The Dusty Feet Mob

You know how it goes for us nomads, we meet kinfolk who find out were heading towards their friends. Then we meet those people who find out our next stop is in the same town as their friends and on and on. And so it was, that we made our way from Melbourne, to Adelaide to the Dusty Feet Mob in Port Augusta.

We were in Melbourne, VIC, Australia with our friends Nick and Anita Wight. We met Nick and Anita in March of 2014 at Surrender Conference, a gathering of all sorts of kinfolk doing amazing things around the globe in their communities, from offering hospitality to refugees, to creating sustainable/recycled goods, advocating for those who are oppressed to living side by side with folks in some of the poorest parts of the world. We were excited to hear about these like-minded kinfolk and wrote Anita (who was one of the directors at the time) and asked if we could share our music or help in any other way and she said yes! And, that was that, we became fast friends and continued to stay in touch, stopping in to see the Wight family at their Footscray home on our way from here to there.

It’s an encouragement to find friends like the Wights because their friendship not only allowing¬†us to anchor when we need a rest or re-supply but their friendship fuels our hearts with love.

img_2531One night we were sharing a meal and talking about our upcoming trek across South Australia and up to Alice Springs, when their friend Ian Dempster¬†called. Ian was from Adelaide and happened to in Melbourne, driving by their home on his way to a meeting. He didn’t have time to stop over but thought of them as he passed and decided to give them a quick call for a chat. While on the phone the Wights told Ian about us and our desire to come alongside and encourage others and he said, “send them my way.”

We were blessed to meet up with Ian at the Central Market for a coffee and hear about his work with the UAICC (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress). He shared about his passion to collaborate with and encourage his Aboriginal counterparts. Although our time with Ian was brief we shared our desire to meet and hear more of the Aboriginal story as we made our way north and he connected us with his dear friends 3 1/2 hours north in Port Augusta.

img_2596As we neared into the industrial town of  Port Augusta we experienced the vast rose-colored salt lakes, broken mesas and massive rock formations that lifted out of the ground commanding our attention and we were reminded of one of our favorite states in the US, New Mexico. Our hosts, The Wallace family, lived on a pink salt lake around the corner from the railroad and welcomed us to their Port Augusta home. They invited us to settle in, share a meal and do a load of laundry. We found them easy to connect with, specially after they whipped out the Settlers of Catan board. Then it was game on. As a bonus, Anna shared her gift of sewing with us and mended up some of our broken backpacks.

The next day, we joined the¬†Congress Port Augusta – Uniting Church, where we met¬†Jesse Size, Auntie* Maria and the rest of the mob*. The service was informal yet reverent. We all sat in the round, taught each other songs of praise and shared in story. They asked us questions about our travels and we shared¬†the¬†practical stories of how Abba cares for us along the way, making sure our needs are met, just as he cares for the birds of the air. A question was asked about how we deal with conflict and betrayal, an issue close to the Aboriginal heart. We shared the story of the betrayal and reconciliation in our own marriage. ¬†As a legitimate victim, I shared how difficult it¬†was to wait without bitterness or blemish, in faith, for my husband to “own his stuff” and finally how Abba liberated him from his twisted thinking; thinking that kept him bound to a false sense of justice. ¬†As we laid down our pride and trusted, Abba did it all. Faithfully the Great Physician put our marriage back together again. We shared another song or two and said a prayer of blessing over them. It was an honor to be with these saints, to tell our hard story and the story of God’s trustworthy-ness.

Afterwards, there was a lightness in the room as folks were getting ready to move to the next part of the day, a Sunday afternoon picnic. Auntie Maria invited us to join in and explained that it was a picnic for the Dusty Feet Mob, a dance troop that her daughter, Wanita choreographed. She was excited to have us join them and for us to see the children dance.

When we arrived, Maria shared the story of the Dusty Feet Mob and explained that Port Augusta is made up of 36 different Aboriginal groups and the Dusty Feet Mob is inclusive towards them all. She stated their dance troop was created in 2014 to provide a medium for elders to pass on their knowledge to younger generations and as a way to communicate about Aboriginal issues, specifically regarding reconciliation. ¬†The group’s debut performance was at the Peterborough Art Cultural Festival in Port Pirie and since then they have been invited to perform at the NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week and many other state and national events. One of their most riveting performances was alongside famed Aboriginal folk singer, Archie Roach, at the Reconciliation South Australia Event in February 2016

Film Maker Dave Laslett. 

img_2628-1What we learned, and what we shared in Port Augusta was life-giving and inspiring. And, even more was the quiet evening that we spent in Jesse and Chelsea Size’s home, sharing a traditional Aboriginal meal of Kangaroo Tails that Auntie Maria made for us. It was during this meal, as the sun setting in the sky and heat lighting was bolting here and there that Auntie Maria shared her personal story. A story of resilience, perseverance, and faith.

