Aunty sits weaving. She pulls the thin white hairs from one end of the pandanus grass and peels them slowly, carefully into long strips. I watch her gather them together, twist them tightly, lovingly. Her tongue clicks as she sings an ancient rhythm and works the strands into a tightly woven circle.
(I am a stranger here, but I feel embraced, nurtured in this community.)
Aunty speaks of old times and I sit with the children at her feet, mesmerised by the tempo of the movement and the warm comfort of her voice.
(I am here to sell big business, from the mining company as their community liaison. But here, immersed in the community I am finding it hard to believe in my story.)
She speaks of the community and its families, their connection to this place. Of the lessons taught by the wind, the birds, the sand. They are guides, clues for survival through the seasons. They are brother, sister, mother.
(I am discovering that I am not cut out for this job. I am fascinated, drawn in. I want to know more of their story. I am meant to be telling them mine.)
Aunty speaks softly about the land, their Country, their Dreaming. She begins the creation story of the serpent forming the landscape. Each undulation a story, a song.
(Already there is no mountain range left, just a flat topped pile of soil and rocks over 30 kilometres across.)
The great serpent’s tail spills water over the land, and calls forth the animal spirits who bring lore, customs and rituals.
(The mines bring a message of respect and recognition of traditional knowledge and will offer the community members jobs rehabilitating the native vegetation.)
Aunty’s voice rises. The children lean in, listening closely for the lesson.
(Ceremonial sites and rock art will be identified and I will work closely in partnership with the community to relocate and protect it.)
The story has finished. The creator spirit has changed the landscape forever, and with it shaped the future of the Western Desert tribes.
The children sit quietly, reflecting. Aunty hums softly as she ties off a small coil basket. And a tear runs down my cheek, I have discovered a diabolical truth.
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