YELLOW VISITORS TO THE TOP END
Southern white Australians see the top end of Australia as a strange, weird, wonderfully exotic area. Its beaches patrolled by huge, grinning, salt water crocodiles. The sparkling waters of the Arafura Sea jostled by sleek, great white sharks. While the land clutching the rainforests and deserts is home to Australia’s indigenous blacks.
White folks sailed past the ‘land beyond time’, but few stopped to explore. Unlike the inquisitive yellow men from China and the archipelagos to the north.
They intermarried with the locals – or at least co-habited with them – or some of them did some of the time.
They paddled and sailed here for the beche-de-mere. And they planted tamarind trees on the shoreline so they could pickle the giant cucumbers to protect the sea creatures on the precarious voyage home.
Some of Australia’s black people in the far north remember those visits from the stories handed down from their ancestors and from rock paintings deep in caves and on outcrops of rocks hidden from the view of strangers.
They also know from the tincture of the skin of some of the tribe.
THE WARRIOR WHO BETRAYED HIS TRIBE
The warrior who betrayed his tribe by telling their secrets to the black crows was hunted by his people. But he had turned himself into a tree so he could not be recognised.
No matter how the tribe searched, they could not find him.
Then one day an old goanna hinted to the elder of the tribe that the wanted man was hiding in the spirit of the tree down beside the creek.
But the tribe could not be sure, so they asked the white cockatoo who lived in a hollow of the same tree.
The tree talked in its sleep when the wind blew through its branches, and so the white cockatoo knew all its secrets, which he told his friend the elder of the tribe.
They burned down the tree and hunted the black crows from their land.
The sun once lived in an egg.
One day the egg was broken, and the sun floated up to the sky.
An egg is now broken every morning, just as the moon drops out of the darkness.
The ibis was sacred to the ancient Egyptians.
The bird was often mummified and sold as an adornment to the tombs of the rich and noble.
Today, in Australia, the ibis is known as ‘the farmers’ friend’ – ridding the paddocks of cockchafer – a grub which eats the roots of grass.
These ibis settle near Queenscliff, Victoria.