So here I sit, six months into my journey, and I’m not in my lounge room in Amata. I’m in the city. Tears cloud my vision as I type, and I long for the country I love so dearly. These are hard words to type. Words that fill me with shame, failure and a sense of running away with my tail between my legs; for you see, we’ve had to leave. It became apparent that despite having spent time in the APY as a kid, and having visited countless communities, that there are things that simmer beneath the surface of remote Aboriginal communities that cannot be seen by the untrained eye. Things that cannot be seen even by many of the Anangu. Things that cannot be seen until you work, live, send your children to school there. Things that are being kept deliberately quiet, to maintain the status quo and keep Anangu oppressed and marginalised. And those things made living in Amata unsafe for us, and more important for our children.
So here I am.
I’m wracking my brain to try and articulate how I feel. It’s so difficult to find the words. I feel empty. I feel like something that is so deeply enmeshed within my personhood has been ripped callously from my chest. And all that is left there is a hole, and an ache. An ache I carry with me every moment of every day. I long to feel the red earth beneath my feet. I pine for the velvet dusk and crisp mornings, with their pallettes so vivid and true. If I close my eyes long enough I can just remember how being on country made me feel like I could breathe again. And then I remember where I am and that ache in my chest, that feeling of not being able to take a full, deep breath returns. And I try so hard to be positive and think about the safety of my children. But it doesn’t negate the hurt I feel inside. A kind of brokenness that can’t be easily fixed.
I want positive change for Anangu, and I’ll do my best to be that change down here. I want to challenge the thinking of White Australia and challenge the actions of the government to ensure that policy, process and accountability are part of what drives that change. But it won’t stop the ache. And it’s now, sitting here, not on country, with a sleeping baby in the crook of one arm, that I truly understand why it is that we cannot force the closure of remote communities. We cannot displace Aboriginal from their ancestral lands. If we do that, we remove their very personhood. Their identity. And that’s a wound that won’t easily heal. Oh sure, alcohol or other drugs will numb the pain for a couple of hours, but we all know how that story ends. Maybe counselling will help? I don’t honestly know. For now I’ll focus on what being on country for the last six months has given me. I’ve grown so much as an Aboriginal Woman. I found my Anangu family (or they found me!) and I learnt more than I could ever have possibly hoped to learn before embarking on this journey. I’ll keep writing, and I won’t stop advocating for Aboriginal Australia. I’ll remain the activist I am and when the time is right and it’s safe to do so I’ll explain in detail how and why we came to the decision to leave. Thank you for supporting my writing and my journey – know that my journey does not end here.