The landfill fire. The tip worker showed me where it started in the Little Sisters town camp> “there’s probably a track in there, where they go scavenging at night, but I wouldn’t leave your car here and I wouldn’t go walking around on your own…” – He’s referring to the community that lives just 200m away from the landfill, just south of the Gap in Alice Springs. So, the fire starts in the town camp, then seeps into the landfill, then shoots toxic fumes back over the camp….
Later we go to Margie Lynch’s country. Her, her sister Pamela and their family set up a protest camp 40km north on the Stuart Highway at the Two Sisters dreaming site; ngkwerenenehe, telling the CLC (Central Land Council) to get fucked – they’ve been ignored/bypassed in consultation processes for mining exploration. They’re going straight to the top, to Gillard, they say.
“…the struggle has been going for 27 years, or longer if you really look into it,” – a struggle to protect the land, “our father and mother always said no to mining, we have to carry out that wish” “Land rights is there to protect the land, not sell it off for mining.” It makes people fight against their own families, splits it right down the middle, and while people are doing that, the companies and govt are looking around the land for the good shit, the minerals to send them sky-high.
Why is it that the same story has to be told so many times?
Tyrone, Pamela’s son, puts on his akubra and drives us down to the dam after the others have gone to bed, he’d fixed up the battered two-wheel drive not long ago, let the tires down enough for the sand, you don’t even feel the corrugation. Bloomers climbs a tree for kindling, and we light a fire, crack a few beers then Tyrone tells us about his mustering jobs, and near deaths-by-bull, and his dislocated knee. Down in south australia where he’s been working, there’s a fella who owns about 29 farms across the country; “he’s a billionaire,” must be, sitting somewhere in the city while the others work.
“…a lot of people don’t know how to work hard. Or even how to work. I’ve been coming out here all my life, to this country, and been fixing the fences for the cattle farms over there,” he points north. “I’ve been helping with lots of things, they told me I can go and get meat whenever I want, but I said, can you just let me shoot one when I want… so my friends in the back think i’m stealing cattle… and they let me, so that’s what I do.” he laughs.
He talks about the old spirits, walking this land, walking past him when he’s in bed laughing and carrying on, and he says “shh, keep going, i’m sleeping.” – We all laugh.
Whenever one of us slips off to go for a piss, he asked if we heard them when we went away from the fire, going ‘oooooh’ and talking, breezing by your head, maybe you wouldn’t even notice” – he’s trying to irk us.
“I used to sit in the river and drink too, until they started putting acid in peoples drinks, you’d turn away to talk to someone and they’d do it while you weren’t looking. It would burn peoples guts out. – some people would kill another man for a tin of tobacco.”
I walk away for a piss, and hear the tall grass whistle in the wind, and i’m damn sure I can hear the spirits laughing.
The road trains look more impressive at night, 3, 4, 5 carriages long, their lights evenly spaced, shooting down the highway, like a plane about to take off.
I tuck into my swag under a few drops of rain and listen to the sounds of the night out here, there’s a wind, and straps flap against the back of a car, and the dog scuffles around…