One of the joys I’ve discovered since creating the Life Again Foundation over 5 years ago is developing deep friendships with many Aborigines from different parts of Australia, particularly from the Centre and Western Desert communities. Not only have I met them and been inspired by their amazing stories, I have made sure I am better versed in our aboriginal history rather than being fed ugly stories of the past that give no credit to aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. Through books, further research and many trips, I feel better informed and hopefully more able to pass on my thoughts and insights to others throughout the country.
A powerful message that resonates with me was told by my friend Barry Judd, Professor of Indigenous Social Research at Charles Darwin University’s Alice Springs Campus. Barry is a descendent of the Pitjantjatjara people of north-west South Australia, British immigrants and Afghan cameleers.
“Aborigines have lived on this continent for 70,000 years and white fellas for only 230 years. Do you think there is anything we might be able to teach you?”
“Do you think there is anything we might be able to teach you?”
Of course there is, and what an absurdity that we ignore this fact. There is so much we must learn, and when I take men to the Outback and beyond I try to help them understand. With better understanding, and a feeling of connection, we might someday be able to help bridge the gap that yawns before us.
A great way of bridging the gap, and reaching a deeper understanding of the depth and soul of the Australian Aboriginal, is available for all of us today. A week ago I went to the release of the splendid film Gurrumul at the old Astor Theatre. In this beautiful venue, which appears to have the largest screen I’ve ever seen, I saw the story of Gurrumul, one of Australia’s greatest singers. A documentary of powerful images and beautiful footage, it features the life of Gurrumul, who sadly died last year at 46 years of age. Gurrumul was not a commercial phenomenon but to those who recognise pure talent, he has become legendary. Sting, Elton John, Peter Garrett, Paul Kelly and Missy Higgins all recognised the purity of his sound.
“the story of Gurrumul… a documentary of powerful images and beautiful footage”
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was born on Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land. He was born blind. He was a proud Yolngu man who let his singing do the talking. Throughout the movie, we learn how shy and humble he was. Originally contributing backing vocals to Yothu Yindi, this blind man playing percussion and singing in the shadows was soon discovered and became Gurrumul.
He died at such a young age, of organ failure relating to hepatitis B he’d contracted in childhood. I count myself lucky that I saw him play at the Myer Music Bowl in 2013. It was a special moment.
“They are beautiful people, they worship the earth, they are talented in untold ways.”
I encourage friends to see the film, to get a small sense of the unseen side of aborigines that I am discovering. They are beautiful people, they worship the earth, they are talented in untold ways beyond being super footballers, they are humble, they are strong, they are misunderstood, they suffer massive health problems from exposure to white-inflicted foods and substances. They are incredibly proud.
I also encourage you to start your own search. Take a Life Again adventure to the Centre or do your own research. Sleep in a swag in the Red Earth and watch your world open wide. The buzz word is Awesome.