Neverland: The Lost Continent of Australia

Balanda dreaming

The story of a lost white child who is guided
back to reality by a kindly black elder has been played out
many times in Australian literature and film. The bathos of
innocence—child and native—holds the worldly business
of white adults at a safe distance. What the ceremony lacked
was a meeting of indigenous and settler adults negotiating a
treaty that would establish mutual obligations satisfactory
to both parties. Historically, the opening ceremony dropped
the baton that might link first and subsequent peoples in a
shared story.

Despite the language differences, a Malay cook on board
Flinders’ ship helped translate precise details:

The mode of preserving [trepang] is this: the animal is
split down one side, boiled, and pressed with a weight of
stones; then stretched open by slips of bamboo, dried in
the sun, and afterwards in smoke, when it is fit to be put
away in bags, but requires frequent exposure to the sun

Trepang
featured strongly in Southeast Asian media. Three national Indonesian
television stations covered the event, and favourable reviews
appeared in Indonesian and even Malaysian press. Despite this
coverage, Australian media ignored the event. Ironically, the
obsession with Pauline Hanson kept more positive Asian exchange
out of the newspapers.
Responses to the Macassan story have come from a number of
rock bands. In 1990, Milingimbi’s Wirrngga Band released
a song called ‘Takkerena’, which was the Macassan
name for the trepanging camp in this area. Three years later,
Maningrida’s Sunrise Band produced a hit for 3JJJ titled
‘Lembana Mani Mani’, the Macassan name for their
town.
In 1988, Peter Spellit from the Darwin Museum reconstructed
a Macassan pinisi for a commemorative voyage from Australia
to Sulawesi. According to Jeremy Mellefont of the Maritime Museum,
the sailors’ perspective is different from that of academics:
‘Sailors see oceans as what connects people, whereas academics
see oceans as what separates them.’ Thinking about the
rich history of traffic in Australia’s northern seas,
the British leap across to the antipodes begins to seem less
originary.
The
origins of ‘Pakeha’ are more obscure. It relates
either to Paakehakeha (‘Gods of the ocean who had the
forms of fish and man’), Patupaiarehe (‘Beings with
fair skin and hair who gave people the secret of fishing with
nets’), or Pakepakeha (‘mythical, human like being,
with fair skin and hair who possessed canoes made of reeds which
changed magically into sailing vessels’).
We have a virtual federation of terms for each of the continent’s
regions—Balanda (top end), Gubba (southeast), Kartiya
(centre), Migloo (northeast), Numeraredia (Tasmanian), Watjala
(west) and Goonya (southern). Using a framework of Aboriginal
Australia, we might find way of articulating the differences
that make up its non-indigenous population. This includes well-meaning
but paternalistic Gubba, extrovert and cavalier Migaloo, caring
yet ridiculous Balanda, busy and violent Watjala and head in
the clouds Kardiya.
To central desert people such as the Pitjantjatjara, the beanie
is a traditional item of clothing that has its origins in pre-contact
times. Head-dresses were woven from human hair and worn by senior
men, who used them as receptacles for precious objects.
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