For the Tjupan, and other Aboriginal mobs in Australia, ancestors who are deceased are never far. They walk with you on the land and are always around.
You must hunt for food, and move on the land, and bring visitors in with proper protocol, and under sacred tradition. The Aboriginal cultures value silence. They will spend a 4-hour car ride with you saying nothing, as you feel out the awkwardness of not filling the space as we are used to.
As a guest on Tjupan land, the expectation is to be quiet on it, and be a part of it without intruding. As a journalist, this was sometimes difficult for me to grow accustomed to.
I had so many questions and I needed so much patience!
For several days I accompanied the Tjupan mob to their sacred lands, where the elders had grown up, where their parents had hid them from the government workers as they removed kids from Aboriginal camps and put them on missions, where they worked for wool sheds and ranching stations and then scattered.
For some, like Edna, it is likely the last time she will be on Tjupan land. She suffered a stroke recently and her family brought trailer and set up a bed in it under the stars, and she visited the homestead sites form the front seat of the four-wheel-drive truck. This is where she grew up. This is was her daughter, Lorna’s crib, now rusting away under the Outback sun. We found mortar and pestle grinding stones along the river, likely by the great grandfathers, and recounted memories … they have so little of what it was like when they were young, and virtually nothing from their parents generation on.
Gloria found the top half of a butter knife under a bush at Yantal wool shed, where her mom sheared sheep and they slept under the scraggly bush in the hot afternoon. When the government would come, they would RUN and hide miles off until they knew it was safe.
Gloria at Yantal Station, telling how she ran from government workers, holding the butter knife.
There’s a handful of Tjupan speakers left; Edna is one of them. I was invited on this trip but on it an elder decided they could not risk divulging much information. Many of the mobs are still in court over land claims, and sharing the sacred history and information on land is a risk. So for much of the time I was silent, was quiet, and absorbed what was around me.
Later, I was invited in to interview and I shared my photos, but a lot of the times, at first and in the middle and the end, I felt like I was confused and it was exhilarating and … everything at once. As a traveler, you know how this is — often times traveling is this way. Otherworldly.
I know my compatriots, like Jes Rooks and Kellan Morgan, know this feeling, having lived in other courntries that have shaped, and are still shaping them, now. Thank you for your support on this journey. Every day is an opportunity - sometimes in confusion. :-)
You step outside all what you know, and jump in to something entirely different, sometimes truly an entirely different world.
You are an explorer, of the world and of people but also yourself.
Gino, Danny and Nikki, having a fun go at driving a rusting car at Barwidgee Station