Beata works as a qualified primary school teacher, a councillor for drug and alcohol addiction and a farm caretaker for organic olive grow.
'Enter the great rail journey, it is 3000 km from Darwin to Adelaide'. The sign on my train said.
"Maybe next time, I won this trip in writing competition," I smiled back taking the opposite seat.
"Me too," the young Indigenous woman outstretched her slender hand: "My name is Mabel and this is Jay, my daughter."
"Do you have family in Alice Springs?" I opened a packet of chips to make friends on the two days long drive through the heart of Australia we embarked on.
"My aunty lives there but I go straight to Darwin to visit mum and dad, what was your winning piece?" Mabel shook her head to the offered chips while her daughter turned her head away: "Usually white people keep to themselves, we are not used to be offered food you know."
"I am sorry I did not mean to offend you," I put the chips away and she laughed: "And they like to say sorry even if they do not know what they are sorry for, I am just joking I am sorry too, do you have family in Darwin?"
It was my turn to shake my head: "I never been there, I migrated into Perth from teh Eastern Europe just few years back." She nodded and I continued full of hope: "I was so happy they published my poem for the Australia Day, I called it: "Western Australia, the western third of our continent we share."
I waited for her response but she did not say a thing so I continued: "I talked about all people like me who have chosen to come to Western Australia, to stay here. That makes us unusual bunch, for this is a curious place, very remote and strange compare to the rest of the world, don't you think so?"
Mabel hugged her daughter tightly: "I don't know I never left my home."
I barely heard her excitedly describing my feelings: "I chose to come here. I chose to learn about this place in a conscious way which is different to absorbing it by osmosis as you do when you grow up here, or your daughter when you are a child."
She looked at me utterly confused so I continued trying to explain myself better: "WA is a subject to me as much as it is my home – to be objective and not influenced by personal feelings as much as subjective, and influenced by love? Make sense?"
There was no response so I sighed and asked her about her piece of writing for the Australian Day.
Mabel smiled: "I wrote a piece about isolation." I looked at her surprised: "Why?" And she laughed now pointing out of the window on the barren brown land that stretched all the way to horizon and I nodded: "It is lifeless."
She shook her head: " Our home is famous for its isolation. Isolation considers our geology, I study it now at university in Adelaide. We have the oldest material of terrestrial origin on Earth – 4.4 billion year old zircons dated to just 100 million years after the planet creation and one of the most important finds about the history of Earth. But I learnt about it already from my people listening to their Dream time stories because those rocks are part of us."
I nodded and she continued: "You see this land empty but in this is where life on Earth began. You know the isolation gave us 12,000 species of plants. After walking in across the continent of Sahul something of a land bridge my people were isolated here after sea levels rose about 12,000 years ago after the last ice age. The Isolation started right there and it lasts still until now…"
I did not know what else to say to my Indigenous fellow traveller I shared the train ride with travelling through empty land that looked barren to me but was full of life to her...
"This is my son on the stage, he is song man." An older man sitting next to me on the grass said.
"In our culture the job of a song man is to make sense of everyday struggle."
An young Indigenous man in worn out jeans and the t-shirt with Aboriginal flag printed on said quietly in a microphone standing in an open auditorium while people of Darwin surrounding it waving their flags cheered on. Then he turned to his band preparing their guitars and didgeridoos to play: " This is my Yabu Band and our songs relate to the 'Thoorgoorba', the law of country and mind, our law of nature and what makes us human. They are creating a path where we all walk side by side. At this moment Australia is picking up the threads, our joint histories and beginning to stitch a healing blanket for us all."
The old man next to me smiled broadly and clapped his hands: "That is my boy, his great great grandfather would be so proud of him."
We listened to 'A Cry in the Wind' they started to play and I watched Indigenous and non Indigenous Darwin's crowd to sing along remembering the words of the song. I joined in reading from a big white screen that appeared behind the band: 'Now that ‘sorry’ has been said, it is time for us to listen properly to each other’s stories. To sit down with compassion and kindness. Sorry means we can laugh and walk side by side, share our stories and feel that harmony energy being to flow through us. The call of his old man in the old black and white from other times, the cry of that child, the whisper in the tree behind, that is a cry in the wind..'
