Forgot Your Password?

Please enter your email address below. You will receive a link to reset your password.

    • Product added to your basket
Total $0.00


Gubinge - Out On The Harvest Part III

In the third part of our series on the Gubinge Harvest, we consider ancestral histories, the local area and the future of the Twin Lakes region. This is the final part of the series we began three weeks ago to celebrate the release of our two Nyul Nyul teas.


We arrive back to the big camp and Bruno disappears back to the small camp while I eat a sandwich and drink tea with Marion, Aydan and Lahea. He’s unhappy with the women; the night before we had a conversation about ancestry and it’s left him sad and introverted, reminding him of his own abandonment. Marion, Lahea and Aydan’s family is mainly Northern European with one mysterious Indian hidden somewhere in the depths of time, allegedly stretching back to the Magna Carta. What I know of mine is Irish with some French on one side, the other entirely unknown as my father is adopted and the Catholic church still hold the information on who my grandmother is. Bruno has some Scots and Saxon blood amongst his Nyul-Nyul ancestry, yet his invective against the English is viciously intense. He’s curious about Irish attitudes as he’s heard about the recent scandals, what with the full extent of Catholic child abuse finally seeing the light of day in Ireland. He’s raging to hear the story of my own family, the past and the present derailed through the suppression of information going back many decades.

After a few hours Bruno reappears, asking if I’d like to go down and see the lakes. I’m delighted, having thought I’d seen the last of him for today due to his bleak mood. We head down there and he becomes increasingly animated and full of life. Despite his occasional vitriolic outbursts, his overall attitude reveals his true self: gentle, bright, hopeful, positive, encouraging. He’s still trying to heal the wounds of a grievous childhood, and he’s getting there. We go on a fantastic walk through the bush down to the lake, as Bruno shows me a huge variety of wild medicine, herbs, foods and other edibles, gaining in animation with each one. My hands are full of the artifacts & medicine he uncovers; bark from the bloodwood, sap from the Nalk tree (it helps with arthritis) and various fragrant herbs. He’s had interest from French perfumeries, and enthusiastically recounts being flown out to France a couple of years ago. The interest remains, though he requires a still to procure the oil from plants. To purchase this would cost $6,000 - $7,000, yet the relevant government departments are uninterested. We continue to walk as I receive my bush schooling; the sheer volume of knowledge possessed by Bruno is astounding. We get back to the pool camp and myself and Aydan cool off with a dip. Bruno’s still annoyed with Marion and Lahea, so we all take off on the gubinge trail as Bruno heads back to the camp. The three have learnt much about the land from Bruno; it’s particularly encouraging to witness how receptive Aydan is, having gained a vast amount of knowledge at just eight years of age. After two-to-three hours of tiring work in the bush we return.

Later in the year Lahea & Marion will have to return to NSW - Marion to care for her ageing mother, Lahea to start her daughter in High School and allow Aydan to settle in before he begins. I can tell they’re worried about leaving Bruno, but after 14 years other parts of their lives require attention. They’re exceptionally strong women, without whose support Bruno would be unlikely to have achieved all that he has. Back at the camp we begin dinner, a Thai-style fish stew brought to life by the wild lemongrass harvested earlier. As it gets dark I ponder the whole thing, considering how Bruno’s traditional beliefs sit with his Catholic upbringing. I decide to go and ask him about it. He’s sitting alone on front of the fire at the small camp and when I arrive he’s delighted to see me, as if he’d been waiting. He jumps up: “Cormac, old friend!” His mood is upbeat again, and I get the feeling that he’s at his best in a one-to-one situation rather than with others around. Over the next two hours he tells me his whole life story. It’s a tale of sadness, yet not without hope & light. His learnings and his spirituality are formidable. With his permission, I record the entire conversation, yet afterwards I feel strange...perhaps what he’s told me is too personal. I check the recording afterwards and it’s all there, yet the next day it’s inexplicably disappeared from my tape. After our talk I go back and eat, chatting a while with Lahea & Marion. We drink some Jilungin Tea and once again I set up my swag on the roof, gazing at the most incredible views of the night sky I’ve ever experienced. There’s so much to reflect upon and it’s a couple of hours before I fall asleep, sad that tomorrow I return to the modern world.

In the morning we depart. We reach the paved road two hours drive from Bruno’s family land, just after the James Price Point blockade. It feels like stepping out of a dream; out here, the veil between past & present is palpably thin. Slowly, gradually, you sink into the essence of the land…yet on leaving you’re suddenly snapped back into reality, the memory remaining like a half-forgotten dream; the essence still within, but fading. They drop me off at the airport for my flight and we say our last goodbyes - I’m sad to leave, yet nourished. A common theme of Bruno’s is to rail against what he considers the white man’s refrain: “it wasn’t me, I’m not the one who did it”. He wants someone to take responsibility. Yet therein lies the problem; the crimes perpetrated against Bruno’s people are so heinous that those in any position to provide atonement are terrified to do so. Such an action would conceivably unleash a torrent of grief in response such that it would wash away much of what Australia tells Australia about itself – the whole idea of “a fair go”. Politicians continually dodge the bullet, stalling through terms in office with piecemeal measures. The only way to provide any sort of reconciliation is to allow those like Bruno to pass on their abilities and knowledge and teach the younger generations. Work for dole, CDEP and “sit-down money” gets us nowhere. Self-determination is the only way out of this horrible cycle.

Hopefully, with a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, projects like the Twin Lakes Ecotourism Project, the possibilities of perfume production and the Gubinge harvest will provide routes towards self-determination. Elders like Bruno possess the knowledge - as long as it’s passed on, the spirit of Aboriginal Australia will survive.

Browse By Stream
    Subscribe to Our Mailing List