Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Return from Central Australia...

Some thoughts after returning from Central Australia.

Just arrived to Sydney I start to miss some of the things of the desert: the peace, the silence, the red sand, the colours of the sky during sunset and sunrise, the genuine smiles and kindness... and the importance of the simple living. The experience that I got from RARE programme was indeed a truly rare experience.
It is such pity to see that a lot of "white" Australians do not know and/or are not interested in the rich aboriginal culture...

The experience... How can I start? How can I transmit the lessons learn?... let us try!
I stayed around 2 weeks within Utopia community, more precisely in Arlparra. Arlparra is the main Aboriginal community outstation at Utopia in central Australia. There are 16 outstation attached to Utopia which are spread over 3230 square kilometres. Aboriginal language group spoken are Anmatyerre and Alyawarra.
Why was I there? Well, the University of Sydney is trying to provide advise in two major projects:
- construction of an Aquaponics system;
- and the development of a cultural art centre.
Both projects are are vital for employment, education and health within Utopia. Moreover they will help finance the construction of traditional residencies for the communities. However both projects need governmental funds, a lot of expertise and long-term commitment areas that are lacking in aboriginal communities. Furthermore day-to-day decisions are not also very simple since they need to have the consensus of several board-members (normally elders, representing several aboriginal settlements).
A major problem that we saw is that is extremely hard to correlate short-term funding with overall long-term social benefits and that makes extra hard to see successful aboriginal projects. In fact, there is the expression "Utopia time" which means that things will need to be done at there own time, i.e. which might mean A LOT(!)

Racism also exist towards the black/aboriginal Australian population, limiting access to education, opportunities and proper career developments. In fact many Aboriginal Australians are very good painting artists, a lot of Aboriginal canvas are sold world wide by thousands of dollars, however the artists still live in poverty... exchanging art for boxes of food...

Many aboriginal communities refuse to follow the "white" Australian law rather preferring to follow the old costumes and own traditional "laws". These (racism and different views on laws) makes hard to create a proper understanding/communication between two distinctive worlds... and therefore confrontations exist...
Yet is interesting to see that differentiation within Aboriginals within the same community also exist, between:
- Sexes - being matriarchal culture, the majority of the decisions pass-by women;
- Age - the older a person is, the more respect he/she gets, as already mentioned a lot of decisions pass-by the elders knowledge;
- Family - every family member needs to support and protect the overall family (family in Utopian terms means members of the same family tree!)

Personally I found that my time in Utopia was not enough. I was learning different lessons every day:
- Philosophy, ethics and world politics with Trish
- Aboriginal culture and Aquaponics construction with John
- Construction of houses with Peter and Michael
- Social work with Charlotte
- Utopian world with Roselie
- Utopia politics and aboriginal communication with David
- Aboriginal music with Aswane, Kelvin and Terry
- Etc, etc, etc...

Of course I can not forget my RARE group:
- Megan, the coordinator of the program, always so positive, enthusiastic and hopeful;
- Jaana, the strong and independent Finnish, with so much knowledge on Aboriginal Australia;
- and Phoebe, the joyful and hard working architect, making a mark everywhere she went.

Eventually (in the free time) I also had time to travel to Alice Springs, enter a few Aboriginal art galleries, visit an individually owned Aquaponics system, swim in beautiful "oasis" lakes, be part of a desert party (in the middle of nowhere), sleep under the stars and have interesting conversations along the fireplace.
Hopefully in September I will still be a part of RARE and return to Utopia, it definitely made a mark on how I view and perceive life. Today I am more aware on the simple things of life.

Thank you Utopia, RARE programme, University of Sydney, Megan (Donnelley) and Richard (Seymour).

Blog Editor and Owner: Luis Aparicio Fernandes (or Mikey) is a Business Expert and a Traveler based in Sydney, Australia. He is a member of The International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma due to his achievements in business. You can follow Luis on Google+, and LinkedIn.