I’m at a camp of concrete blocks,
crushed soft drink cans and verandas strewn
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.
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.