Nyuntu Anangu Maruku Ngurangka Ngarinyi

Which means “You are on Aboriginal land” in Pitjantjatjara, a language of northern South Australia. It’s a phrase that appears on T-shirts and posters and postcards sold at the cultural centre at Uluru, or  Ayers Rock.

I was reminded of it recently following a conversation with an archaeologist friend. “You know those shells in the concrete of the creek?” he asked. Of course I did: the place is littered with them.

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I even claimed to know where they came from: they were gathered by the ton from Stockton beach in the interwar period when the drain beds and banks were concreted.

But those shells weren’t just lying around on Stockton beach. They were conveniently piled in immense middens that had grown over countless generations. The placement of these middens is no accident as my friend had learnt whilst in the Top End of the Northern Territory; the placement of middens has huge cultural and spiritual significance to the people who call that country home.

It was quite a bolt of lightning moment. I simply hadn’t thought of it like that. Every time I’ve walked down the creek I’ve been walking on tiny parts of Worimi land transported here, to Awabakal country. But the end is still the same: even down the drain I’m on Aboriginal land.

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