Wiradjuri Country

Tony Smith

 

Anyone who has heard the great bass Paul Robeson singing for lunching building workers at Bennelong Point in Sydney, Australia could only hope that his spirit pervaded the foundations of the Opera House. Robeson was a strong socialist and unionist. He was targeted by the McCarthyites in the USA for his friendship with Russia. At Bennelong Point, he sang 'Joe Hill', the story of an executed union leader who appears in a dream and says that his spirit lives on. This seemed to be an appropriate parallel to the Wirdajuri warrior Windradyne. I did not realise until I read Stan Grant’s memoir detailing his search for his ancestors, that I live in an area in which blood was spilled in the local frontier wars. This song, using the tune of 'Joe Hill' by Alfred Hayes (lyrics) and Earl Robinson (music) tries to express my search for a way to live justly on Aboriginal land.

 

Wiradjuri Country
© Tony Smith 2013

The place I live in has a past
It’s full of history
Though much of it is buried now
And veiled in mystery
And veiled in mystery

For many years the grass was cropped
By hungry ranging flocks
And miners tried their luck with gold
Among the quartz and rocks (2)

But after we have left this land
It will forever be
In the future as it was before
Wiradjuri country (2)

The people and the land were one
Some forty thousand years
Till a decade of the gubbas brought
Bitterness and tears (2)

When other tribes passed through your land
A price they always paid
Some gift they always brought to you
Respectful signs they made (2)

The gubbas had not heart to give
They spat onto your ground
They killed for sport your animals
Claimed everything they found (2)

They fenced the creeks with wire barbed
Poisoned waterholes
They stole young girls and shot the men
As if they had no souls (2)

The ghosts that came from the morning sun
Brought such desperate times
The people turned to a warrior chief
His name was Windradyne (2)

He led his people patiently
With King George peace he sought
But Brisbane sent Morrisset’s men
And declared martial law (2)

No refuge now for Windradyne
Not even in his land
Branded as a terrorist
He made a final stand (2)

Along the Turon and Winburndale
Too much blood was shed
The warrior’s earthly time was up
A price was on his head (2)

Invaders have for centuries
Used divide and rule
But a chieftain felled by Koori spear
Was irony too cruel (2)

Windradyne was buried
By a Gubba friend
Though his grave is deep and still
His story did not end (2: has no end)

They could not kill the Wiradjuri heart
It beats even as we speak
Windradyne whispers in the trees
His spirit offers peace (2)

And after we have left this land
It will forever be
In the future as it was before
Wiradjuri country
Wiradjuri countryChords: AAA7A7; DDAA; DDAA; EEEE;
E7E7AA.

 

A former academic, Tony Smith has written extensively on a wide range of subjects as diverse as folk music and foreign policy issues in the Australian Review of Public Affairs, the Journal of Australian Studies Review of Books, Overland, the Australian Quarterly, Eureka Street, Online Opinion and Unleashed.

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