t have your own plan, chances are you will be implementing someone else’s.

Indeed it is possible that in embracing some of the Dreamtime myths rather than those of the environmentalists who feature so prominently as heroes on the ABC, we could all come to a more balanced understanding of the Australian landscape and its needs. Consider, for example, that in one Dreamtime story when Ngurunderi visited the River Murray’s mouth it was not brimming with freshwater as environmentalists insist was the case before irrigation, but had actually closed over. So Ngurunderi was able to walked across the Murray’s mouth from Tapawal into Ramindjeri country. That’s right, back in the Dreamtime, before irrigated agriculture, the Murray’s mouth had closed over.

The above article was first published as a column by Jennifer Marohasy in The Land newspaper. The Land is available in good news agencies across Australia.

The dreamtime story of Ngurunderi walking across the Murray’ mouth as told by Albert Karloan, one of the last three youths to undergo full initiation rites in the Lower Murray region is explained at the ‘Myth and the Murray’ website, .

21 Responses to More Relevance in Indigenous Culture, Than ABC Culture

  1. Robert April 18, 2014 at 1:02 am #

    Two thumbs up, Jen. Three if I had them.

  2. Siliggy April 18, 2014 at 1:31 am #

    “Perhaps its time those with a real connection to the Australian landscape, with a real love of country, got together to talk about a new vision for the Outback. If you don’t have your own plan, chances are you will be implementing someone else’s.”
    Could be a good way to prevent things like this below.
    200 armed U.S Federal goverment agents point guns at Americans (who are pointing guns back) to protect a tortiose that same government department previously wanted to kill off.

  3. Siliggy April 18, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    Charles Sturt also lost his bottle.
    Ooops wrong link. Sorry,
    While the sand bank at the Murry mouth could have moved Charle Sturt could also have just been good at loosing bottles.

  4. spangled drongo April 18, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    Very true, Jen. And the sad part about it is these post-mod greenies are far less hands-on than our ancestors ever were and far less aware of what is happening or what historically happened.

    You can’t believe what passes for scientific research and proof of what’s “happening”. But then, maybe you can.

    And their capacity to fix is choked by their own red and green tape.

  5. Debbie April 18, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    Thumbs up from me too Jen.

    “The new culture, however, is generally against the active management of “nature” – mankind’s role, and especially that of industry, is always portrayed in the negative. There is now a regime of legislation and regulation in place, supposedly promoting sustainability, but in reality it hampers good land management and would make no sense to either Clancy of the Overflow or the Dreamtime hunter, Ngurunderi.

    Perhaps it’s time those with a real connection to the Australian landscape, with a real love of country, got together to talk about a new vision for the Outback. If you don’t have your own plan, chances are you will be implementing someone else’s. ”

    What seems to have happened in both State and Fed Govt is that NRM has been disconnected from the departments that work with the people who actually work with natural Resources.

    Therefore such things as Native Vegetation management and Water Management and Environment/Heritage depts are corralled away from the DPI or Dept of Ag or Forestry or whatever.

    The result is that people who work in businesses such as Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries etc are given confusing, contradictory & very expensive mixed messages from Govt.

    Many in these NRM departments most definitely see the very people who work in the real environment/climate/weather, day in and day out. . .and who actually care deeply about the active management of natural resources and nature. . .as the ‘enemy’ in some type of ideological and apparently highly ‘semantic’ war.

    The further difficulty is that people in the ‘outback’ are often far too easily ‘divided and conquered’.
    They were raised to believe that Govt depts were there too look after the interests of its PEOPLE (REPEAT PEOPLE!) in a balanced, sensible and visionary capacity.
    As you highlight here. . .that is not the current MO at all.
    I love the Aussie environment despite the battles that we inevitably have with Nature at times.
    I remain completely gobsmacked that what we do out here and what we have done over several generations has been framed as negative and destructive.
    Of course. . .nothing is ever perfect. . .and there is always room for improvement. . .BUT. . .VERY IMPORTANTLY. . .in the big picture the story is mainly a positive one.
    ALSO VERY IMPORTANTLY. . .many of the ‘negatives’ that the ‘new culture’ harps on and on about. . .are actually are a result of the legislation they have caused to be implemented.
    The lack of sensible management of the bush to minimise destruction from bushfires & the impractical nonsense surrounding the southern MDB are 2 of the more obvious examples. . .but there are SOOOoooooooo many others.

