They used the bullet to shoot us down.
We are using our art like a bullet to fire back at people, to speak like a tongue, to get people to understand what they done to us and how they keep destroying our land.
We are fighting back.
Jack Green, Borroloola 2020.
Jilajabar Nyulili Dungala Yurdi Jarlurna—Lead in my Grandmother’s Body
My grandmother, Charlie, Nora and Jerry Brown’s mother was a Garrwa woman. At Wentworth station near the Northern Territory and Queensland border there’s a place called Massacre. It’s a place where a lot of Garrwa people were shot. A lot of people tried to get away into the sea but they were shot, bodies floated in the water. Others ran for the hills at Wollogorang. My grandmother was there, she got shot in the arm, but she escaped the killing. The bullet stayed there, lodged in her arm. My mother and her cousin used to tell me how when they were kids they could feel the lead in her body. She died later at Manangoora.
Nancy McDinny, 2020.
Hunting us down like dogs
This story is from out near the Glyde River, west of Borroloola, up top near McArthur River Mine. There used to be a whitefella stationed out that way at McArthur River. He reckons some Aboriginal people speared the cattle. He and others got together like the whitefellas used to do and hunted us Aboriginal people down. This fella chased a lot of them of the top of the cliff, shooting them, running horses at them, pushing off the edge on to the rocks below.
Same thing happened, at Robinson River, east from Borroloola. Here the whitefellas came riding fast on their horses with their guns drawn. You can see all the bullets being fired at the people there, some ducking down, a lot of people getting shot. They my family.
We keep these stories in our minds, what they done to us.
Jack Green, 2020.
Paul Foelsch cousin-brother to John Howard
Foelsche, that fella he shoot all the people at Markilarmbar, what whitefellas call Foelsche River, in Garrwa Country. He shot all the women, children, everything. He had well-armed police with him, sharp-shooters, big guns. That fella, he can kill fast.
John Howard he’s like a cousin-brother to Foelsch. John Howard kill you slowly, before you know it you’re finished, from his words, from his Intervention. He takes our power.
Today we got the police. They just walk right into our houses, no knocking, no asking, no warrant. They walk right in with guns and battens and walk right over the old people sleeping on the floor. All the kids are scared.
It’s our country, we own it, it’s our Law but the police walk right in. They take our power, government got more power than us Blackfellas.
Thing is where the whitefellas live in Borroloola, up in the sub, policeman got to ask, got to have a warrant, they can’t just walk into your house.
Stewart Hoosan, 2020.
They Killed my Grandfather
My grandfather, a Yanyuwa man, cousin brother to Vanderlin Jack and uncle to my mother Eileen McDinny was arrested in Borroloola and taken to Darwin. In Darwin the police put him and other Aboriginal people on a ship to take them away to Palm Island in Queensland. Palm Island was like a prison where they took a lot of Yanyuwa, Garrwa, Gudanji, Gangalidda and Waanyi people. They took our people away who were fighting for our freedom. Whitefellas called them troublemakers.
My mother told me the story of how my grandfather never made it to Palm Island. On the way from Darwin near Townsville the policemen on the ship put my grandfather in a wooden box and nailed it shut while he was still alive. Then they dropped the box over the side of the ship into the water.
Nancy McDinny, 2020.
Yarriyarri was a Garrwa warrior. His country was around the Robinson and Calvert Rivers. When he was a young fella he saw a lot of killing when whitefellas came in and took the land. Yarriyarri stayed on his Country. He wasn’t moving. When one whitefella came in to Yarriyarri’s country with the pastoral lease for the land that the government gave him, the whitefella made it clear he didn’t like backfellas and tried to push Aboriginal people off. Yarriyarri ignored the whitefella’s claim to the land. He used to kill the whitefellas nanny goats and bullocky and eat them, feed other Aboriginal people. Once Yarriyarri threw a spear at the whitefella to scare him, show him that he wasn’t ever going to leave his country. Yarriyarri lived to around 100 years old and died of the Hong Kong Flu in 1969.
Stewart Hoosan, 2020.
Ngyirridji Gunindjba—the Devil that fiddles and digs in our country
This painting represents the McArthur River region where Glencore, the devil that fiddles and digs in our country, operates one of the world’s biggest lead, zinc and silver mines. The McArthur River region is a powerful place, it’s full of sacred sites that give us life.
The red circles represent the sacred sites. At the tail of the Rainbow Serpent rests the Damangani Dreaming, in the top right is the Jerriminni Dreaming. The Garbula tree and the Turtle Dreaming are other sacred sites right at the place where they cut the Snake to create the massive open cut pit in our land when they diverted McArthur River. After they diverted the river a lot of the senior Minggirringi (traditional owners) and Junggayi (manager or policeman) for that place died.
The blue circles represent the Dreaming track of another Rainbow Serpent, they show the way he came in before he went down into the ground. That Snake’s another powerful ancestral being that can make winds and cyclones.
