Castlemaine Vigil In Recognition of Aboriginal Sovereignty and in Solidarity with Refugees
26th – 31st August 2013
On Monday I set up the vigil with 6 particular people in mind: Aunty Carmel – whose life was commemorated in Castlemaine with a short ceremony at the Anglican Church – and the five people who drowned off Christmas Island the weekend before.
In front of the sign that speaks of Jaara country and people I placed a bunch of flowers picked from the country around – yellow, green, red, and white – with candles intermingling and a note that said: ‘in honour of Aunty Carmel – Jaara Elder’.
In front of the sign that says ‘we remember you who have died’ I placed 5 big red camellia flowers from the tree at the front of the house I live in and 5 candles. Precious people.
It was a quiet night on the street.
Except for a cockatoo (what is called in English a Major Mitchell cockatoo!) which was sitting on top of the building opposite and squawking and stepping around, one wing up and then another reaching across and feathers lifted then slumped down and then screeching loud pushing its head up. It seemed to be distressed about something. I asked it what was wrong and it just kept doing its distressed – kinda pissed off – dance. I wondered whether it was pissed off that it had been lumbered with such a name – commemorating a man who had brought havoc to the country it lives in!
As some of the blustery clouds rolled across towards me it flew off behind the building.
Then suddenly I was aware of a big presence above. It was a huge Wedged Tailed Eagle coming toward me, flying low, chased by 5 crows. I jumped up to watch as it flew over the top of the Market Building… Wow!!
Soon the crows flew back and off into the blustery sky!
It felt significant – this bird action.
Still standing in the middle of the street I called out to a man a little bit away, ‘didja see that?’ ‘What’, he said. ‘That Wedge Tailed Eagle chased by 5 crows’. ‘Ahhh, no… Wish I had. Love em. We had a family of em nestin in a big tree near the house. Every year watched that family. They were shot a coupla years ago. Changed me!’ he says.
It’s now Wednesday and it’s snowy-cold cold this evening. Not a wind but a cold breeze. I was about to say to myself ‘I feel like weeping’, when a woman, J, stopped and upon my asking if she will look at the petition she says ‘anything for the refugees’. She signs the petition and says: ‘I would take care of people in my home’. I think there are quite a few people who would open their homes to people needing refuge. J tells me a little about herself and I hear how much suffering she has been through and how little she has – though she does have a home. I think of how often it is those who have suffered themselves who feel and respond to others in pain, others who are being persecuted.
Peter and Tim and Kirrily stop by and it is good to know the support. Kirrily speaks of helping others gather things together to give to families who are newly out of detention.
My energy has been buoyed by people’s presence, their stopping to notice.
Looking to the sky I recognise some snow clouds – winter in Way Wurru country – North East Victoria where I grew up was snowy-cold. O imagine how freezing the water must be – and without all the blankets and waterproof clothing I’ve got on tonight.
Most of the clouds though are searingly white – searingly white like those who have chosen power through persecution rather than leadership through courage and compassion.
The sky does show a little pink and orange tonight – not enough to reflect in the windows of Stonemans Bookroom but enough to remind me of these warmer colours.
Tonight I am sending love to the Nelson family and to all those grieving the loss of their loved ones – in detention, in camps, in custody, in seas, in prisons.
May you know that we remember you.