He was a good man who touched the hearts of those around him and when two of his innumnerable grannies, 10 year old girls, solemnly dropped flowers in his grave I cried. When I heard the voice of his friend and mentor, the Rev Eric Hayward of the Aboriginal Evangelical Church, break at the end of a long service that he had officiated over, preaching the redemption of Christ and the victory over death, preaching consolation and hope to the family of this young, 61 year old grandfather taken on Xmas day, he too had tears in his eyes.
When I met him, he was working to revive the Noongar language, trying to keep the culture alive. He saw no contradiction with his evangelical faith. I remember he attended a men's meeting over a long weekend and came back so enthusiastic, growling out lingo, capturing the poetry of it's tonalities. The stuff that can't be put in dictionaries or on paper. His eulogy records that he would sing any time of day, and play cards with anyone, and of course, he wrote songs for himself, his family and anyone who would listen. He was a 'Noongar lover', his wife wrote.
Sometimes, wadjela people say that the poet and lover in the Australian character is an inheritance from our Irish ancestry, but AB reminded me that the poet and lover are icons of our Noongar ancestry. Songs and dance, Daisy Bates once observed, were the most tradeable items at manjars(fairs) far more valuable than material things like spears, and flint and special foods.
And tonight, I'm watching on TV Kev Carmody's songs being "re/discovered" and when our hearts are open our eyes do cry...
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