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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

Darwin Musing

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Darwin Musing

Andrew Ryan

I’ve been in Darwin for the last week, a place I’ve imagined many times over, the imaginings of which have been distorted by multiple stories from multiple generations and a distinct lack of visual media input originating from the city and its people, other than from the time of Cyclone Tracy (that bitch). As I flew in I saw the fires of burn-offs doing their orange thing in the black of the night. It was a sight to behold, something I’ll never forget. It looked like fractals from up so high. My heart pounded. Environmental conservation is important in this country, in all of the country. Traditional knowledge+science is the way: can’t turn this shit in to a dust bowl. Can’t rely on mining for long term income, long term life sustaining. Gotta take care of land bros.

Anyway. My dad grew up here. A good friend did too, he is younger than my dad, and younger than me. I’m staying with this friend – Finn – at his parents’ home in Rapid Creek; a beautiful house with plenty of tropical woodland trees in a beach-side suburb. Finn’s parents are art types, and involved in politics. They have lived in that house for 17 years, a 15 drive from the city proper.

The city is smaller and sparser than any city I’ve known, closer to a large country town than my home city of Perth, which I used to be prone to describing as such. Darwin feels weird. The city is kind of visually sterile, except for the humans and the trees, even thought there doesn’t seem to be enough trees sometimes, especially in areas where the big box apartments stand. There is so much architecture that is terribly suited to the climate that I wonder if those buildings weren’t just picked out of a magazine for cheap or something?

BUT! The humans and the trees. Especially the trees. Especially the humans. Lotsa people of many distinct cultures and parts of the world roam the streets; some sunburnt visitors like myself, some recent migrant folk from around Africa and Asia as well as Europe, some new arrivals who were kicked off their homelands further inland and have nowhere else to go, and there are some of those well worn bush-bashing grizzled types who exist only to drink beer and talk smack about women while drinking beer, and some people who’s grand-parents were forced to live here by the colonial government, and some who’s grand-parents to the power of 1400 greats had grand-parents who’s great-great-great-great-grand-parents were more likely than mine and anyone-I-know’s to be the first humans to step foot on the patch of earth I am currently writing from. So, you know, all types, and everyone gotta do their thing.

The Larrakia are the local mob, their welcome greets you from a shiny placard as you walk off the airport runway in to the airport. Their kin’s artwork and craft is hung not only in the Territory’s museum but also on the walls of tourists and local homes. There is a community up here that has been an “Aboriginal Reserve”, according to historical sources, since the 1930s. It is nestled on the edges of commercial land and suburbia, at the end of an unmarked turn-off on the freeway. Bagot. Welcome to the community of Bagot, the sign read as Pete turned the car in to it, a wrong turn on our search for op-shops in which to find cheap camping gear, the map mistakingly telling us we could drive through it to our destination. Nope, that gate was shut, had to turn around, turn around and drive past the open homes and unimpressed eyes. Sorry for the intrusion guys, just another couple of clueless tourists, there’s so many of us here this time of year.

Later I read an article from 2012 in the Green Left Weekly that said there was a politician fella who was pushing to have the Bagot area bulldozed and turned in to
“a normal, peaceful suburb”. About a year later, the ABC publishes a story about the community in a positive light. This year NAIDOC week was kicked off there. Fkn yeah Bagot! Don’t let the assholes get you down!

~~

Life is different up here, different to anywhere else in the country. There’s still air-conditioned shopping centres and petrol stations and bowls clubs, boat clubs, race tracks, TABS, but it’s all of that with fucking tropical weather and it changes everything. Sweating lots of the time, lots of sun in the dry season, even more heat and humidity in the wet. It is only the well off who can afford to be the kind of big babies who try to shut themselves out of the weather with an air-conditioned box apartment- that shit is expensive to run in a climate like this. Open doors, lots of shade, ceiling fans and well placed water features is all you need to keep sane and economically comfortable in it, and why would you move up here if you can’t handle the heat anyway? So everyone feels it, it makes your priorities shift. I, for example, feel calmer in this heat. More relaxed. It’s only been a week though. Tomorrow Pete and I go driving inland for some camping- I guess I’ll have more to say about the heat after a second week of it, but without the luxury of a ceiling fan. NO AIRCON ALLOWED. If you don’t hear from me again, plz don’t go hunting the crocodile that got me. It was just being a crocodile.