Bentley. Tuesday, 10.40am
There’s something about how Kooris sit in a car. They look so comfortable, like they belong. Kooris do belonging well. It looks like they could sit there forever.
They and the automobile are sympatico; a fusion of metal and muscle, of carburettor and culture, of motion and stillness. The car is a six-cylinder hymn, humming the bitumen songlines that crisscross this ancient land.
We whitefellas, we sit in a car and it looks like we want to go somewhere. Belonging is difficult for us. Despite reflector polaroids and seats with lumbar support, we look uncomfortable in the technology of our own making. (By ‘own making’, I mean the internal combustion motor was a whitefella invention. I don’t mean that cars are actually made in this country. That’d be silly…)
We are foreign in our own progress, like we are foreign in our own land. We are adrift on an ocean of technology – lost, even with GPS and a Google Maps app. We are trapped on the edge of a continent that was a killing field and a prison but is now a mine. We want to love this awful land – but we don’t know how.
Actually, some of us are starting to twig. Like, not poisoning it would be a start.
The maroon (except for the white rear passenger door) Commodore has a full complement of Kooris inside. They sit low, only heads showing above the door sills, cruising slowly through the ‘roadworks’ on their way to Lismore.
From behind the tinted front passenger window, a black woman aims a smile at the white women lining the side of the road. These women hold placards. The driver leans forward and also smiles at the women. The driver, the passenger and what seems to be a jumble of about 20 others in the back seat all smile and give the thumbs up.
The horn honks.
Well, not honks exactly. The Commodore horn is nearly dead. Instead of honking in support of the resistance to CSG mining at Bentley, it wheezes. But the women with the placards appreciate the enthusiastic though emphysemic endorsement and wave back, smiling.
The council workers are more used to the attentions of traffic and pay little heed to the passing Commodore, except for the traffic controller who lifts his hand from his Stop/Slow sign in greeting.
Here, outside the gates to the property where some bloke has invited a corporation to drill for gas on his land, a council worker is tarring over a big colourful heart painted by protesters on the road. Hence the witches hats and traffic controllers. The heart marks the entrance to the property. It also signifies that love is the reason for protest. Love of land is at the heart of all culture.
The drilling hasn’t started yet, but there are protesters here already. Though it is private land, it is not a private matter. Pollution heeds no boundaries and will ride the aquifers all under this wide, hurting land long after the corporation has posted a profit, bonussed its CEO and moved on to exploit another hick country with a compliant government.
Five workers and five protesters watch the man paint the heart black. The Kooris laugh.
The vibe is good. There are jokes and chitchat. The enemy is not here. Here, on this road, among these living hills, we are all humans breathing the clean air of home.
The enemy is not human, not a natural thing. It is an alien that feeds on planets. It uses people, gobbles land, spews toxins, sees long-term as four financial quarters, and has no children or grandchildren to worry about.
And it wants Bentley.
Well, it can’t have it.