Tuesday, November 14, 2006



The Australian media rarely has a positive story on Aborigines. Which seems remarkable when you consider that Aborigines have survived and thrived for more than 60,000 years or longer, in some of the harshest environments in the world.

The ancient knowledge of the Aborigines has much to offer the Australian government now panicking over an horrific combination of widespread drought, massive crop failures and unprecedented water shortages.

Obviously, the Aborigines were doing something right for those centuries of centuries.

You would think that such a world rarity of vital ancient knowledge would be a treasure trove of information for the Australian government struggling now to deal with the end fatal results of two hundred years of land-clearing, river diversions and the near ceaseless logging that has wiped away more than 90% of Australia's ancient rainforests and woodlands.

But you'd be wrong.

Many Aborigines are thriving still, despite the overwhelmingly negative victimisation and stereotyping served up by most Australian media. It is their own fault, a seemingly endless stream of dull-headed 'opinion makers' inform us, because too many Aborigines reject Western culture and 'civilisation'. They don't want to step into the 21st Century, apparently.

There now seems to be a few very good reasons why this resistance is essential to the survival of their race.

New studies show that many Aborigines have a far better shot at a longer, healthier life once they turn away from Western processed foods, alcohol-fuelled leisure and inactive lifestyles.

The example to support this argument is rarely mentioned in the Australian media.

Welcome to the Aborigianl paradise of Utopia.

From the London Times :
Researchers have found such clear indicators of the wellbeing of the people of Utopia — a 1,160 square mile (3,000 sq km) former cattle station in the red desert dust north of Alice Springs — that policy-makers are having to reconsider the worth of an ancient Aboriginal way of life that rejects much of comfortably off Australia’s eating, working and leisure habits.

Yet those healthy traditions may be under threat. Ministers in the Howard Government have declared small Aboriginal communities to be unsustainable and argued for their closure and the removal of inhabitants to enlarged townships. There, they suggest, better services could be provided.

In Utopia’s 16 tiny settlements — known as outstations — infants are fed the blood of kangaroos hunted by their relatives. Old women catch and cook big goanna lizards. People wander the spinifex grasses and dig out succulent honey ants and witchetty grubs for eating. Women make batches of Aboriginal medicines from desert plants, relying on ancestral recipes. Not many people smoke, and only a few drink.

Many in Utopia spend the bakingly hot days in rough shelters, alongside dogs. Houses are often crowded and dirty. Most struggle to pay for food and petrol from the single store. Yet these people are 40 per cent less likely to die prematurely than other Aboriginals in the Northern Territory.

According to researchers at the University of Melbourne, their health approaches — and even exceeds in crucial respects — that of white Australians long expected to outlive Aborigines by 15 to 20 years.

Lennie Jones, a senior elder, is certain of the source of his community’s health: “Out here, we live on bush tucker. Old fellows and kids still hunt. We don’t have white tucker.”

Another, Albert Bailey, whose 76 years represent longevity unusual among Aborigines, says: “In the big communities the young fellows get on the grog all the time. Here we stop ’em. We stay on the land of our grandfathers, always.”
At least, until the Australian government comes to try and force them from their traditional lands and into the cities.

Sometimes it pays to listen to those who know more than you do, particularly about a land as vast and resource-wealthy and bush food-rich as Australia.

If you ever get the chance to go on a 'Bush Tucker Tour' in Australia with an Aboriginal guide, don't pass it up. To take a walk through what seems like fairly barren scrub, and then to learn that there is a rich variety of food in the form of berries, roots and leaves all around you is to see the country through new eyes.

They mystery of how Aborigines managed to survive for so long in the harsh climates of Australia becomes clear when you learn just how much food and water there is to be found, when you know what you're looking for, and you know where to look.

As for dealing with the drought, at least in the decades to come, there is a simple and clear truth in what an Aboriginal elder in the Blue Mountains told me, a few years back :

"If you got the trees, the rains will come. More trees, more rain, it's always been this way."

Go Here For The Full London Times Story