The mining company have never made a comprehensive agreement with us Aboriginal people. They just throw little scraps to us, trying to make some of us happy. While they’re busy throwing their scraps they keep destroying our land and desecrating our sacred sites. All the Minggirringi and Junggayi for that Country been fighting for an agreement to protect our sacred sites, our waters and lands from being damaged by the mine, but they not listening to us.
Government doesn’t care either as they are busy inviting frackers to come into our Country and drill for gas. We are all real worried about all of the damage they doing, and the toxic waste they are leaving behind that will slowly get into our water and into our children’s bodies.
Jack Green, 2020.
Desecrating the Rainbow Serpent
The left of the painting represents a time when we had authority over country. We lived on and cared for country. We protected our sacred places. By protecting and nurturing our sacred sites we protect and nurture our spirituality, our wellbeing as Gudanji, Garrwa, Mara and Yanyuwa peoples.
The right of the painting represents the present time when we have no authority over our ancestral country at McArthur River. The artwork illustrates how the resting place of The Rainbow Serpent looks now. It’s been smashed by McArthur River Mine. Country, torn open to make way for one of the largest lead, zinc and silver mines the world has ever seen. To do this Glencore cut the back of our ancestor—The Rainbow Serpent—by severing McArthur River and diverting it through a 5.5 kilometre diversion cut into our country.
A lot of people have died because of the desecration of our sacred places. Interfering with these powerful places, it pulls people down. The stress of seeing our land suffer means we suffer. Men tried to fight but got pulled down. I might be the next one, or the Junggayi will go down. The mining executive might go too. All this pressure, it’s no good.
Jack Green, 2014.
Lead in the water, just like bullets
When the whitefellas first invaded our country they came with big guns. Whitefellas shot lots of our people to make way for their cattle. They put lead in our bodies with those bullets. Now Glencore the big mining company that owns McArthur River Mine is doing the same thing. Lead from the Mine has been found in our fish. It flows into the water, into the fish and into our bodies. The lead in the water is just like the bullets they used to kill us with.
Jack Green, 2020.
Our Country is alive and Whitefellas don’t want to know
Glencore, the company that owns McArthur River Mine, talk about the mine being in the middle of nowhere, at great distances from the places the Whitefellas fly in from to work there. But it’s not in the middle of nowhere.
McArthur River Mine sits in our country, right amongst a network of sacred sites and cultural places that give us life.
Miners are always trying to get up close to our people, pick them off one by one. They like to get photos of their people shaking Aboriginal people’s hands. They are always busy trying to make things look good while they poison our land and damage our sacred places.
Jack Green, 2020.
The Aliens have Landed
This painting is about how McArthur River Mine Community Relations Officers work. They been rounding-up Aboriginal people, putting them on a bus and driving them out of town. They take them away from the wider group and work on them to get them to agree to everything the mine wants.
I painted aliens landing in a space ship cos the mine people (Community Relations Officers) work like aliens, they fly in decked out in McArthur River Mine gear and they talk money. It’s like they control people’s minds just like I seen on TV the way some aliens control human minds with their special powers. “ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ, we are in control” And then they got everyone lined up and under their control, just like them aliens.
Some people are starting to realise they being used, but a lot of others aren’t. MacArthur River Mine mob have taken over Borroloola. They know Aboriginal people worried about money, how to get food on the table to feed their kids. This makes us mob easy targets for the mine mob to work on. What they don’t realise is they losing out in a big way by playing with that company who are poisoning our country.
Jack Green, 2020.
Blowfly at the Shops
As Aboriginal people we got the right to organise and decide who speaks for Country. That’s our Law.
Even though the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says this, and that the Australian Government agreed when it signed-up, we find it real hard to do this around Borroloola.
Here, we got some companies who got their people to pick us off, one-by-one. They tryin’ to smash our voice, smash our Law. That’s what this painting is about. Under a smoke-filled sky a person hovers around the shops; pulling people aside, a little meeting here, a bag-full of tucker there, money under the table perhaps.
They real busy working to break our Law. They line us blackfellas up, one-by-one, and wear us down so they can get access to our Country and its resources.
They always there, buzzing round, just like a blowfly.
Jack Green, 2016.
White fellas work like white ants
The white fella bulldozer is pushing over what he thinks is just a tree. But it’s not. It’s a sacred site tied in with the songlines that run through our country. Above the bulldozer is a white ant. White ants destroy things. On the right of the painting I show how white ants attack and kill healthy trees. The white ants find the weak spot, like a decaying root, they get in there and slowly start eating the tree from the inside out until they kill it.
This is what white fellas do to us Aboriginal people when they want to get us to agree to one of their mining projects. They find the weak ones in our cultural groups. They look after them. They use them to sell their plans, and to tell us there will be jobs and goods things for the mine.
This way of working always causes conflict amongst our people. It starts to eat away at our cultural groups and our Law, from the inside, just like white ants do. When they pick us Aboriginal people off and separate the weak ones from our cultural groups they killing them and our culture. I symbolise this in my painting by the body hung by the neck in the tree. The person is separated and isolated from our cultural group, might as well be dead.
White fellas they just work like white ants.
Jack Green, 2014.
