Narran River - Angledool, NSW

Reflecting into Warrambool -

the birth of the song

Reflecting into Warrambool

- how the song

came to be

Narran River, Angledool NSW

28th September 2020

Gadigal Land, Sydney

My father’s family is from Yuwaalaraay country. We are flat plains, freshwater river people and Warrambool is our word

for the  floodplain upon which we live. It is also our word for Milky Way. Living in Sydney, I spent most of my school holidays with my grandmother, aunts and cousins camping out, fishing, yabbying and specking (looking for opals) along the rivers, opal fields and scrub of the plains. But most of my waking, living, learning hours were spent in the city – away from these things. So, I have had to put in extra effort to stay connected. I found a way to do this was to use my creativity to travel to places my physical self could not. For twenty years it took the form of song, of melody, of rhythm and music. Recently I learned I could also express this through the rhythm, melody and music of words.

 

The idea for Song of the Crocodile was a coming together of many things; a transition in my own practice away from music and towards long-form storytelling; a passion for Yuwaalaraay language and the written, English word; a love of a homeland, and a responsibility towards place. It was also an experiment, a statement and exploration of difficult things – things that affect Black people and white people in turn. In the beginning I had three questions in mind. My goal was not to answer them but to find ways to ask them in on the page: What is the ‘spirit’ of place? What effect does this spirit have on the people who live atop it? What effect do the actions of others have on the construction of this spirit? I wanted to explore both Black and white responses to these questions in Song of the Crocodile. As I posed the questions on the page the gateway appeared – Darnmoor, the Campgrounds – characters formed and Garriya rose. The story took on its own will and before my very eyes, shaped itself into something that enveloped me in familiar, funny, complex things.

 

My Dad grew up in a settlement much like the Campgrounds. He and his ten brothers and sisters to this day reflect on it as the time they were most happy. They lovingly frame their childhood, eked out of scraps of tin and tarpaulin as a golden age- when they were at all their most joyous. Growing up as an urban blackfulla, with flash city sensibilities, this always felt strange to me. While I understood it to be a happy time grounded in family and relationship, in their stories I also felt an ever-present undercurrent of prejudice, restriction and control. But that is just how it appears to me, fifty years and worlds later. The Song of the Crocodile then is a way for me to travel back in time to the place that holds so many fond memories for my family, to interact with it and then to have a conversation with its condition that perhaps, they could not. Song of the Crocodile is a way for me to speak to my past and seek understanding in its role in shaping who I am today. It is a creative conversation with history, a way to practice my relationship to place and to celebrate the people I come from. This book is as much written by Bertha, George, Georgina, Lenny, Louis, Ken, Jenny, Ritchie, Bill, Victor, Sally, Beau and Trevor, their grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as me.