Feb 26, 2015

Humbugging w ‘artefacts’

An Aunty from The Lands was in town, on her way back to her country*, staying in LA. I know this as a colleague, the Aboriginal Liaison Officer, was handing out ‘artefacts’. They were free. Balsa wood with the smell of burnt wood from the work she had done on it. I chose the animal. I was told by my colleague it’s a cultural tadpole. All the kids got one too, she is out on the street doing them, he explains. The kids are loving it.

Hours later, a bony, poorly dressed young woman accosts the group of 4 white women that I am part of. It’s on dusk. Wanna buy this artefact, she mumbles, not making eye contact. Immediately one of the guests in town, says “yes, how much.” With no negotiation, discussion or story telling about the vaguely crocodile shaped balsa wood in her small hand, there is a mumble of “10.” Two of the women I am with, scramble to pool their cash and buy the item. The woman who spoke first takes the artefact, looking pleased.

The quickest turnaround of the balsa wood, for a profit? The glee on her young face was not disguised, as she raced off. No money goes to the generous old Aunty who had been sharing her cultural heritage earlier that day, by making the many varied critters and creatures.  

Selling ‘artefacts’ to white fellas is not the easiest way to humbug. The desperation for money is likely alcoholism but not always; the Aboriginal bush camp itinerants’ situation is complex and over 100 years old now. Humbugging for money is definitely easier with balsa wood to trade than being emptied handed.  Sometimes the Aboriginal visitors to LA get the jackpot like with these two new white visitors to town but from locals of any cultural background they mostly get a polite no and probably an angrier response if they persist in begging for cash.

* ‘country’ in this context means ancestral ties to particular land that applies to a recognised connection between an area and a specific Aboriginal group

Oct 21, 2014


A peripatetic approach to work and play results in a lifestyle ruling out planning holidays very far in advance. The ability of people to book holidays, pay for flights, accommodation and sometimes even meal vouchers a year in advance is a constant surprise to me. To take advantage of those discounted flights, for example, that are only available in a year’s time, illustrates permanency of employment, location, availability and finances.

Being as I am constantly considering when I will be moving for work, not if, such long-term planning is intellectually understood but personally I have no knowledge of how that sort of lifestyle works. 

The world would be a boring place if we were all the same!

Jul 16, 2014

Colonial world cup fanatics

No anti-colonial spirit was to be found in Indonesia and Timor during the world cup. Across all generations the support for their previous colonial masters was out loud and noisy. So many travellers commented on how unexpected it is, to see the colonial nation celebrated. There seemed to be no reflection on why they would support those, who they fought for centuries, to get away from.

Photo: Bunaken island’s village. There is the Netherlands’ flag with blue, the German flag and ?
When in Dili, two lovely Singaporean women almost missed their boat taxi to Atauro because their taxi didn’t show up. We all assumed that the taxi had been at the Portugal game that had been on that morning. In Dili, live games began at 4am and crowds attended cafes and crowded into homes. Breakfast events were promoted by some restaurants. The Portuguese flag was out everywhere. Including young gangs riding motorbikes through the city waving their flags and generally being a boisterous convivial nuisance. In Sulawesi, local staff were totally obsessed with the Netherlands. Also Brazil and German flags were flying but in Sulawesi the majority support was for their previous Dutch colonial master.

It would be like Australians barracking for the Poms in cricket or league or union. Never gonna happen, hey. Except it’s not like that, as Australians have the option of their own country. We can only wait for the Indonesian nationalism that will come with Indonesia’s first World Cup team. Surely the colonial powers will be ditched if a local team option existed.  Would Timorese barrack for an Indonesian team? Not inconceivable, despite the 24 year war fought for their independence but it seemed like Portugal fanatics would remain the majority for years to come.