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  • Writer's pictureKata Kiss


My tribe is my life. I tend the fires and I fish. I have a black wood canoe, Nawi. I use my bait and catch the Wa-lu-mai, the snapper. When the Wallo-mill, the Bullheaded Shark, is away I get the mullet, the Wa-ra-diel. In the evening at the camp I throw the fish on the fire in the exact state in which it came from the water. Soon the fish becomes warm.

Her people are her life.

She looks out the window and sees the smoky streets of the city. As the last beam of sun rays behind te clouds withdrew from the glass she looks up at the sky; dark and heavy. So close to the earth and pressing down. Pressing down on her. On them. People in grey are buying take away dinner wrapped in plastic. The straw in their plastic cup is plastic.

We rub away the scales and we peel off. We gut the fish. The Wa-ra-diel has a fatty substance in the intestines, which is our delicacy. The children collect the bones and the shells, and we leave them in one place on the Earth we respect. Our ancestors emerged from the Earth at the time of the creation. I am a Cammeraygal woman. My name is Barangaroo.

Her name is Terra and she has her own straw and coffee cup. She wears a mask. In the city everybody does. In life humanity experiments for the future. When she feels tired from talking about the issues with plastic and waste and the climate changing she thinks of these guys and remembers that they need her to keep the conversation going. Refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle! She is the daughter of the ocean, the wind, the trees, the Sun and the Moon.

I am the wife of Bennelong, a Wangal man. My language is from the Eora group. I am strong, I have my own way of dealing with the settlers. I refuse to wear European clothes or drink their wine. And I was one of only a few women who had a pierced septum. When I visit the colony with Bennelong I am always 'dressed up' with a bone through my nose. I paint myself with white clay, a statement of my culture.

Sweltering under the hot sun Terra runs the back of her little hand across her forehead. She flicks away the sweat and replaces her hat. She holds a paper box. There are rubber gloves in that box, a pair for each of the group. Where Terra lives there is a 'midden', where Aboriginal people left the remains of their meals. The substantial deposits grew over generations of use of the same area, and the midden is a few metres deep. But today middens are deadly.

I stand by my values. I would only ever catch enough fish for my people's needs. When I witnessed a trawl of more fish than the settlers could eat, I was outraged. I see the demise of my traditional way of life. I am with child now. I want to give birth while I am connecting with the land. It is my tradition. Governor Phillip is forcing me to go to the hospital. I know I will die.

Terra visits Barangaroo’s plaque in Balmoral. “Died of childbirth in a hospital. She was a wise and proud Cammeraygal woman.” Sweat mingles down her beautiful face. Raw survival instinct scorching through her. She lives in the shadows of the stones, in the footprints of the spirits; her friends are the raindrops and the streams are the tears and the blood of her land. Her people and the land need her to keep them alive. The sky is dark, the smoke is thick and the fires are approaching menacingly.

Photo by Val Attenbrow Contributed By Australian Museum

* The name Terra means: The Planet Earth.*

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