A Voice from Down Under

A VOICE FROM DOWN UNDER

JOANNA TOSCANO

 

Note: this is spoken by a fictional character

 

Rookwood Cemetery. Sacred ground. They have no bloody idea how sacred it is. It’s Koori land. I dunno the proper name for it and all that, but I know, like, if they were gunna have a ceremony here, like an open day or some shit like that then it’s real political and correct to say stuff like ‘we acknowledge the traditional owners, the blah-blah people’ and then everyone nods and claps coz that’s what you’re suppose to do these days if ya give a flyin’ fuck about Koori stuff. I mean, it’s great to do that, it’s a start, it’s respect, but I wonder just how many people really understand what’s happened to our people.

I was startin’ to think about gettin’ more knowledge about our stuff but then I got a fuckin’ fist full of cancer in me cunt so I had to stop. And now I’m here, waitin’ with all the rest of the dead to see what happens. Uncle Jimmy said that they shoulda taken me back to the traditional place, ya know, where me mum’s mob comes from, to rest. Ya don’t rest down here, too busy thinkin’ about how ya stuffed up yer life, regrets rollin’ around in ya head like clinkin’ glass marbles. Should’na had kids with that bloody no-hoper Mick, shouldna left school so early. And sometimes just frickin’ bad luck comes down on ya when ya don’t expect it like the diabetes and the bone density and cancer and then Mick. Least he’s in the big house now. Even me mum warned me about Mick. Loser bastard.

I know Aunty Pearl’s lookin’ after the kids all right. Uncle Jimmy said I shoulda been taken back to me land, Biripi land, where me mum’s buried. Near the sea. Biripi people, their totem is the shark, he told me kids. Joey pointed to his football jersey. He’s a Sharks supporter. Uncle Jimmy said, ‘That’s right, Joey, the sharks.’

Aunty Pearl’s me hero. She’s at university now. She never got an education, like me and she’s poor but she’s got pride. She went back later and got educated and then she just kept goin.’ She says it’s given ‘er power. Us women, she says, black or white, doesn’ matter, we gotta stick up for one another. Self-respect, education an’ empowerment. She even got tee-shirts made up with them three words printed on ‘em when she ran the women’s workshops. She’ll whip me kids into shape, make em stay on at school. Maybe some of ‘em might go to university too. Pearl’s kids are at uni.

I don’t reckon Uncle Jimmy’s gunna last that long. I reckon if Uncle Jimmy dies and ends up here, near me, he can talk to me about traditional things and I can learn some Koori stuff, some Biripi stories from the old country. Maybe them stories can help me sleep at night instead of tossin’ and turnin’ down here, thinkin’ about what’s gunna happen next, when I’ll be called up. I dunno what I’m gunna do when that time comes or where ya go. If it’s God that’s waitin’ at the other end I’ll just have to say, ‘Listen Big Fella, I didn’t have much to work with, but I done the best I could.’ Anyway, I’m buggered, gettin’ all that off me chest.