by John Callanan
THERE was a time when I didn’t hold any respect for the original people of our country and that was simply because I didn’t know them.
But now I do, (at least a bit) and I think there are hundreds if not thou- sands of men and women who belong on the same respectful pedestal as Nelson Mandela.
Over the past decade or so I have been travelling to central Australia and Arnhem Land to walk in country.
Over the past six years I have walked over 1000 kilometres along the Larapinta Trail from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder, as an ongoing Rite of Passage with many other men from the Men’s Wellbeing Community.
Last year I walked with my partner and some of her family and friends along this ancient trail once again and immediately following that we flew north to Katherine Gorge to walk the Jatbula Trail to Edith Falls.
This walk is much easier and only 62 kilometres, with magnificent waterfalls and cascades at each of the five camping spots along the route.
Imagine walking in 30+ degree heat carrying a pack and after about six or so hours finding fresh water that flows 365 days a year, where you can sit or swim and drink the water as you lay there!
As soon as we finished that walk we flew to Maparu, a small Aboriginal community of a few hundred men, women and children southwest of Gove in North East Arnhem Land.
This community is completely cut off in the wet season and a long way from anywhere in the dry!
We were paying guests of the com- munity – the visiting women were all weavers using natural fibres to weave beautiful baskets, mats and other ex- otic shapes and the men walked in country. As men, we sat and talked, we made spears and didges, we hunted and we ate everything we caught – including, turtle (the eye fillet of the sea), shark, stingray and of course barramundi and other fish.
Alas we didn’t have a rifle so we couldn’t kill a wild buffalo as on previ- ous years’ hunts.
My time with our indigenous people has shown me that they have a deep and ancient connection and understanding of the great unknowable mystery of life. It sounds strange, but they understand it in a way that my mind can’t.
But more than that I respect them for their ability to forgive all that white man has done to them, just like Nelson Mandela.
https://nt.gov.au/leisure/recreation/bushwalking-hiking/nitmiluk-national-park-jatbula-trail http://ceres.org.au/global/arnhem- land/