By Olivia Brozecki
As a first generation Australian, it took me an embarrassingly long time to realise my olive-skin is read as ‘white’ in every way that matters. I’ve never been refused a job due to the colour of my skin. I’ve never had someone grip their handbag tightly upon my approach. Etc.
Up until now, this whitefella has never been invited to practice ceremony with traditional owners. So it was with a tinge of apprehension that I took tentative steps onto Waddananggu, across the road from Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine in Belyando, central Queensland. This colossal mining project has been stalled and restricted due to numerous people-powered campaigns for over a decade, and the fight is far from over.
But this was no protest. We didn’t even have to chain ourselves to trees.
This celebratory event marked one year of reoccupation. That is, for a whole year, a member of Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) Country have lived on Adani’s mining lease. Every day, a member of the W&J family has ensured that a fire burns in a sacred ‘Bora ring.’ The same fire was used to ‘smoke us in’ by traditional owner Coedie McAvoy.
As McAvoy explains, “It’s our duty. It’s our responsibility to maintain that fire. It’s a responsibility that my nephews have willingly taken on and they’ve become better for it.”
Another of earth’s key elements, water, was a recurring theme. We drank clean, uncontaminated water every day. We ate food grown by clean, uncontaminated water. First Nations Peoples visited nearby sacred water springs and shared their stories with us. These water springs could so easily become contaminated if this coal mine doesn’t cease operations. Water that Adani has unlimited and free access to.
We danced. We laughed. We slept to the sounds of heavy machinery and trucks. And not once did our children argue with one another. Our five-year-old demanded that we “stay here forever.”
Although we did eventually leave, I will not forget taking up this invitation to practice ceremony with our indigenous ancestors (for we all have them). And just like the clean drinking water I enjoy every day, it will be something I will not take for granted.
Olivia Brozecki is affiliated with StopAdani Albury Wodonga.