OCHRE LINES: Us Mob Writing (Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Samantha Faulkner and Lisa Fuller)

(edited by Phillip Hall) 

Through the looking glass

by Kerry Reed Gilbert

Creation surrounds me
As I walk upon hallowed land
Red dirt claims me
The sun burns brightly on my back

Through the looking glass I see me
I am withered
My body bent too tired to walk straight
My hands like stumps of a burnt tree
My eyes misty but still I see
Earth’s grandeur

Through the looking glass I see them
Walls of stone, castles of glass
Bricks and mortar, steel and iron
Ivory towers, men in suits
IPad and telephones

A sign of the times
Now I lay me down to sleep

I know you

by Kerry Reed Gilbert

I know you but you do not know me
You don’t know my Dreaming
You think I was born when Cook sailed his boat to shore
I am your womb, Mother Earth

This land I have grown it since time beginning
I have fed it from my swollen breasts
I have moulded it with my two hands
I breathe life into every nook and cranny
That your eyes now feast upon is a part of you

But I must say this to you, this your Country
Your need to be true to the Dreamin’
You need to take care of Country
Take care of people, you need to belong

Our breathing swirls, painting rainbows in the sky
Our blood flows uniting earth and life
Our love is yesterday and tomorrow
Be wise my friend or lose a treasure
Behold the land’s Lores or beware of a woman’s fury

Eveleigh Street, Redfern

by Kerry Reed Gilbert

They walked down Eveleigh Street
These two young lads best mates
They held each other’s hands
Aged 5 or 6 I couldn’t really tell
I saw the friendship, the mateship
Clasped tight within those hands

They walked laughing loud together
Telling a story or maybe a joke
The innocence of youth fused
Within that tightening grip

A mother’s voice is heard out loud
She yells for her son to return to his home
Many years and many jokes told
United as one these lads grow old
Best mates forever they never left the fold

The safeness of the street keeps them bound together
Eveleigh Street, Redfern, the home of the Blacks in 1967
The years rush past. Women and kids come along
A childhood promise the two old mates remember
Through thick and thin they’ll do it together

Whatever life chucks at them they took it in their stride
But life can be tragic and the years can be unkind
When two young boys found themselves to be two old men
Poverty and despair was their final resting place
As they grew into old age and faced the racism of this land.


by Samantha Faulkner

It’s a fun celebration of prowess and pride
Strangers become friends
And friends are family
Warmth and security in the air

Flag raising and morning teas
Indigenous bush foods cherished
Conversations and catch-ups
Sometimes just once a year

Sporting activities and BBQs
Family days, plenty of rides
Speeches, dances, kids stuff
To start and finish the week

Don’t forget the Ball
When we all get dressed up
Everyone looking deadly
Awards and photos
Great night for all

Elders proud, children strong
Solid in our identity
Love it when we celebrate
Being the oldest culture in the world

Bicultural Reject

by Lisa Fuller

Living a life
Of the colonised mind
I sway on a tightrope
Toes clenched and cramping
To hold on to a lifestyle
I have bled for but
No longer

I want

Happy Place

by Lisa Fuller

In times of stress
And depression
I close my eyes
To find
The river

Glass ripples
Sunlight streaming
As baby perch nibble
Sit still now bub
Sit still!

Cuzzies laugh
Playing through weeded
Water, toes tensed
In sandy beds
And nothing in our minds
But life and our river

Brush of calm breeze
Turned cool on wet skin
As it dances in gums
Kicks leaves and rustles
The world

Aunties sit scattered
Along banks
Fishing lines far enough
Up stream to catch dinner

Uncles sort out
Fire while the kids
Called in, no more
Cold today


by Lisa Fuller

Old cemetary closed
Its barren ground littered
With cement blocks and hand
Carved names
My family’s graves
Are unmarked
Numbers no longer
In place
Run over and shattered
By someone too busy
On a ride-on mower

Nice new cemetery been built
Across the road but
one’s history
Not lost, commemorated
By a plaque
Acknowledging town architects
Builders and designers
Who came before
Of my family

This century they built it
Say it’s all history
Hurry up and get over it
Like it’s ancient
But it’s every damn day
Staring us in the face
The anger rises
Poisoning hearts and minds
So life is pointless
Why try when the deck
Is stacked?
Welcome to your hell
Our lives


Us Mob Writing is a group of First Nations Australian poets, writers and storytellers, both emerging and established, committed to showcasing First Nations writing. The group formed more than seven years ago in the ACT.

