HEART OF AUSTRALIA
© 2020, Brenda Joy
Winner 2020 Boree Log Award for Bush Verse, Eastwood/Hills FAW.
From the islands, land bridges and straits to my north,
first born race to inhabit my lands,
with due reverence, awed, in their tribes they came forth
to my coasts and my vast desert sands.
When I taught them my secrets to help them survive,
their soft tread had no adverse effect.
As their ‘mother’ my mountains and rocks came alive
and they treated my gifts with respect.
Across oceans of conquest more came to my shores
from a country of poverty’s reign.
British subjects convicted by harsh, penal laws,
much afflicted by torture and pain.
But their spirit was strong and they found in my world
their release from the class system’s wheel.
As the promise of emancipation unfurled
they accepted my challenge with zeal.
Then they traversed terrain – rugged slopes, mountain tops –
till they gained the rewards of their toil.
With free settlers arrived, they spread outwards with crops
and they learned to produce from my soil.
Then when gold was discovered more came here to take
but as ‘diggers’ they bonded through need.
Their Eureka rebellion protest would make
for reforms of colonial creed.
Brave explorers would forge their intrepid attacks
and the telegraph followed their quest,
then a wave of adventurers journeyed their tracks
pioneering my north and my west.
So, the bards and the balladeers told how they strove
with the dust and the heat and the flies,
of the sheep that they sheared and the cattle they drove –
of endeavours and tough enterprise.
Till their disparate tribes federated, became
a new nation enacting as one,
as united, ‘Australians’ with my given name –
the identity ties had begun.
They were forged from my soil but now Empire would call,
for the nations of Europe were torn,
and they gave of their courage and gave of their all –
so, the spirit of Anzac was born.
Through the post-war Depression, beyond all compare
they endured effects felt global wide,
but they took consolation in heroes of air
and of sport, with developing pride.
When the earth was embroiled in a second world war
my courageous were injured or slain –
legendary encounters much nearer my shore
where their valour was proved once again.
I was theirs to protect, so more people were sought
to be drawn by new migration schemes
and from war-torn regimes they would come and they brought
skills and labour expanding their dreams.
In a land that was free from oppression and race
and as policies opened the way,
they established a rich, multicultural base
symbolising Australia today.
Aborigine, convict, a seeker, a sage
– whether born here or come from afar –
representing the boldest and best of their age –
that’s what brought them to where you now are.
Persecuted, reviled – victim, slave, refugee –
what catastrophe caused them to come?
But they found a new life, unencumbered and free
with the fortitude not to succumb.
Now it’s you who can counteract foreign demands
to ensure you stay true to your creed
and it’s you who have suffered who best understands
and can help support others in need.
Please keep out from my shores all the hatred and strife
generated when sides disagree.
Be united in cause. Save your blessed way of life.
Let your tolerance keep my land free.
It is you who must strive to uphold what I give,
who must weather my violent extremes,
so my children to come can continue to live
in the beauty and peace of their dreams.
It is you who are privileged to live as a part
of a land that’s both fragile and strong
where all those gone before still live on in my heart
for they gave so that you could belong.
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