Sunday, September 5, 2010
An Australian story
The Canning stock route exhibition at The National Museum of Australia was definitely one of the highlights of this weekend's visit to Canberra (aside from the usual wallowing in excessive feast...but, as usual, I digress).
The stock route, which runs over 1900 kms in length from Wiluna to Halls Creek, goes through the Western desert region of north-western Australia...and the traditional lands of aboriginal peoples.
Here is a story with both a white and black perspective. For the former, it is a pioneer story about getting cattle across a vast tract of inhospital land and hostile locals. The route was established by Alfred Canning at the turn of the 20th century with much help from local aboriginals. Some 52 wells were sunk along the route for the cattle and drovers.
The aboriginal perspective is very different. Without a doubt, the route would not have been established without the help of local aborigines (many of whom were forced to work for Canning and his crew against their will). Traditional owners were dispossessed and sacred sites were irrevocably ruined. But the aboriginal stories, as told through their vibrant paintings, also speak of resilence and, ultimately, keeping culture strong.