  6. spangled drongo April 18, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    The traditional movement of culture from the old to the young, while it has always had a battle to instil traditional values, today has a much greater hurdle to overcome with the dying out of Christian culture, the arrival of the internet and the modern worship of youth as the repository of all wisdom.

    The latter situation has generated from more dysfunctional families having the majority of the children and functional families having less. The anti-Darwinian principle that Tony Abbott would like to reverse with his PPL scheme.

    Even if we survive CAGW, CAD will get us before too long.

  7. Gasbo April 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Australia’s landscape has been changing down through the millennia,whether through natural or man made causes,so there is no need to worry about it,what we do now will have absolutely no bearing on it 1000 years from now.
    Forests jungle rainforests will re-grow or new ones will form,erosion earthquakes etc will change the topography,rivers will dry up and new ones will follow whatever the land does,deserts will expand and shrink,the seas will rise and fall because the planet isn’t a solid mass,the earth will alter it axis and the sun’s rays will hit at different angles thus changing the planets climate,this is the way of the planet it is in a constant state of flux.

    I don’t care how many degrees or doctorates a person has anyone who says that CO2 can change the weather is an out and out liar,dill or both!

  8. Debbie April 18, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    Gotta agree Gasbo.
    The singular focus on global ACO2 as a tool to manage the future global weather is ludicrous.
    As you point out. . .there are much stronger forces at play than human behaviour.
    And anyway. . .It is actually NATURAL behaviour for homo sapiens to alter/enhance the local environment. . . and has been since the cave man era.
    The current misanthropic/enviro-political culture (or as Jen writes . . . ‘the new culture’) has lost the connection.

  9. jennifer April 18, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    So I spent this morning in my garden… tending it. Gasbo, it will make a difference to how it looks and feels over the next few months. And we should care about the Australian landscape, and be prepared to tend it. It does matter how we treat it.

  10. Larry Fields April 18, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Well done, Jennifer!

    I’d like to mention one of the ‘elephants in the room’. Humans came to Australia just over 40k years ago. At that time, the world was experiencing a major Ice Age. Chicago, my original hometown, was under a mile-thick layer of ice.

    Australia also experienced the Ice Age, but in a different way. The distribution of flora and fauna was different. Example: There were Tree Kangaroos (and presumably trees) on the Nullarbor Plain. Since the last Ice Age, human cultures and the landscape have evolved together. Now let’s do a thought-experiment to test one of the boundary conditions of land management in Australia.

    Suppose that ALL Australians decided to give their country the gift of 100% absolute Greenness, to ‘let Nature do its thing’, and to emigrate en masse to the American West. Some of the long-term consequences of humans totally abandoning the Island Continent would be difficult to foresee. Other changes would be more apparent.

    Example: Mega-bushfires would replace smaller, more frequent controlled burns. Soil erosion would increase, as would the resulting desertification.

    The fire-related annual death toll of Australian wildlife would increase dramatically, because most native animals (aside from flying birds, and animals that live in the water) could not outrun the rapidly advancing fire fronts. You may have to kiss your Koalas, Quolls, and Rock Wallabies good-bye. The last two stands of wild Wollemi Pines may also be at risk. Because of mega-bushfires, biodiversity would probably take a big hit with a total back-to-Nature land management philosophy. Do we really want that?

    Most people place some value on biodiversity, because it’s a part of who we are. Moreover we’re still discovering anti-carcinogens in plants. Example: the chemotherapy drug, Taxol, from the Pacific Yew tree in Nth America. This means that biodiversity has a dollar value, over and above its sentimental value. A part of that would be sacrificed on the altar of extreme Political Correctness.

    Paradoxically, if we reduced our ecological ‘footprints’ to zero — even if that were feasible — it would have untoward environmental consequences. So much for our thought-experiment.

    The point is that we cannot turn back the clock 40k years, however much some of us would like to. Notwithstanding saltwater crocs, the Diprotodons and other megafauna are gone for good. And ferals — like camels, Cane Toads, cats, and Red Foxes — would be ecological wildcards in a back-to-Nature version of Australia.