Auntie Maria must have been about my age, maybe a bit older, (meaning she was probably in her early 50’s). So she would have been born during a difficult time in Australian/Aboriginal history. Her people were originally from Maralinga but had to flee thousands of Kilometer into Oak Valley, Cundalee Mission in 1955 after the British Government, along with the Australian Government, dropped an Nuclear bomb on their lands. Some went north, east and west after the bomb to find comfort. Unfortunately, some never recovered and many who have lived through the travesty still feel the effects today with sore eyes or blindness.

Many of Maria’s family were taken to Mt Margaret Mission, Kurrawang Mission or Norseman Mission and placed there under the guardianship board when they were taken from their families. This is now known as the stolen generation. Maria’s mum¬†fled all the way to Perth where she had Maria. However, from what Maria was told her mother died when she was 3 months old. A¬†native welfare worker contacted Maria’s extended family and her oldest sister took her under her wing¬†with other family supporting.¬†Maria was born a half-caste and expressed her deep desire to know¬†her connection to country, to family especially around native titles, etc. Unfortunately, for Maria there is not a lot written about her mum so all she has to go on is what family tells her about who is family and where she fit in.

She spoke fondly of her childhood, growing up in and around Laverton, Mt Margaret and Leonora. She said she was a bit of a cheeky child, later returning to her hometown to see her name still etched into sidewalks and buildings. She said she respects and values her¬†culture and has a deep longing to connect with country but explained that her Brother-in-law, who raised her like his own, had a strong Christian faith and for that she was thankful, for no matter what may come her way, she knows that¬†Jesus is her rock. When all else fails, and she’s seen her share of failings, she falls back on her faith as her firm foundation. Auntie Maria’s story was so inspiring and it was an honor to even have heard a small portion of it.

*Mob is a word used to describe a tribe or family group of Aboriginal people. *Auntie or Uncle are the respectful terms to address an elder woman or man

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Surrender14: Walk Alongside

The opportunity to sit at the feet of a stranger is a gift. It takes an exercise of willingness, a movement of the mind and a softening of the heart for both the listener and the giver. When these moments happen there is an intense infusion of unity into the body and both walk away knowing that God is the one who weaves this body together.

As a family, we seek out these opportunities to be both the listener and the giver. And, thanks to a friend, David Neville Cook’s (Anglican Oversea’s Aid) referral we were gifted with a chance to be stretched further than we ever have been. We reached out to him asking if he might know of any kinfolk we could connect with while we were in Australia, specifically we wanted to learn from and about the Aboriginal people. He put us on to the ¬†Surrender Conference, a gathering of all sorts of folks doing amazing things in their communities, from hospitality to refugees, to creating sustainable/recycled goods, living side by side with folks in some of the poorest parts of the world to intentional communities. We wrote the directors and asked if we could be involved in any way and they said yes! The theme was “Walk Alongside” which suited us, being that that is really what we do as we travel, connecting with communities, to learn from them and walk alongside, sharing in whatever way they desire.

Photo credit to UrbanSeed.org
Photo credit to UrbanSeed.org

The day began with an Aboriginal welcoming ceremony in the courtyard. The Elder from the Wurundjeri people¬†welcomed us to his country and there was a traditional blessing, dance and then the floor opened for others to say a thank you to the elder. Many other Aboriginal people from all over Australia stood to say thank you for welcoming them onto his peoples land. Then others followed including a Cornish man, who gave a blessing. A group of New Zealand¬†MńĀori’s shared¬†their Haka dance, there were folks from Africa that offered a word,¬†Matt LaBlanc Director of IEmergance,¬†representing his Canadian indigenous people and gave a traditional thank you, and there were many more. ¬†To experience the depth of culture during this ceremony was an honor and the perfect way to start our weekend journey learning and listening.

We played plenty of music but the goal was to be present and allow the Spirit to work in our hearts and minds.

14 yrs ago Craig and I merged our cultural backgrounds, foods, music and customs, ideals and beliefs. Craig’s music collection is enormous, eclectic and one of the things that attracted me to him. He introduced me to the music from his land. Bands like the Dirty Three, Nick Cave, and some of the beautiful indigenous music from Australia. I fell in love with one particular band from Victoria called Tiddas,¬†which is Koori¬†for the word sisters. Their music was filled with emotion, tender harmonies and intense lyrics that told the story of their people. One of my favorite songs that they sing was a traditional called Inanay. I learned the song and began to sing it to our daughter at a very early age. I introduced the song to my mother and the three of us would showcase the song in three part harmony at family gatherings and performances. The song had become an interracial part of our journey as mother’s and daughters. And so, as I was sitting across the table from Tracie and Denise, two aboriginal women, I asked them about the song. Wondering if they knew the history or origin? They knew it and were pleased that I did too. It is a song sung by mothers to their children but they were unsure of the origin or language as there were over 250 seperate Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia.

