Growing up on the land gives you a connection that you may only recognise later. I was born 66 years ago and grew up near Molong in Central West New South Wales on a property where my Father worked as a Stockman. It was called “Gundawanna”, and I often wondered if the word was from “Gondwana”, the name of the supercontinent Australia was part of 500 million years ago, or from one of Australia’s First Nation languages. The local Historical Society at Molong write that it supposedly means “red road”, but in the language of the Wiradjuri people, who are the custodians and carers of that land, red road is “girri gawala”. It is to the Wiradjuri we owe much for the land that was so productive in that area. They loved the land and cared for it sustainably ensuring a ready supply of fodder and water for the wildlife and the people that the country sustained. The first settlers in the area found rich soil, abundant grass and steady water supplies for their herds of cattle and sheep. Despite the numerous reports in explorers’ diaries about the parkland nature of the country, none seemed to realise that was the result of centuries of land-care by the original inhabitants. They were simply ‘dispersed’, as many of the official letters and documents from the time state, a euphemism for wanton destruction.
This image of the road leading into my childhood home gives some indication of the beauty and richness of the land. When I was young I was more interested in what was beyond the beauty and saw it as isolated and a place I wanted to get away from and live my life. Now fifty years after I left that place I think back and see the beauty, the richness and the spirit of the land that has helped me become the man I am today. My childhood on this country gave me the opportunity to spend time alone with my thoughts and my dreams in my imaginary world. That time has enabled me to come more easily to a reflective way of living that has helped me understand myself and my place in the world in a deeper way.
Native Americans have a concept known as ‘Walking the Red Road’. David A Patterson Silver Wolf, the first American Indian professor in the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, wrote on his blog in 2011 that:
‘Walking the Red Road is a determined act of living within the Creator’s instructions. Basically, it is living a life of truth, humbleness, respect, friendship, and spiritually. Those on this road are by no means walking a perfect path, but are in search of self-discovery and instructions.’
My search of self-discovery started at ‘Gundawanna’ and if it does indicate ‘red road’, I honour that start to my journey in life and give thanks to the Wiradjuri who cared for that land and continue to care for their land today. In this blog I want to share some of the things I have learned on that road and I hope you enjoy the ride.