I searched in the crowds for the young woman from the train and I spotted her at the back sitting with her parents and her daughter. I picked up both of my flags and waved in her direction and watched her as she waved back holding both of them too in her hands. I wanted to shout that I understand better what she tried to tell me but it was too noisy for me to do so.
"You do not need to talk all the time," the old man sitting next to me smiled again: "It is enough just to feel." Then he put an old white and black photograph on my lap.
I studied a desert man with mud locks and many tribal marks who stood strong and proud.
'Enter the great rail journeys, it is 4350 km from Perth to Sydney.' The sign on my train said.
"West to east on the Indian Pacific is a three day journey with a real sense of beginning, middle and end as you leave one city, cross the Nullarbor Plain and arrive in another." My fellow passenger a middle aged lady from Perth smiled at me sipping her morning coffee from a funny shaped coffee mug that matched with her creative top. She noticed my stare and laughed: "My name is Jane like in Jane Austen and I am an avid collector of second hand goods, I was studying fine arts at UWA you see and spent a lot of time trawling through garage sales incorporating it into my vintage dressmaking models. You have to visit my Guildford vintage shop, you will love it."
Before I could reply another passenger entered our compartment, a middle aged man with ruffled locks, a heavily tattooed right arm, beaded necklace and army '. 'camo' pants. Before he could sit down Jane shouted: "Are you not a drummer from a Melbourne rock band?" He smiled at her and nodded while she giggled in delight.
There was a tiny doll like Chinese girl trailing after him and he introduced her to us: "This is my wife Li." She waved without looking at us absorbed in her new I phone while Jane kept her gaze on the drummer: "I read somewhere you live on the Gold Coast do you live in our Perth now?"
He chuckled: "Yep, I’d been but my marriage broke up," he shrugged patting Li's knee: "I was pretty bummed and sitting at a café in East Victoria Park with a couple of friends and that is when I met my new wife." She winked at him kissing him lighly on his cheek while he continue: "Two weeks later I’d moved over and we’ve been having a wonderful time since then getting to know each other. Now we travel to Sydney for honeymoon."
"That is marvellous, congratulation to you both," Jane clapped her hands in obvious delight when our last passenger entered and the Indian Pacific moved on.
"My daughter lives in Sydney," an old bushman said taking his dusty hat off and sitting down.
Harry showed everyone proudly an article in the West Australian about his pub.
"I heard whales were stranded next to your pub not long ago." Drummer winked at him showing him a thumb up.
He pointed on the photograph of the beach in the newspaper with a pod of 114 false killer whales stranded there: “Thirsty rescuers were soon flocking to my pub. They were falling out the windows, at one stage we had three media helicopters parked out on the green outside and we were booked out within a few hours. Give me another stranding any time.” Harry chuckled.
Jane borrowed the newspaper and started to read an article while Harry was pointing on the old photograph of his pub: " It was all timber frame on stumps back then with green sawn scantling from the mills and a lot of 'fibro' my grandfather Fred became a settler there in 1923 you see and was forced to walk off the land during the Great Depression, moving to Perth before ultimately returning to build it."
"That is my poem about Western Australia," I said excitedly pointing at the small article in the corner and they all looked at me surprised. So I recited the last verse from the poem slowly: 'For all the places that I know and love and in which I have lived before Western Australia is the one place that lives in me."
"Where do you come from?" Jane looked at me curious: "Your accent? Are you Polish?"
"Close enough," I nodded grudgingly and Harry winked at Jane: "You must be from Manchester Jane?" She laughed: "How did you know?"
"I am from the convict stock," the drummer announced proudly and the company in the compartment cheered: "A true Blue Aussie!" I looked at him: "I met an Indigenous lady on the Ghan who told me isolation is in our DNA?" He nodded: "Convicts were sent here from England largely because of the isolation. The remoteness was part of the punishment. Isolation breeds innovation and self-reliance and that was certainly why the western settlers were reluctant to join the Australian Federation am I correct there Harry?"
