In the early eighties my partner Suzi introduced me to the land we have now lived on for more than 40 years. On that first walk through the gully the land grabbed me, spoke to me. I felt immediately connected to it and even now I find it hard to describe the depth of stillness and the joy, that visiting the gully brings me every time I venture down there. Soon after that first visit we were able to become the custodians of this small piece of land. We built our home and raised our family on it.
In 1993 I was Co-Artistic Director, with Anni Luur Fox, of Adelaide Hills based Dance Company Dance Excentrix, when Anni put to the committee that we undertake a collaborative project with local historian Robin Coles, his partner in Gecko Tours Rob Moore and Peramangk elder Richard Hunter. Robin had an interest in the Rock Art of the Peramangk people. He had accessed historical records an images of these art works and, in the process of re-discovering them, he and Rob had discovered more. They were consulting with Richard Hunter at the time in his role as an Elder of the Peramangk people.
The concept proposed to us by Hahndorf historian and educator Reg Butler was that we mount a series of workshops and performances for local school children that told a story of the continuous history of our region, from the Peramangk through to the early years of settlement. Children who attended the workshops would become the core of performers for the resultant series of Schools performances.
Robin Coles and Richard Hunter led a series of fascinating discussions, sharing information recorded by early anthropologists like W.A Cawthorne. They shared stories of ceremony held on Mt Barker summit. They shared images of the Rock Art of the Peramangk people. This was the first time I had been exposed to the longer, deeper history of the place that I felt so at home in. The gift of this knowledge gave me a concept or a context within which to place my feeling of connection to the land. I would sit in the gully and imagine the lives of those who had travelled through and camped in that place for thousands of years. I not only felt connected to the land but to its past and to the Ancestors of place.
We are creatures amongst the many creatures of Nature and the others who have walked this earth before us. Feeling close to the land and to those who have walked this way gives us a sense of well-being and a feeling of belonging to something greater than our selves. Having profound respect for the land, for our fellow creatures and for those who have gone before us, offers us continuity, timelessness. It has been life changing for me to have some small knowledge of those who walked this land before me and I will be forever grateful to those who shared that knowledge with me. This is one of many Reconciliation stories that make me the person that I am today. I am ever hungry for more stories about the Peramangk and found many in the book Ochre Warriors that Richard and Robin went on to write. I have a passion to have these stories more widely known and many others unearth