for the Borroloola mob
(Phillip Gijindarraji Hall)
In my troopie dodging dogs, ditches and broken bikes I'm at a camp of concrete blocks, crushed soft drink cans and verandas strewn with mattresses: here each building's bound to a street front white-and-blue steel sign a corporatised prescription 'No Liquor, No Pornography' and scratched ‘munanga on you’: hey jigga, Malbu leans in close let’s get these young ones bush: our complement of kids forearmed their gear crammed in garbage bags we take to The Crossing a bridge built to span flooding waters and golden middens of XXXX cans; in these footings Malbu discerns disturbance this bridge wrong way, this here Waralungku, Hill Kangaroo Dreamin’, an dem spirit fullas stir strife: but we're soon bumping along savannah plains past starkly skeletal eucalypts and the diamond-tessellated trunks of cycads and pandanus with their crowns of palm fronds; and Malbu waves me on paperbark are Brolga Dreaming directly millad river'll sing: behind us the kids laugh animated stirring and teasing in-and-out of their seats their hands and eyes and mouths a liquid warbling only partly accessible to me though I know they want the music changed as Malbu growls you mob got worms or what? get yous black bunyis sittin’ an’ soft down this blackfulla William Barton’s didjin' you mob show respect an’ listen there: look here mista! ... stop there! ... the boys peering at the window are silenced as Malbu agrees The Twin Trees ... might be somethin' ... you know, big business ... dem old people watchin' this is big Kujika an he comes kicking against the pricks all through here so with our kids behind me tracing their fingers on my whitefulla skin and Malbu's arm round my shoulder I lean into Country; a pair of slender messmate trees with darkly scarred trunks – a daredevil didj's drumfire: rounding a bend in the gravel road the kids are chiacking and hooting camp! Malbu allocates jobs, I recce an abseil site pondering my eco spiel as they cut down a three metre cyprus pine no mista, he burns bright smokes dem mozzies too ... an later you dig turtles with us mob in’im dry swamp ... Malbu assures me jigga, that bush tucker makes millad blackfulla mob shiny an strong but do it proper Law way everythin's in da Song: later downstream from cast nets and hand lines I'm watching flows at the rivers' confluence – a red and brown twin load, swirling, suspended – look here mista, twobula runnin’ one: true god, we really are an arterial kaleidoscope of silt-laden language. * Bunyi: is Kriol in the Gulf region of northern Australia for ‘backside'. Jigga: is Kriol in the Gulf region of northern Australia for ‘brother’. Millad: is Kriol in the Gulf region of northern Australia for the first person plural pronoun: we, us, our.
Munanga: is Kriol in the Gulf region of northern Australia for ‘whitefulla’. Twobula: is Kriol in the Gulf region of northern Australia for ‘two’. Kujika: Indigenous Language in the Gulf region of Northern Australia for Songlines; Indigenous Country ‘beats with the rhythm’ of Kujika.
Phillip Hall has worked for many years as a ‘wilderness’ expedition leader throughout NSW & Far North Queensland; but between 2011 and 2015 he worked in remote Indigenous education in Borroloola, the Gulf of Carpentaria. Phillip designs sport and Outdoor/Environmental Education programs designed to teach emotional resiliency, cooperative group learning, safe decision-making and respect for Country. He has been adopted into Gudanji family; where he is also known by the skin name of Jabala and the traditional or bush name of Gijindarraji (given to him because it was the bush name of his nana’s pop); he is a member of the Rrumburriya clan; and is a Jungkayi (custodian) for Jayipa (Catfish Hole). His Mother is the emu and goanna though his nana jokes that his real Dreaming is the curlew or ‘Worry Bird’.
In 2012 Phillip established Diwurruwurru (The Borroloola Poetry Club). Diwurruwurru means message stick and is used by permission of the Traditional Owners. Diwurruwurru is an Indigenous writers’/storytellers’ group that meets at the local school, or at the local Warralungku Arts Centre. The club is made up of both adult and school student members and meets every Friday afternoon/evening (and sometimes on camp out bush). Diwurruwurru has established an annual poetry prize (with children’s, young adult and adult sections) as part of the Borroloola Show. In 2014 the prize attracted over 70 entries; and was a glorious testament to the club’s dynamism. Diwurruwurru has also collaborated with The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, since 2012, to establish an annual poetry festival in Tennant Creek; to publish member poems electronically on The Barkly Poetry Wall and in the print publication, Coming to Voice. In 2013 the Club also worked with the NT Writers’ Centre to secure an Australia Council grant to host Lionel Fogarty (an award-winning Indigenous poet) and Amanda King (a digital artist) in a month long residency in Borroloola. This exciting program saw Borroloola school students writing poetry, learning to perform and then recording their efforts onto film. In 2014 twenty members from Diwurruwurru were invited to WordStorm, the NT Writers’ Festival, to launch the Borroloola poetry film onto the national stage – a wonderful celebration of creativity in the Gulf.
Phillip has completed a Doctor of Creative Arts at Wollongong University where he researched Australian poetry, contemporary place theory, ecocriticism and postcolonialism. For many years Phillip has published his poetry, reviews and essays in such journals as Antipodes, Cordite Poetry Review, Meanjin, Meniscus, Plumwood Mountain, Overland, Southerly, Verity La and Westerly. He has completed a poetry manuscript about his time in the Gulf of Carpentaria called fume.
Phillip experienced some medical issues in 2015 and has now retired to Melbourne’s Sunshine (western suburbs). He is a very passionate member of the Western Bulldogs Football Club. He also continues, through his writing, to honour First Nations in the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria where he has family and friends.
Phillip’s poetry collection, sweetened in coals, can be purchased online from Ginninderra Press.