Wycliffe AustrailaThrough the course of the weekend, we listened to different folks share about all different sides of “coming alongside.” We heard advocates from Wycliffe share about the 35 year journey of translating the first ever indigenous scriptures in Australia, which mean¬†30,000 Kriol-speaking indigenous Australians (and countless generations to come) now have the ‚ÄėHoli Baibul‚Äô in their own heart language.

I went to a session on how good intentions are not always in the interest of those we are trying to care for. I¬†heard a woman named Hannah share her story of growing up bi-racial, her mother was Irish and her father¬†MńĀori. She shared about¬†difficulties that it brought but also the joy of being able to move cross culturally with understanding and grace.¬†We learned from many Aboriginal people how folks have failed in the past at “coming alongside” of them and were gracious in sharing traditions and customs to better help their “Whitefella” counterparts to have a better impact.¬†Personally, it was difficult to listen at times, as pride would well up or my own victim stance would try to cloud my ears. Insecurities would seep in when I would have conversation and at times I felt like a fumbling little child. However, I pressed on, releasing my need to be in control and literally made room for the new information in my brain.

Surrender 2014Meanwhile, Craig was also connecting, sharing story, listening to and meeting new friends. The kids were also taking it all in, each in their own way. Our daughter, is more of an observer but found herself in a position where her heart was moved and experienced a very personal moment with God. Our son, is more hands on and always looking for mates to hang with. He brought out his drum during the first late night session and was invited to jam with a mob from the Gold Coast. (Mob is a traditional word for clan or tribe) It was a joy to see them include him like a brother all weekend. They included us too.

As we were jamming, I became aware that they were rehearsing for Indigenous night, where all of the clans would share their music. And, as it turned out they invited us to share the traditional song I mentioned earlier. What an honor to be included in their special night, to be able to feel like we were part of their mob.

At the end of the day, us Hollands really do believe we are one body. And, when we can begin to look deeper into the tie that binds us all together we see a richness of culture, creed and custom. We see the blood of Christ. We see reconciliation as a miracle and not something we can white knuckle. We see the body as God sees the body and that is worth more than our pride or opinions about politics and borders and who’s who, and what’s what. It’s a beautiful thing to experience a little bit of heaven on earth. It’s a precious thing to be apart of this great big tapestry of humanity.

PS. We captured a little video of us singing Inanay and will post it soon.

Australia Tour

Jan 16-19, 2014 Illawarra Folk Festival, NSW Р  Boasting 9500 in attendance, the festival site at Bulli Showground in the spectacular northern Illawarra Escarpment flock to enjoy more than 150 acts performing at 350 events over the four days, making it the largest folk festival in NSW. The Hollands! are excited to be apart of this fantastic festival.

Jan 26 Australia Day (Private Party) Melbourne, VIC

Feb 14  Humph Hall 85 Allambie Rd Allambie Heights, NSW $15 door

Feb 15  Illawarra Folk Club Burelli St, Wollongong, NSW, 2500, AU $20 door

Feb 16  River Music Nowra presents The Hollands! Held at the Nowra Golf Club, Fairway Drive, North Nowra, NSW $15 door

Feb 22 Troubadour Acoustic Club¬†near Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy, NSW, 2256, AU $15 door

Feb 25 Cloverdale House Byron Bay NSW

Feb 26 ¬†The Old Kirk House Concert Series, hosted by Dom, presents The Hollands! held at the Yamba Museum,¬†River Street¬†Yamba NSW 2464 $15 door (come celebrate Jana’s birthday!)

March 1 Gibson Concert Series, held at the Uniting Church Eden NSW

March 13  A Quiet Place Concert Series hosted by the fabulous Penny Larkins and Carl Pannuzzo at the Theatre Royal Castlemaine, VIC $15 door

March 14-16 Surrender Conference, This unique conference is the largest gathering in Australia of its kind, focusing on social justice, radical discipleship and incarnational mission. The conference is hosted by a number of missional communities and organisations working amongst the poor, and run in relationship with Indigenous Australians. Held in Belgrave Heights VIC

March 15 Fiddelhead Festival,¬†Come along to the Fiddlehead Music Festival on Saturday March 15th 2014 at Yinnar Recreation Reserve. Featuring a concert, musical workshops, craft and produce market, children’s activities and more!!¬†Yinnar VIC

March 21-23 Yackandandah Folk Festival High Street Yachandandah, VIC

March 28 Burrinja Ranges Folk Club, 351 Glen Fern Rd, Upwey VIC  $15 door

March 29 Kelly’s Bar and Kitchen, Olinda VIC

March 30 Brickyard Outdoor Concert Series, Sundays live at the Theatre Royal, Castlemaine presents 9 shows through out the summer, including Merrymaking Nomads, The Hollands! http://www.theatreroyal.info for tickets.