Australia Day in Doomadgee

Doomadgee, we write it

In our orthography

When really –

It should be – Dumat’ji

 

No flag raising here

No speech or ceremony

On Australia Day

In Doomadgee

 

The river runs warm

Kiddies swim and swarm

On Australia Day

In Doomadgee

 

Blackfellas bashing

(It’s the national fashion)

On Australia Eve

Here in Doomadgee

 

Broken hand, broken

Jaw, cut faces and more:

That’s Australia Day

In Doomadgee.

 

Adam Goodes

Too far away

This Australia Day

From Doomadgee

 

A busy day this

Australia Day –

Hordes in the wards

In Doomadgee

 

We plaster and we suture

Like there is no future:

Future no feature of Australia Day,

Not here, no way, in Doomadgee

 

The end of Australia Day –

Quietness falls

In hospital halls

Of Doomadgee

 

But short the respite –

Quick! Elder sick!

Dying on Australia night?

Dying here – in Doomadgee?

 

Quiet, quiet, his voice, his breath –

Small his smile at the threshold of death –

Good night Australia:

System failure in Doomadgee

 

Beside him, quiet woman – or girl –

His guard and ward in this world

Trembles, facing an Australian day

Without him in Doomadgee.

 

He slips away from his teeming kin

Who hold their tears and keening in;

A dreadful peace on Australia Day

And quiet, this night in Doomadgee.

Rod Moss and “One Thousand Cuts”

Rod Moss is a Ferntree Gully boy, a whitefella who found himself in Alice Springs thirty years ago and who stayed there.

In all the moral disorientation of the Centre, in its beauty, its grandeur, its squalor and its mystery; in the perplex of making and losing marriages, of fathering, of teaching, of reading deeply, of engagement with the dark cinema of darkest Europe, Rod Moss found friends in a clan of blackfellas living in Whitegate, one of the town camps.

Moss differed from most of us whitefellas who come to the Centre. He stayed. He painted (in a distinctive genre of his own creating) the lives of his friends. And through all the years of his staying and his painting and his friendships, Moss kept a journal. That journal gave birth to his first book, “The Hard Light of Day”. The book won the Prime Minister’s Prize for non-fiction. More significantly, the book won the praise of Ray Gaita, who described it as one of the best books he had ever read.

When I say Moss found himself in Alice Springs, I mean he found himself in ways most of us non-indigenous people never do: he found who he was, what he was doing here; he came to be in country.

When I say Moss found friends I also mean he lost them.

Those losses are recorded, drop by drop, blow following blow in Moss’ first book, and in the second, soberly titled, “One Thousand Cuts”.

I believe that in its swelling lament and its growing clarity, “One Thousand Cuts” surpasses even “The Hard Light of Day”.

In a remarkable sequence of events “One Thousand Cuts” will be launched at Readings in Carlton on Wednesday 9 October at 6.30pm. And a retrospective exhibition of Moss paintings will be opened at Anna Pappas Gallery two days later.

If Moss’ paintings are luminous, his writing a prolonged jazz riff,  the photographs are something else.

I invite readers of this blog to attend one or both of these events. I will be glad to see you.

Podcast of interview on Radio National with Waleed Aly, Howard Goldenberg and Rod Moss 8.10.13image