Gunnedah by Neil Murray
piece was published in the Melbourne Age as
Dreaming" on 3rd July 2004.
December, it is a normal for the heat to be building inland.
head north west from the coast, sooner or later you'll strike
parched country and familiar dusty towns.
any shady tree in any of them you can find people who are still
close to the earth.
walked over the stars of Tamworth - their gold names were embedded
in the sidewalk theme park of a dinky-di Nashville/Hollywood
transplanted from America.
took my songs further on to Gunnedah, to where Dorothy McKellar
spent holidays in her youth.
a hot tiny room upstairs in a local pub, with no fridge, no
aircon and no phone, I can taste her sunburnt country. She was
into landed gentry and was nineteen and virginal when she composed
that ode to Australia. How could she know how ravaged it really
She painted a picture postcard- notable in it's absence of living
creatures, indigenous or otherwise. It struck a national chord
white people could identify with a view of the land from a romantic
distance. They didn't include themselves in it, they were separate
from it - admiring or fearing it, but not a part of it. And
being separate they could do what they willed to it. For most,
land was an adversary that had to be tame.
learnt Dorothy McKellars "My country" in school, and
like a mantra for our homeland. No other description was on
sang God save the Queen too. No other song was on offer.
never married. She eventually sought comfort in the bottle and
would remain a symbolic bride to her country, though she spent
much time abroad to really know it. I don't know if she ever
a blackfellas flagon party, but I'd like to imagine that if
she had it
might have been the making of her.
grizzled white blokes in the front bar of this town are the
as you find anywhere. They all go against the grain of the land.
they all die harder for it.
blackfellas turn up on foot or in old cars packed with blankets
and belongings. They still walk the streets as if it's a creek
when they sit in the parks they sit at ease on the ground.
mainstream will never have me now. I committed the cardinal
frontier sin. I turned "injun". I threw my lot in
with the blackfellas. It rankles and irks - when you play for
the wrong team.
They don't understand it. Both sides said, "you're white"
I couldn't produce that perfect picture. My landscapes were
murder and rape, drunks and destruction, stolen children, cultural
genocide, species extinction, degradation of land and waterways.
Gunnedah tonight I expect not to pull a crowd. Like the last
and the place before that. Where might a few scattered souls
hear any of this? I don't blame them.
guess I'll keep going down the road. Fold myself into these
these plains and gullies. Anywhere is good enough to lie down.
first dark face know me.