You Are Here: On Aboriginal Land

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Words || Tamika Skelton

I loosely refer to you as Western Sydney, because sometimes people don’t know who you are.

I know who you are. You are grounded, staunch, resilient and multicultural. You are Community.

My journey away from you and back again is a slow and soothing ellipse between my two focal points. I know I’ve met your outstretched fingertips when the 611 finally pulls into the Stand L at the Blacktown Station bus interchange. Once I get back to you, I’m comfortable.

The surrounds are familiar; the bus stands are covered in graffiti, some of the glass is smashed in cracks and shatters and there’s gum on the seats. A few discarded zinger boxes lie from where they’ve been tossed around, with crows and magpies picking at left-over wicked wing bones. If you look beyond the rough exterior, you’ll see a bustling hub of connection.

From Stand L I can see the grass hill that leads to the overpass which carries the busses over the train line. It makes me think of my childhood; I would play on that hill with my brother as we waited with our mum for the bus. We couldn’t afford a car, so public transport was our only option. We didn’t care; we would race up that hill and slide down while waiting.

This is nostalgia.

Based on stereotypes and preconceived notions, Western Sydney has had postcode shame forced upon it. This is often built around an inherent class difference and its consequential misconceptions. I had enjoyed my Western Sydney bubble growing up, so this postcode shame wasn’t apparent to me until I joined Macquarie in 2013.

I told someone I lived in Blacktown, and was shocked when they replied “Oh isn’t that the place with all the stabbings?”. I was initially confused – aren’t there violent attacks everywhere? I had certainly never had a violent experience, night or day, in my home neighbourhood, or walking down main street, or on the stroll to Westpoint shopping centre.

Western Sydney has the largest population of Aboriginal people in the whole country, which debunks stereotypes that we all live in the Northern Territory. Aboriginal people in Western Sydney come from all different Aboriginal nations around the country but have found community in the Western suburbs.  The rest of Western Sydney come from all different nations too, we all exist here together. Showcased most vividly through the foods available within a ten-minute walk from the station. Ethiopian, Lebanese, Turkish, Persian, Chinese, Indian, Thai Vietnamese and Filipino and so much more. Food brings people together. It’s apparent when people sleeping rough are provided food by a variety of religious organisations, judgement free and open for all just outside the 7/11.

Since moving further west, I’ve learned that there’s even more beauty to be found. My train ride from Blacktown Station connects me back home. It is earmarked by that one place after Mt Druitt Station, and before St Marys. At the right time of day, the grey Kangaroos are there. In their mob, laying around and enjoying the last few remnants of the afternoon sun.

They aren’t always there, but I always look for them. They are a reminder of the connections of this land to people and to the animals.

As an Aboriginal woman, Western Sydney and Dharug land has gifted me community and has nurtured me through my upbringing off Country. When I acknowledge where I’m from, I acknowledge Dharug for nurturing me, as well as the bloodlines of my ancestors. I’m proud to be from Western Sydney, and to walk on Dharug land every day.

When you are on campus, you’re on the Wallumattagal / Wattamattagal lands of the Dharug nation. Take a moment to appreciate the Country you’re walking on, and the ancestors who have walked on this land, and cared for it before you. Take a breath, take a moment, and appreciate the beauty of this Country we all learn on.

Wherever you are in Australia, you are on Aboriginal land.

Thank you to community member Dr Jo Anne Rey for reviewing this contribution regarding her Country. You can learn more about Dharug land in Dr Rey’s new unit ABST102: Dharug Country: Presences, Places and People.