A busy week. Drove from Uralla down to Bingara on the Liverpool Plains. Here I have my very own house thanks to Jo Miller from Friends of the Myall Creek and Jo’s parents, Tony and Jan. Am driving big distances; out to the memorial site, to Inverell and Warialda. This country is beautiful, open, long grassed, umber and dry. The horizon omni present, the land carrying many secrets; the huge granite rocks and their myriad weathered waterways, the ancient grass trees of Upper Bingara.
Met with Georgia Standerwick Gwydir Shire and her offsider, Jen at the Bingara Visitor’s Centre. Feeling very welcome. Georgia showed me through the Roxy. Very impressive. A centre piece for the community. In Warialda, Georgia and I met with counsellor Tim Smith, librarian Betsy and some members from the historic society. Spent some time going over what a sound walk is and piecing together the many lives and stories that underpin this regional town. Slow at first. Now starting to pick up. Jeanette Wilson talking with the tall skinny man with his microphone. The sound walk idea, I do believe, is now starting to catch the imagination, albeit the eye, of a few locals.
Aboriginal elders/descendants of the massacre: Uncle Lyall Munro stands on his porch and watches the traffic of Moree as I drive in. A figurehead of the Kamilaroi people. Lyall and Gough Whitlam, Lyall and no end of other Australian leaders. The signed black and white photo of Charlie Perkins which was taken while he was being removed from the Moree baths during the freedom rides; Uncle Lyall was there with Charlie. The photos on Uncle Lyall’s wall are a testament to his big family, to race relations, aboriginal activism and a hard-won life.
Aunty Elizabeth Connors grew up around Tingha. Mother of twenty something children – both black and white kids, some hers, some family, some fostered. She is playing bingo with other women and the room erupts into shrieking laughter when they hear Aunty Lizzie has a man here to see her.
Beulah Adams from Glenn Innes; descendant & great-great grandniece of perpetrator Edward Foley: one of the seven men hung for his part in the massacre. She tells me what it meant for her to unexpectedly discover that she was related to ‘him’. Near a hundred and eighty years ago. Or just yesterday? The pain, the guilt, the anger, the bravery, the moves towards reconciliation; playing itself out in the collective Australian imagination. Still playing itself out. Barry Brown; descendant of John Fleming, the man who led the raid then fled the massacre scene while the others hung. Barry has written a small book on John Brown, so I am told. You out there Barry?
I sit out in country, in the late evening and watch the blood red setting sun. I wonderer how to place stories alongside this ancient land. If only just a few stories. Stories from the past. Stories from the present. Voices alive. How to do this?