Let’s go clubbing!
Over the past couple of months I’ve been rekindling an interest in parts of my culture that I haven’t thought about since I was a very small boy.
Many years ago, my father taught me how to carve boomerangs. Like most boys at that age, I was taken with something different. I was enthralled momentarily, before moving on to the next bright and shiny thing. It wasn’t until very recently that my interest was cast back and I found myself again wanting to know more. A great deal more.
As part of my job at the Museum, I teach people about indigenous plants, their uses and properties. This is a function I had a great head start in, as my first ever job started when I was about 10 years of age was to help my Dad to collect orchids (yes, we did have a permit) and other rainforest plants in Far Northern New South Wales, for sale to nurseries in Sydney. Most of my weekends and holidays were spent in the middle of the rainforest, learning about plants, the environment and my culture.
I had a great childhood, for the greater part. But sometimes, despite the joys, I actually had to learn a few thing the hard and sometimes very painful way. There are very few lessons as painful as that dished out by the appropriately named GIANT STINGING TREE. This is a plant that still makes me almost break out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. The tree is easily identified, once you’re familiar with the pain it inflicts from the tiny hairs that cover its very large leaves, which are almost always filled with holes, thanks to a particular insect which feasts upon them without ill effect. The pain is one that sweeps through you like numerous green ant bites magnified and its only antidote is a cruel one. You can either a) cover your painful parts in icy cold mud, like my dad suggested, and find it’s doing sweet bugger all to help, or you can go for b) the true cure – which is to pass through the many painful branches of the giant stinging tree and treat the pain with the sap from the trunk. This I would never suggest as a good idea. Realistically, you’re better off with the useless icy cold mud. At least you’lll look funny and probably amuse somebody else.
Anyway, back to the point of the story. Lately I’ve begun carving boomerangs, clubs and shields. I’ve also started down the road to learning how to make stone axes, different forms of rope and twine, along with experiments in many other material elements of Koorie culture.
Along with visits to the rainforests with my dad, I also occasionally went hunting with my cousins. Diving for turtles, catching rabbits bare-handed, shooting kangaroos and goanna, and watching my uncle eating the world most sour bush lemons just like apples. I’ve always been very close to my culture and the bush, but I’m glad my job is helping to bring me even closer.
I get a great deal of satisfaction teaching both children and adults about traditional medicines, foods and weaponry, among many other things. Right now I must admit I’m in a very happy place.