The image I have shared is a sunrise I shot at Bombo Quarry last week and it speaks to me of the struggles we face in Australia today.
At sunrise, the quarry is a hauntingly beautiful place despite the pain we have inflicted on it. It is an ancient landscape once sculpted by the ocean but more recently re-shaped, as it was blasted to bits by men with sticks of dynamite in their quest for blue metal. As I sit on the clifftop and look down on the crashing waves, I am enveloped by the sounds of Country. Today, at Bombo the ghosts of hard working men wielding hammers still lingers but is drowned out by the sounds of the ocean reclaiming what was always hers.
As the sun pokes its head above the horizon, the warm rays of sunshine casts a wonderful glow below me. I enjoyed the spectacle although I felt conflicted by it.
Bombo Quarry has now made its way to the State’s Heritage Register because its minerals were found to be geologically unique. But what of the ancient ancestral stories? Aboriginal people had a unique connection to Country which many Australians may struggle to comprehend. They would sing to it, care for it, long for it, speak to it and take care of it. It was an interdependent relationship that never failed them. The spirits of their ancestors are present here. When will we honour these stories and give them equal listing?
In 1994, we declared today to be Australia Day, commemorating Arthur Phillip raising the Union Jack in Sydney Cove — officially beginning British Colonisation. While some Australians may throw some meat on the barbie to celebrate this, for others it is a day of deep sadness. They remember the massacres, the stolen generations, the loss of language, culture and connection to Country. The stories we choose to honour and the date on which we do so, craft their own narratives of what & who is important or not.
We woke up this morning to watch and listen to the WugulOra — One Mob — sunrise ceremony from Barangaroo Reserve. Yesterday, we were blown away by the powerful display of dance, song and story telling at the overnight Vigil there. We were heartened by how many Australians had gathered to pay respect and engage in deep listening with indigenous people. We felt that change was in the air as more people become conscious of the stories that were never told.
As a photographer and avid bushwalker I continue to continue to connect with Country. I cannot really convey the beauty of a place if I don’t connect with its spirit. On what has become a very alienating day for our Nation, my wish is that we might all re-connect and reconcile with this land. My hope is that our leaders will chose inclusion rather than division. That we might embrace the Uluru Statement from the Heart as we go forward.
As the mercury climbs toward 40 degrees today, and a hot dry wind blows outside, I reflect on the damage we continue to inflict on this land and what that might mean for a warming climate and the generations yet to be born.
“The land is the mother and we are of the land; we do not own the land rather the land owns us. The land is our food, our culture, our spirit and our identity” — Dennis Foley, a Gai-mariagal and Wiradjuri man, and Fulbright scholar.