I have just returned from 7 days in the Northern Territory (NT).
I went to support one of my closest friends as she created her first retreat. We were a group of eight females who love adventure, and most of us knew each other in varying degrees.
All eight of us co-created the retreat in various ways, whether through brainstorming, facilitation, sponsorship, marketing, and anything else we could bring to make sure our friend’s bold creation was successful.
We hiked 56km over three days and climbed an elevation of 2000m, but what we did with our bodies pales into insignificant compared to what happened to our hearts and minds.
All of us had our lives enhanced or changed in some shape or form:
One woman was afraid of the dark and took daily steps of courage.
One woman knew little of the stolen generation, so her heart was opened to grief.
One woman was afraid of heights and climbed herself into brave every day.
There were tears over children’s birthdays missed.
There was the fear of surrender.
And the fear of silence.
When I first visited Mparntwe (Alice Springs) in 2015, I was struck by this feeling that it was the ‘real Australia,’ while at the same time feeling I was in some form of apartheid.
Whatever your first thoughts, the NT leaves an impression on you.
Containing Uluru and Angkerle Atwatye (Standley Chasm) and many sacred sites for the Arrernte people, there is a deep, grounded, and spiritual energy. An energy one could only deny if you were actively trying to deny its presence.
Although, as a group, we could have walked the Larapinta Trail without a guide, we wanted to listen and learn from the oldest surviving culture on the planet.
Perrulle was our guide and Jungula, his grandfather, runs the tour business Larapinta Culture (the only Aboriginal owned and operated trekking business in the Mparntwe region). They held us with care and a deep commitment for us to understand who they were, where they come from and to the share the stories of their land and their ancestors.
We heard of the songlines that carry the laws and stories of First Nation’s people.
We heard the mystical stories and songs of the wild women spirits who watched over our campsite.
We learnt to introduce ourselves to the ancestors of each new land we traversed.
We learnt of herbal medicines, and spear trees, Mulla Mulla flowers (my favourite), and the desert rose.
We learnt Jungula’s story, a survivor of the stolen generation taken from his mother at five years old to be assimilated into white culture and white ways. We learnt of his anger as an adult when he learnt of what he had lost; his culture, his family, his identity, and his land. And how his brother, who he had not seen for over a decade, recognised him at a football match.
We heard how his brother walked up to him and said, “Do you want to meet your mum?”
We learnt how the elders would come and reteach him what he had lost once he did return to his ancestral land.
Australia has a black history, and we need to seek it out because it has been hidden for so long.
Seek it for yourself and your children.
I promise you if you live on these stolen lands, a small way to ‘pay the rent’ is to seek out the truth of the land on which you live.
One small step at a time because From little things, big things grow.
Wishing you a weekend of listening and learning.