Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Three paper flags, the slap of my feet and a large golf umbrella
I took this photo standing on Eveleigh St. I've never walked down Eveleigh St before. In my mind it has always been a no go zone, a place I fear to tread. Buildings squat like crabs under the skyline of the city in Eveleigh St; I don't know what I was expecting when I crossed the road from Redfern Station and turned right slapping each foot on the road I thought I'd never walk down. I've heard people talk about a hum in the air, I couldn't hear anything but I felt a sort of internal pressure pressing me forwards through the pouring rain. This morning my problem was a confused and earnest one.
Intellectually I wanted to be there, right there at the Aboriginal Community Centre in Redfern, I wanted to say I was part of that, I saw that but on the walk down I kept feeling and feeling. The last thing I wanted to be was an emotional tourist. What right did I have as a non-Indigenous Australian to feel. When I got there I was close to tears until an Aboriginal man walked right up to me and gave me two flags, the Aboriginal flag and the Torres Strait Islander flag. He grinned at me and said "Don't forget the Australian flag too" as he handed me one "after all we are Australian." It sounded like a corny scripted line but his grin was infectious and I pushed into the crowd clutching my three paper flags and a golf umbrella.
The Aboriginal Community Centre in Redern sits in stark contrast to the surrounding buildings. It is large, modern and airy like its been dropped in from outer space. I stood towards the back in a sea of umbrellas feeling awkward and wishing I could see people's faces. There was a short introduction to the day and a Welcome to Country then waiting for Kevin Rudd to appear on the big screen. The City of Sydney sent men in uniforms handing out raincoats. The Socialist Alliance sent annoying fuckers with magazines. Suddenly it happened and I stopped thinking and started feeling all over again.
I've been in crowds of drunken bastards shouting and bringing in the new year, I've stood on the edge of the harbour while the City of Sydney exploded its money in the night sky and all around people cheer and stare astonished but I've never stood in a crowd of people busting wide open with everything you could ever feel all at once. Something lifted, pushed up by the communal emptying of lungs with spontaneous joyful noise.
I was part of something this morning, my feet, my umbrella, my paper flags. I feel like a citizen of a new nation.
I left after Kevin Rudd's speech to walk to the office. I was not present to feel the effect of Brendan Nelson and his ill-chosen mean spirited hurtful words.