This painting is about how Glencore work in Borroloola. Glencore won’t let us organise under our own Law. Instead, they pick off one or two of our people. They say to them, “If you can work for us we’ll get you a motorcar, we’ll give you tucker. You’ll be well looked after, and you’ll have money and everything. So if you want this, you help us get an agreement. You talk for us to your family”.
They want these people to say to the families, “Look if you work with the mining company you will get money, you’ll get motorcar, you’ll get everything you need”. But in the back of Aboriginal people’s minds we worried about our land, our song lines, and our sacred sites. We worried about our bush tucker. We worried about our future.
Three men under the dollar signs represent the Aboriginal fellas that have been picked off by the mining company. The mining company man is standing behind the Aboriginal fella, patting his back and saying to him, “You talk up for me old man”.
The ice cream, lollies on a plate and cake symbolise the absurdity of what’s being offered to us. Things that have little long-term value to us. Things that won’t last. Here now, but quickly gone, just like an ice cream in the sun.
Glencore throw down scraps like this while they destroy our sacred sites and contaminate our land and water, while the government watches.
There’s no way we should be played off like this. We want people in the cities to know what’s happening to us. They have to know how their governments work with mining companies to do us over and destroy our land.
Jack Green, 2014.
Sucking the life from us
For thousands and thousands of years our people have lived along the rivers in the Gulf Country. Water in the rivers, creeks, billabongs, rock-holes and wetlands is very important to us Aboriginal people. There’s fish, turtles, crocs and shellfish living in the water and close by are the wallabies, birds, and goanna. The water and the animals give us people life. Resting, in many of these places, are powerful Ancestral Beings from The Dreaming. We look after them all with songs and ceremony and protect the places where they rest.
Whitefellas don’t care about the water. Whitefellas come straight into our Country with their trucks, looking for minerals and gas, and when they find em, they come with their drill rigs to start drilling and digging and sucking up our water. They suck the life from us and leave us with poison in our Country.
Jack Green, 2020.
Water gives us life
Places with water are very important to us Garrwa, Gudanj, Marra and Yanyuwa people and all the animals that live with us. Ancestral Beings also live in some of the waters. We talk to these beings like we do our own relations, their spirits come into our families when new generations are born. We care for them with songs and ceremony and protect the places they rest.
When whitefellas first pushed in to our country with their cattle they tried to take over our land and waters. We fought back and many of our people died in the wars. Today, whitefellas still keep coming into our country looking to take our water for their mining and fracking projects. Just like the doctor sucks the blood out of you with a syringe, miners and fracking companies suck the life from our lands, waters, plants and people. They damage our Country, pollute our waters and poison our futures. All around us is powerful, sacred country and whitefellas can’t see it and don’t care as they chase money.
Jack Green, 2020.
Same Story, Settlers—Miners
This painting is about how we are tryin’ to pull up the mining companies from wrecking our country. We live in this country. It belongs to us. We tryin’ to stop them from wrecking our country.
In the bottom left of the painting are the miners entering our country. First they come with their ‘agreements’, but they override us; they still come, it doesn’t matter what. Then they come with their dozers.
Lined up on the edge of the river are Aboriginal people ready to drive the miners out of our country. It’s not the first time that we have had people invade our country. It happened, first time, back in the 1870s when white explorers with their packhorses started moving through our country, looking round to see what was there. Aboriginal people were watching them from a distance, staying back, not wanting to be seen.
Others were ready to spear them. You can see this story in the bottom right hand side of the painting. Above this is a group of Aboriginal men at the foot of the stone country. They have been watchin’ what is going on and talking about what to do, how to protect our country.
Jack Green, 2012.
Australia: All Us Blackfellas got a Snake story
In the centre of the painting is the head of the Snake. I’ve not given him any name. Everywhere, us Blackfellas got stories about Snakes, like the Rainbow Serpent. Snakes are powerful ancestral beings that we gotta take care of them.
You can see mining trucks driving into him and ripping all his guts out. They killing our Snake. You see the truck going in empty and coming out full, before the minerals are hauled by road-trains to the coast and then shipped to other countries.
The yellow drilling rigs represent all the fracking going on all over Australia. They pullin’ out the gas. On the right you can see a big pile of coal, they digging more and more of this black stuff out of the country. It’s like they never going stop.
Most whitefellas live, yarded up like cattle, in the big cities, stacked up in those big towers. A lot of them don’t know what’s happening all round Australia and the big fight we got goin’ on to try and protect our lands, water and sacred sites.
All over the painting you can see Aboriginal people standing with raised flags. These fellas represent us Aboriginal people living on our homelands, we’re all over this country. It doesn’t matter where you go in Australia Aboriginal people are everywhere.
Down Sydney way you can see Captain Cook’s ship with his boats coming ashore. This is where the killing started.
To the right of the head of the Snake there’s a pastoral mob standing there, worried about what’s happening in the country. Many of these people are worried about what’s happening to the land with all the mining and all the drillin’ going on. They startin’ to wake up.
All this digging, drilling and fracking will destroy the land. One day the whole of Australia will be split in half because of all the earth they moving, taking out of here.
Jack Green, 2017.
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