Harry scratched his balding head: "Well the innovation that comes from isolation is part of the Australia II story in 1983 and the invention of the winged keel that helped little old us take the America’s cup form the New Yorkers, what a celebration that was."
Li suddenly looked up from her mobile: "My Chinese great great grandfather died on Montebello Islands close by, they were sent there to clean up after the nuclear testing in the 50s the British chose it because of its remoteness, he was a pearl diver from Broome you see."
Jane sighed: "That is so sad dear, my government has done many awful things here." She looked out from the window on the never ending flat plain and suddenly cheered up: " My parents were fascinated by the images taken from a spaceship at night in the 60s? Do you remember when our Perth in Western Australia was named by John Glenn the City of Lights? They moved here later on and named my brother John."
"Happy Australia Day everyone, we meet on Sydney foreshore for a firework yep?"
"For we are ONE and free," the new phrase of our improved Australian anthem blared from speakers all around us.
"What does it mean?" I asked Jane and she shrugged: "Was it YOUNG and free before? "
"Well it sounded better who does not want to be young forever?" Harry chuckled passing hot dogs around: "Free of charge for everyone in audience around." I looked around on Australians of all ages who gathered on the lawn expectantly looking towards darkening sky for the first glimpse of firework. The most of them were of Indian or Asian origins confirming in physical essence the multiculturalism Sydney was famous for.
A dozen of Indigenous performers sitting in the line in front of us were whispering between themselves in one of the Indigenous languages that sounded so foreign to me which was ironical really considering there were thousands of tribal languages across this ancient land in use continuously for the past sixty thousands of years an average non Indigenous Australian never heard of or even knew they existed.
One of the performers turned to us speaking in English: "Your prime minister changed your anthem just recently probably realising finally this continent is older than two hundreds years." The Indigenous men and women around him chuckled and Harry biting into the last hot dog in his hand said casually between chewing: "You lot probably asked him to do so, didn't you? To feel included, I mean."
The Indigenous man shook his head sadly before turning back: "We never been asked about it, your Canberra politicians do as they like how it suits them. All we were asked to come here today to add some cultural flavour to your firework."
An Indigenous woman next to him clapped two short sticks in her hand together in slow mournful way: "So we will play the sad music as it is our Sorry Day." And with those words they all started to play in unison soulfully quietly the men blowing into long unique didgeridoo just as the sky lit up in colourful exuberant shots of light over the famous Sydney Harbour.
Instead of looking at the firework display my gaze turned to a lonely flag in the corner.
Beata Stasak (author) from Western Australia on January 21, 2021:
Thank you for all your beautiful messages my fellow hubbers yes Australia is big and our Indigenous people are unique amazingly skilful environmentalists who protected our precious fauna and flora for over 60,000 years with their cultural burning practices and moving constantly from place to place to let the land to recover and regrow. Right now, my fellow reader from Singapore we rely heavily on their knowledge because our flora and fauna is fast disappearing and dangerous out of control fires burnt the third of our continent that will never fully recover from it. I would turn your comment on the head and ask you who is truly more advanced? Those who protect or those who destroy?
Chris Hoffman on January 21, 2021:
We have aboriginal people in Canada , many with similar issues probably as Australian Aboriginals with isolation , remoteness & being a colony .
Chris Hoffman on January 21, 2021:
As a Canadian living in 2nd largest country on planet I can imagine how big Australia. I have lived in a Northern city in B.C. Canada so imagine the isolation of Australia.
MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 21, 2021:
Fascinating article about Australia. One fails to realize how large Australia is and how sparsly it is populated. You have put up some wonderful pictures but I'm a little constrained to note that the local tribals don't seem to have progressed much; I hope that will change.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 21, 2021:
This is an insightful, well-written and fascinating article. It feels like you have shone a light on a section of the Australian culture that many outsiders miss.