A Northern Point

This is a treeNothing special. Just a tree.It lives in a paddock. Its an old tree. It has a scar.She is a sleepy old woman.

Yea Birthing Tree © Matt Everitt, 2017 ⸻

Everyone make change beginning with brave actions in their daily lives – where they live, work, play and socialise.

Our group, Taungwurrung, approved a Cultural Heritage management plan in 2016 for this site and its tree granting the destruction of the landscape that this tree lies. A sand quarry with minimal considerations for why it should be protected. The quarry destined to pontoon a tree of no value by the drop of her canopy, island, becoming a neon green lake which inevitably succumbs to its own death.

This is a tree. Nothing special. Just a tree. It lives in a paddock. It’s an old tree. It has a scar. She is a sleepy old woman. A story not told; a story forgotten; echoing generations of tears and happiness. She has seen changes. She means nothing to people, but everything to me, to my family. The old lady sits north with sunshine on her face.

My cousin’s discovery of a burnt spec of clay and my own evaluation of the area allowed for the discovery of many camp sites with fireplaces settled on gentle lunettes of a meandering river, supporting life through water and its ancient paleochannels. The clay balls a reminder of stories shared, its fingertips embedded of our old people. I listen to children running around the camps, their laughter, I see the old men camped, making resources by the plumes of smoke waiting patiently.

The rocks found are heat retainers. They provide a chance for thermoluminescence tests, winding the clock back to zero and its own true magnetic north trapped in time; cast by fire. This is a misdiagnosed landscape that forms one of Victoria’s most important.

I spent many times working through the stakeholders trying to change people’s positions so we could save this landscape and our tree. From government, to community, to family, to owners and their commercial value of sand. The protecting of Culture from a state parliament act, redundant of power.

Do you remember the movie Avatar?

I spoke to my then pregnant wife at the time about the importance of this place. I’m thankful I married this amazing person, my kindred spirit, my solace. My wife asks if we can reinstate this tree. We spoke to Aboriginal nurses and our midwife to form a contemporary Cultural value binding our old people and us to place.

This tree, the old lady is no ordinary tree, it’s our tree. Seeing more than 200 generations of birthing to my family line, our ancestors, our birthing. This is a place of life. My wife, proud to re-establish connections and the intangible for the first time since colonisation; to birth our daughter here. Our plans failed as my wife gets diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This puts her and our daughter at risk, a risk too great.

This Cultural asset and landscape, tangible and intangible values is caught in a paradox of industry, profits over Culture. My own Mob, placing money over Culture, for a fist full of dollars.

I tried continuously to have my own community see the values in this tree with no success. The fight that drained my energy and saw me ostracized, bullied and lateral violence inevitably driving me away from my own group. I think of the sorrow and shame of my own group, when the oppressed become the oppressors.

I gave up. I realised that my values didn’t align. I didn’t want to be part of something that was destructive of Culture, instead something that builds on Culture. That Culture over capital is more important. Our Elders and youth need to take place.

I realise that Culture is not placed in tangibility. Rather it’s the intangible that allows us to survive and thrive evident by surviving two glacial maximum. Our Culture is fluid and adaptable to change, environmental, social and today, political. This is why we are custodians of place. It’s our feather feet and soft impact that matters leaving only the discarded hearths as our environmental destruction. Today is tangible. The rest is intangible. A Dreaming.

I think about connectivity and the intersect between things, relative to time. Our Greenstone carried far, of travelled trade routes through song and the intimacy of walking Country; our complexities of lore, systems, social structures and meaning. How do we measure value? What defines purpose and belonging? How do we rebuild?

I think about how society places values on what it sees as significant? The tree at the convent, protected. My tree, our Culture devalued? Is it any less important? Who gets to place importance over Culture? The spoils of success, the histories and stories written and told by the victors.

It still hurts. I wished it could be different. Today, it comes at a tangible cost to my family. Today I can’t be a part of my own group, I’m not ready. I learned that this was a time to fight a better fight in a different place, a place where my voice was heard. It was time to let go.

Today I look to the Emu in the Sky. I seek to understand place, time and meaning, my sense of belonging, the interconnected, resilience, how self and things belong, my continuance of journey.