    If we want rational land management, we need to do some real soul-searching first. The best we can do is to list, to prioritize, and then to implement whichever specific objectives we decide upon.

    University-based environmental scientists will need to become more ethical. When one is wearing his scientist’s hat, he should always tell the bloody truth — warts and all.

  11. Siliggy April 18, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    From their report after the Murray mouth was explored by STRANGWAYS and HUTCHINSON 1838.
    “It is probable that during the rains, and while the lake pours its overflowing waters with such impetuosity into the sea, that the flood tide causes no perceptible difference in the velocity of the current; that a channel of considerable depth may exist between the lake and the sea,although not so deep as in the entrance, as the water on escaping from its confinement expands over a very flat beach. But in the fall of the year after the drought of summer, when the lake falls to the level of the sea, as Captain Sturt at that time of year found its water brackish so many miles up, the cause which operated to keep the channel open having subsided, the sea then would act without any opposing power and block up the entrance, as found by Captain Sturt.
    Oh no. Not that link, this link.
    It’s not over until the fat frog giggles.

  12. jennifer April 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm #


    An interesting thought experiment that you propose… what would happen to the Australian landscape if we all up and migrated?

    But I don’t immediately share your conclusions… I’m thinking. Would there be fewer or more destructive bush fires?


    Thanks for the Strangways and Hutchinson quote.

  13. Larry Fields April 19, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    Jennifer asked:
    Would there be fewer or more destructive bush fires?

    Yes, I’d say both. Increased fuel build-up would promote greater burning intensity. A greater number of hot embers would jump natural barriers — like rivers — and start spotfires on the other side. These would merge, and the bushfire would continue on its merry way — after a slight hiccup.

    I’m assuming that David Ward and other contributors here are correct about the environmental benefits of controlled burns in Eucalypt country every few years. In the bug-out scenario, the recovery times would be longer. The topsoil losses would be greater. And some of the Eucalypt species would extend their ranges, at the expense of less fire-tolerant trees.

    In the bug-out scenario, there would be no human-caused bushfires. They would be mostly lightning strikes. The upshot: In the original Eucalypt country, the bushfire frequency for a given chunk of real estate would decrease. That’s the ‘good news’.

    Of course, in the bug-out scenario, I’m assuming that the Aborigines also choose to migrate. Otherwise, the Eucalypt country would eventually look more ‘park-like’, as it was 300 years ago, with less ground litter and wider spacing between trees.

    Several years ago, I looked at some online photos from hikes by a bloke from Victoria. I was surprised that most of the pics showed dog-hair thickets. They looked like a bushfire waiting to happen.

  14. Johnathan Wilkes April 19, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    “hot embers would jump natural barriers — like rivers
    How about tens of miles Larry?

  15. Ian Thomson April 19, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    I think there would be more bushfires under Larry’s scenario , as the colonisation of Oz by eucalypts would accelerate , with no pasture ‘firebreaks.
    And yes, the wollemi pine would go. Already under the ‘hands off nature’ regime Wollemi National Park features among every summer’s NSW fire breakouts.

    Siliggy. Have you read the story behind the story of the Bundy standoff ? Remarkably similar to the Pilliga. It is to be depopulated to allow massive Chinese mineral and gas exploration.
    Kick out the people who have tended the land for yonks and hope the ICAC doesn’t find out the rest.
    The US has allowed itself to be mortgaged to China . ( The gold to guarantee the dollar ain’t there).
    I wonder where we are with that stuff.
    The PM is in a sudden rush to allow Chinese Govt. owned enterprises to tear into Australia.

  16. Larry Fields April 19, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    The Bundy situation is a big, complicated mess. Here’s the best article I’ve seen on the subject.

    Was Stopping Nevada’s Fracking Rush Behind the Bundy Showdown?

    • by Marita Noon
    • April 14, 2014

    The story of rancher Cliven Bundy has captured an abundance of media attention and attracted supporters from across the West, who relate to the struggle against the federal management of lands. Bundy’s sister, Susan, was asked: “Who’s behind the uproar?” She blamed the Sierra Club, then Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), and then President Obama. She concluded her comments with: “It’s all about control”—a sentiment that is frequently expressed regarding actions taken in response to some endangered-species claim.

