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From: Vol.09 N.01 – A Poetics of Rights


by Brenda Saunders

The old Aunty sits, watches scientists scrabble about             
caught up in the endeavour, the yield of the dig

‘Why all the trouble to see some old tools
… we know they’ve been sittin’ there forever’

worn flints, broken shafts cast aside by generations

‘We like staying forever, we buried there too’ 

They sift the sand, find bones of giant kangaroos 
huge wombats buried close to the Ancestors 

‘Everytime the balanda dig, the land grows older’ 

Ochres used in Ceremony line the deepest layers 
link with dynamic figures painted in celebration

dancing forever on the Madjedbebe shelter   

‘We show our kids, teach them the Old People’s story  
 feel shame when white people are deaf to our voices’                                                                                                                                                                       

They ask about djang djang, sacred Mirrar stories
stored in deep time, lore held in cultural memory

‘You don’t have to write it down to be true’

See the People anxious for someone to sit and listen 
protect the land from poison, mining in Jabiluka valley

‘My Country gotta’ stay normal like this, long time’

They ask how the Ancestors arrived here long ago 
how they made the long journey by open sea

‘You come here, everywhere digging, cleaning up’

‘Why all the fuss, we told you we were always here’       

Madjedbebe: near Jabiluka, Kakadu, Northern Territory
djang djang: sacred places
balander: white man
Speaker: May Nango, Traditional Owner, Mirrar People (ABC Interview, 2017)

Published: August 2022
Brenda Saunders

is a Wiradjuri writer and artist, who has won several prizes including the 2014 Scanlon Book Prize for her collection Looking for Bullen Bullen (Australian Poetry Inc). Her third poetry collection, Inland Sea was published in 2021 (Ginninderra Press) and her poetry and reviews appear regularly in anthologies and journals both online and in print, including Australian Poetry, Overland, Plumwood Mountain Journal, Westerly and the Guwayu – For All Times anthology. Brenda’s prose poems and microfiction have featured in several audio projects and short films. In 2022, her memoir, My Mob won the 2022 Snow Leopard International Short Film Award for Black Writing (Voices of Women, 2021).

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.