© Tom McIlveen

Winner, 2012 ‘The Banjo Paterson Writing Award’, Orange, NSW.

For fifty thousand years or more this land remained a foreign shore
to Europeans living in the northern hemisphere.
A place where Rainbow Serpents dreamed beneath the Southern Cross that seemed
to sparkle like an incandescent crystal chandelier.

Meandering through vast terrains and sliding down the slopes and plains,
entwined and procreating in the dull volcanic haze.
From gorge to ridge and mountain peak and down to billabong and creek,
the serpents shaped the valleys and the winding waterways.

A primitive and ancient place of granite rock and vacant space
where Dreamtime legends merged with prehistoric fantasies.
When early settlers first arrived, they’d found a country still deprived
of civilised society and all amenities.

This was the native black’s domain unlike the white-man who’d remain
along the coastal fringes where supplies were close at hand.
With eucalyptus nuts and seeds and sustenance from common weeds,
the natives had subsisted in this barren ancient land.

With Eden’s garden sanctified, forbidden fruit had been denied
to pioneers who ravaged virgin wilderness and soil.
The Eucalyptus in full bloom from Mother Nature’s fertile womb
had fed her native progeny who had no need of toil.

Australian Aborigine had shown some animosity
towards the white invaders who would take but never share.
Consuming everything in sight, voracious with an appetite
that seemed to be insatiable, surpassing daily fare.

With gums of grey and blue and red, whose seeds had kept the natives fed,
adjacent to the Kauri, Cypress, Hoop and Bunya pine.
Exquisite berries growing too in shades of purple, red and blue
as well as fruit from Tuckeroo and fibrous Turpentine.

Antartic Beech and Bleeding Heart, like abstract images of art
between the rows of Prickly Ash and Yellow Carrabeen.
Some Silky Oaks, serene and dark, beside a hunchbacked Paperbark
and native Frangipani oil from leaves of olive green.

The nuts from brown Australian Teak were edible and quite unique
amongst the Casuarina and the scanty Rusty Plum.
With pockets of Umbrella tree that formed a lasting canopy
above the Lilly Pilly and the handsome Bolly Gum.

When Europeans brought disease on sailing ships from overseas,
it spread throughout the country wreaking viral genocide.
A plague that decimated those with no resistance to oppose
insidious invaders who remained and multiplied.

Eingana’s chosen few survived but shamefully they were deprived
of fundamental freedom as the keepers of this land;
their consecrated sites defiled with every woman, man and child
afflicted by a culture they would never understand.

And hence our colony was born, amidst an atmosphere of scorn,
as black and white had coalesced to live in harmony.
When English, Irish, Welsh and Scot united in the melting pot
they forged this nation from a furnace of adversity.

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