    An Associated Press report describes Bundy’s battle this way: “The current showdown pits rancher Cliven Bundy’s claims of ancestral rights to graze his cows on open range against federal claims that the cattle are trespassing on arid and fragile habitat of the endangered desert tortoise.”

    Bundy’s story has been percolating for decades—leaving people to question why now. The pundits are, perhaps, missing the real motive. To discover it, you have to dig deep under the surface of the story, below the surface of the earth. I posit: it is all about oil and gas.

    Larry’s comment

    I had to read the article twice in order to fully understand what Ms Noon was trying to say. Apparently there are mixed motives in the efforts to close down Cliven Bundy’s cattle grazing operation. For very different reasons, both the fracking buffs within the BLM, and the Environmentalists — who are often at each others throats — are united in their desire to see Mr Bundy ride off into the sunset.

    More to the point, there are a lot trigger-happy fools at all levels of American law enforcement. I hope that Bundy Ranch will NOT become a replay of Ruby Ridge.

  17. DaveMyFace April 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    Great article
    Banjo Patterson had so much more than poetry and writing. His love of horses took him as would vet on a 15,000 tonne ship to Egypt in about 1914 and he looked after a famous horse called “Bill The Bastard”.
    The story reveals so much more about A.B. Paterson than any reference journal or story. It reveals the tale of this horse and so few people that could handle him, and Banjo was only one of three.

  18. Ian Thomson April 19, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    Hi Larry,

    Haven’t read the whole article, but read a precis. It concluded that 25% of your land is guaranteeing the dollar . Bankers are, always , the winners.

  19. siliggy April 20, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    Ian and Larry.
    “Have you read the story behind the story of the Bundy standoff ?”
    Several of them and they all contradict each other. Not understanding Australian politics and law is hard enough for me. I have very little idea what is going on there at all but do notice a lot of contradictions around that tortoise.
    Thinking about life way back in history for the tortoise it would have been living amongst buffalo. Was there a symbiotic relationship that has been taken over by the cattle? That is does the tortoise need the cattle?
    From the Heartland page Larry linked to I find this about the tortise being the reason to STOP solar farms.
    From the BLM website a youtube commenter found this and suggests it overlaps Cliven Bundy’s land.
    An already approved solar farm.
    The solar farm as you can see from Here IS on the I-15 interstate highway.
    I hope Australians never store the bargaining tools in the gun cupboard and think that the Americans need to watch out for the welfare of the person who called off the gunfight. There was a hero that day!

  20. Siliggy April 20, 2014 at 4:42 am #

    Wonder how the mods will react to my comment here.

    Siliggy April 19th, 2014
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    If this tortoise used to live with buffalo long ago does it need cattle now? Is it eating things that grow in the cow manure? Oh and in order to prevent the pollution that solar and wind factories make in China why not invest in tomorrows oxygen by creating some more plant and tree feeding dioxide today instead? It allows plants to feed the tortoise. Best to get that gas and oil out of the ground before a quake helps it find it’s own way out in a big lethal belch too. Keep working to prevent our planet from becoming like Neptune’s moon Triton which is polluted by methane and carbon monoxide because there are no humans there to prevent the abiotic fossil fuels from growing unchecked.”
    …..Gotta have some fun!

  21. Larry Fields April 20, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    “Hi Larry,
    Haven’t read the whole article, but read a precis. It concluded that 25% of your land is guaranteeing the dollar . Bankers are, always , the winners.”

    Hi Ian,
    I don’t regard WRH as a very good source of info. The owner is an anti-Semite. Just for fun, try googling on
    “jewish bankers”

    I got 253 hits.

    The owner definitely has an axe to grind. This does not mean that the bloke is automatically wrong about everything.
    AFAIK, he may be right about the banking industry in general.

    That said, the bigotry does not exactly inspire confidence in the assiduousness of his research — or in his analytical abilities. More than for most blogs, I’d feel the need to double-check the factoids from independent sources.

    BTW, I’m touchier than most people about anti-Semitism. My father’s side of the family has a Jewish background. His parents emigrated to the USA several years before a pogrom in their home country.

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