While we were visiting the Yugambeh Museum of Aboriginal people and culture we met Rory O’Connor who gave us a tour and told us of the museums efforts to create a true representation of Aboriginal people and keep alive the cultural richness of their history. Part of this was an explanation of Bora Rings that were places for “men’s business” and were used as places to meet and talk, for young men to be initiated and for fighting to resolve disputes. We visited one of the rings at Burleigh Head.
As traffic rushed past on the Pacific Highway only yards away there was a place of calm and stillness, The ring was raised around the edge and slightly sunken at the centre surrounded by a low wooden fence. The spectacle of this ancient place next to the noise and fumes of a major road made the place seem like it was clinging on to the edge of the modern world
Just outside the ring there is a memorial to Aboriginal people who served in defence of their country. The inscription reads:
“This rock is placed here to honour Yugambeh men and women who served in defence of
this country. Yugambeh is the linguistic name of the Aboriginal people whose tribal region
extends inland from the Logan and Nerang rivers and includes the areas covered by all the
adjacent streams and creeks. Yugambeh family groups include Kombumerri, Wangeribubba, Migunburri, Munajahli, Gugigin, Birinburra and others. We honour those who served in the armed forces and those who made the supreme sacrifice. The symbolism of this rock serves to highlight the role played by Indigenous Australians in defence of this country.”
Just as the Bora ring is little known yet passed daily by thousands of Australians it seems that the role of Aboriginal people in the history of the continent is also unknown and passed by. Mary Graham who was travelling with us asked us to pay our respects before we left. We stood in silence for a few moments as the traffic roared past. I was not only thinking of the Aboriginal people who have met here and those who have fallen in conflict but also about people in other countries who seem to slip outside mainstream recognition.
There is a Square in Liverpool called Falkner Square with a small park at its centre. A few years ago I filmed there with Joe Farrag for Passport to Liverpool. Joe told stories about supporting Everton and the banter and humour of football supporters but he also showed me a small memorial he had had a hand in erecting tucked away in a corner beneath overhanging trees. The memorial was to black sailors who had lost their lives in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War. Another community often forgotten in the remembrances of those who gave their lives.
As this visit goes on and we film interviews with Aboriginal people I am reminded that their concerns and issues are repeated across the world.