Meeting The Motherland: Our Journey Across the Great Red Center of Australia

April 18, 2022
Meeting The Motherland: Our Journey Across the Great Red Center of Australia

From the Arrernte in Central Australia and the Yolngu in Arnhem Land to the Tiwi people of the Tiwi Islands near the Timor Sea, over 40 different Indigenous language groups reside in the Northern Territory of Australia, each weaving a tapestry of spiritual richness, vibrant art forms, and creation stories tied to the land — the weft and warp woven together by countless natural histories, traditions, and palpable scars. After centuries of erasure, I went in search of the real Australia, a country I had never known.

 

When I first arrived in America, I met a stranger at a party who attempted to explain the difference between Americans and Australians: “Americans came to conquer, Aussies came as convicts. This is why Americans are so entitled and Australians so hopeful. For Aussies, the only way is up.” 

 

 

 

 

For more than two decades I have lived outside of Australia. I left when I was 17, determined to run as far away from my Motherland as possible, seeking the fast pace of London (and then Stockholm, Treviso, and New York City before settling in Los Angeles). Truthfully, my 17-year-old self could not leave the farm fast enough. I was tired of the countryside, the predictable blue skies, and the relentless heat. I was happy to say goodbye to the one-room primary school I attended, the small-mindedness, and my rugby-obsessed high school. 

 

But as I grew older, homesickness seeped in. I missed the joyful songs of Australian birds, the dry, red dirt, and the abundant produce grown from that volcanic soil. I missed the rugged beauty of the country and the enthusiasm of its people. I understood how blessed I was to grow up there, surrounded by trees and animals, without a screen in sight. I longed for the Wattle flowers, the Eucalyptus trees, the Kangaroo Paw blooms, and the strange looking Waratah. 

 

 

 

 

I also woke up to what I didn't know. I grew more aware of the cultures there that looked different than my own (and I have a long way to go). I started to understand that the knowledge I was taught about Australia was similar to the one of the brute at the party — skewed through the white-washed history books that said Australia began when Captain Cook arrived into Port Jackson in 1788. At school, I was taught nothing about the vibrant Indigenous Australian cultures and histories, or the tragedies they endured. 

 

Only later would I learn about the intricate relationships and belief systems of Aboriginal cultures and of the Songlines — or Dreaming tracks — that literally sing the natural world into existence. 

 

I became fascinated with the reciprocity between the Aboriginal people and Mother Earth that’s been a pillar of these cultures for tens of thousands of years. It’s reprehensible that these myriad cultures were erased from curriculums and from popular history only to serve a narrative that justified entitlement to Indigenous land. My family are farmers — we are from the land — but a grossly incomplete version of it, because what it means to be “Australian” is far richer and more beautiful than I had ever known. 

 

Australia is alive with history — home to the oldest living cultures of humankind. These are cultures deeply rooted in nature and respect for the earth, holding invaluable traditional knowledge for the sustainable management of natural resources. Aboriginal cultures tend to a vast array of medicinal and food plants while working in harmony with the many seasons of this land. As Captain Cook and the “convicts” arrived and displaced the Indigenous people of Australia, they also displaced millennia of knowledge and environmental wisdom. And oh how we’re seeing the destructive consequences. 

 

 

 

 

As I write this, Australia is cleaning up from massive and deadly floods. This is coming on the heels of horrendous bushfires, at the very moment the once-magnificent Great Barrier Reef takes its last breaths. The current government has an embarrassing environmental record, and Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, has been criticized by the UN for his lack of action. 

 

All this to say, I came back to Australia to look at my beloved country with new eyes. I wanted to learn about the cultures I never knew about and find a way to preserve their endangered wisdom and communities. I wanted to meet people whose values I can learn from and who put them into action — people who are growing, harvesting, and making with integrity and care. 

 

 

 

 

We're also here to sustainably source 100% Native Australian oils. These oils come from plants that are a part of our native ecosystems here in Australia. These ecosystems are full of a diversity of life (plants, animals, insects, fungi, sun, water) from koalas to kookaburras. Carefully tending to these plants means the preservation of these magnificent creatures and their intricate relationships with the land. 

 

Our journey begins in Darwin, high in the Northern Territory. Soul-stirring and steeped in rust-colored wonder, the Northern Territory is an achingly beautiful part of Australia, home to many different Aboriginal groups and cultures. I board The Ghan Train and cross the red center to Alice Springs, nestled in the middle of Australia’s ochre outback and hauntingly beautiful mountain ranges. Next we venture to Uluru, the massive sandstone monolith sacred to the Anangu people. According to the local Aboriginal people, it is thought to have started forming around 550 million years ago. Then we continue south. 

 

They say that a relationship with one’s mother continues to change as you grow older, and this has proven true with one’s motherland as well. A stuttering course and a bittersweet awakening, a relationship rich with emotional depth: love, joy, shame, reparation, and of course, hope. After all, the only way is up. 

 

With love from the Motherland,
Richard 

 

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