I arrived in Mullum from Sydney in 1976 – I loved the town and the people and felt like I belonged.
In about 2010-ish I was told, and shown paperwork, that I had family history here. In 1879 my great uncle was allocated 500 acres at Federal and moved there in 1882. He built a big house – Beechgrove – that still stands there now and in 1906 he was on the first Byron Council. His name was William John Bate. I was so proud and my sense of belonging grew even stronger – I’d show off about it sometimes (a lot!).
I could never understand the awful treatment of Aboriginal people and the more I educated myself on their plight the crankier I became.
Bruce Pascoe’s wonderful book Dark Emu finally came into my hands and I was reading it concurrently with watching the great NAIDOC Week stories (on SBS mostly) – so deep and intense.
Don’t know why it took so long, but I finally got hit with a lightning bolt when I realised that the powers that be had given Bate Bundjalung land. Truly, the reality made me feel sick – bloody white superior bastards.
I’d been thrilled to have local ancestry but now I feel ashamed to be connected (even genetically) with the dispossession of the local owners of the land. All I can hope is that Bate was a kind man.
In truth, I’d like to reincarnate him with his fat privileged face, suit, waistcoat and fob watch and slap his face.