Culture Burn

I've learned three new Australian things:

Ember Attack
I was watching a show recommended by my sister called You Can't Ask That, and this episode was about firefighters. They were talking about what it's like to fight a gigantic fire, and how even if there's a fire break like a road or something that can be skipped over by an ember attack, and the fire continues.

Deep Time
There's a real hum of how much damage has been done to Australia's first inhabitants since invasion by White settlers. There's a hum, I think, because more of all of us are finding out the truths and realities hidden by history. I'm still wrapping my head around Deep Time, but in essence, it's about "what it's like to live in a place of great antiquity." I'm going to buy a book called Deep Time Dreaming by Billy Griffiths at Imprints tomorrow and can't wait to read it.

Culture Burn
Last night I attended an event called Streets Ahead - The Entrepreneurs Vision -  1836 to Today at South Australia's History Festival. Hosted by Keith Conlon, who is a huge SA history buff, I learned a bit about the group of men in London who designed South Australia from afar to be very different from the rest of the country, and that all the street names in the CBD and close by are tributes to these men. While I'm bummed it was yet another bunch of men, they seemed like a reasonable group of Utilitarian/Humanitarian folk, perhaps apart from Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who whilst in jail for kidnapping a fifteen year old girl wrote a book called Systemic Colonisation, which I am yet to read. He has a street named after him.

I'll also note ironically that I've been enjoying listening to Enlightment Now by Steven Pinker, who yesterday mentioned the phrase hermeneutic parsing, in which I am expert. There is a lot to read about South Australian history, and I'm enjoying being curious about it particularly, for the first time in my life, even though I'm from here.

I digress.

Yesterday, at the presentation, I mostly enjoyed hearing from Ms. Kirstie Parker, a Yuwallari woman now living on Kaurna country, and speaking in her role as Director of Reconciliation Australia. A helpful counterpoint to the first two speakers, older, white male historians, Kirstie reminded us that there has been expertise and innovation in Australia for 60,000 years. It must feel bloody awesome to remind a room like the one we were in of that. She also mentioned that today, there would be a significant event in the Parklands (here in Adelaide): A "cultural burn," called Kaurna Kardla Parranthi. A cultural burn is "the right fire in the right place, said Victor Steffensen, a Tagalaka fire expert who did a fantastic job of explaining to everyone who came what was happening, and how everything fits together. I had no idea about it even though I've heard lots of people say "ecosystem", and I loved every minute of it.

It took me a while to find the spot, but I saw the crowd eventually. There's a lovely bit of biodiverse native planting away from the sports fields, where I used to play touch footy eons ago.

There were lots of VIPs there, from Kaurna elders, to the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, and Uncles and Aunties who'd helped prepare for the day. The speeches were wonderful, in particular Alan Sumner and Victor Steffenson's, and it was excellent to hear the mayor speak what I think might have been Ngarrindjeri, but I'm not certain.

This is Victor beginning to explain the basics: how important native grasses are, and how their absence often indicates exotic species or unhappy soil.

This was a gently burned tuft of grass. You could see green shoots all ready to go tomorrow. I might pop back to see how they're doing. You can only burn this grass like this when it's half died, half green.

I loved how he stood on the burned bits. And how this white, clean grass smoke is good for the trees. It's like a bath for them, helping them germinate. I can tell you the smoke didn't sting my eyes, or make it hard to breathe, or anything like that.

It was great to see a bunch of young ranger students from Ngarrindjeri country helping out, learning the wisdom. And the reporter from Channel 7, who had to skip out the way after a quick burst of wind.

It was a gentle spectacle. No machines, no roads, no saws, no helmets, no gear except a lighter and a green gum branch to bat out flames.

And there's the result. 

I struck up a chat with a woman named Rose. She was there with some other folks from Raukkan, the heart of Ngarrindjeri country. It was lovely to speak with her - we both like afternoon tea - and, little did I know, but Rose is Rose Rigney, Ngarrindjeri Elder, and Chairperson of Community at Raukkan! She has invited me to visit, and, I will! I mentioned to her that I've been looking for various ways to work with indigenous communities to gather self-descriptions through Museum in a Box, and now (hopefully) through Flickr Commons, so it'll be great to take the tour of Raukkan and see if we can make something together. Plus, the Coorong is beautiful too, so I'm looking forward to that!

She told me there's nothing worse than an "angry reconciler," so I'll keep smiling. I'm really thrilled to have attended this fantastic first today.