They are launching their book Too Deadly: Our Voice, Our Way, Our Business, on 21 November at the Belconnen Arts Centre. For enquiries and book purchases, email Kerry Reed-Gilbert on kuracca@bigpond.net.au.

Kerry Reed-Gilbert is a Wiradjuri woman from Central New South Wales who has performed and conducted writing workshops nationally and internationally. She was the inaugural Chairperson of the First Nations Australia Writers Network (FNAWN) 2012 – 2015 and continues today as a Director. In 2013 she co-edited a collection of works By Close of Business, with the Us Mob Writing (UMW) group, and was FNAWN co-editor for the Ora Nui  Journal, a collaboration between First Nations Australia writers and Maori writers. 2015 saw Kerry short-listed  for the Story Wine Prize, and in 2016 she edited a collection of First Nations voices from across Australia titled A Pocketful of Leadership in the ACT. Kerry is a former member of the Aboriginal Studies Press Advisory Committee and her poetry and prose have been published in many journals and anthologies nationally and internationally, including in the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. Her works has been translated into French, Korean, Benglai, Dutch and other non-English speaking languages.

In 2003 Kerry was awarded an International Residence at Art Omi, New York, USA. In 1997 she toured the South African spoken word national tour ECHOES, and in 2005 she toured Aotearoa, New Zealand, as part of the Honouring Words 3rd International Indigenous Authors Celebration. In 2006 she received an Outstanding Achievement in Poetry Award & a Poet of Merit Award from the International Society of Poets.

Samantha Faulkner is a Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal woman from the Wuthuthi/Yadhaigana peoples, Cape York Peninsula and Badu and Moa Islands, Torres Strait. She is the author of Life Blong Ali Drummond: A Life in the Torres Strait, published in 2007 by Aboriginal Studies Press.  As a member of Us Mob Writing Group she has performed at a number of festivals including Noted (2015-2017) and the AIATSIS Conference (2014 & 2016). She has poetry and prose published locally (By Close of Business, Us Mob Writing Group, 2013, & A Pocketful of Leadership in the ACT, ed. Kerry Reed-Gilbert, 2016); nationally (Etchings Indigenous: Treaty, Ilura Press, 2010); and internationally (Ora Nui: A Collection of Maori and Aboriginal Literature, ed. Kerry-Reed Gilbert & Anton Blank, 2014, & Narrative Witness: International Writing Program, University of Iowa, 2016). She has represented women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interests on local, state and national boards.  She is currently Chairperson of the ACT Torres Strait Islanders Corporation.

Lisa Fuller is a Wuilli Wuilli woman from Eidsvold, Queensland, and is also a descendent of the Wakka Wakka and Gurang Gurang mobs.  An emerging writer, she has had a short story and some poems published in Etchings Indigenous: Treaty, and poetry published in UMW’s anthology, By Close of Business. As Editorial and Production Officer at Aboriginal Studies Press, she was lucky enough to attend the 2014 Residential Editorial Program. Lisa has a Masters of Creative Writing and is the joint winner of the 2014 Anne Edgeworth Fellowship. Lisa recently won the 2018 Varuna Eleanor Dark Flagship Fellowship, and has won the 2017 David Unaipon Award for her book Mirrored Pieces. A member of Us Mob Writing, she is passionate about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples writing, and culturally appropriate publishing. She is a current member of the First Nations Australia Writers Network (FNAWN).