New Internationalist

Seeing Red

Issue 299

Seeing RED
Illustration by LIZ PYLE

Seeing RED
Greed does a country no good, says Alice Nannup.

When I was in Fitzgerald Street Aunty Jean was still up in Port Hedland, and she used to come down and stay with me for a couple of weeks at a time. Her hair was that red I’d say to her, “Aunty, what’s the matter with your hair? You been dying it?”

“No,” she’d say, “it’s the iron-ore, it’s all over everything.”

That’s the mining that did that, all that tearing up of the earth to get to minerals. When they first talked about getting the iron-ore and putting it on Finucane Island, the Aborigines up there were very upset. That island was a ceremonial ground, it was only 500 yards across from the mainland, so when the tide went out those Aborigines would go there to have their rituals.

I was up there when that iron-ore first started, when they started loading it on to the boats, and the dust kicked up was terrible. It was really red and it blew from east to west, all over the port. Hedland used to be such a beautiful town but it’s ruined now.

Even when they could see how the dust was choking the place they didn’t stop, they just kept on going. They even tried putting hoses and sprinklers to stop it from blowing around but it didn’t work. When I used to come in from Hillside I couldn’t believe it, everything you touched was red. Even the poinciana trees lost their beauty, and they used to be the pride of Port Hedland when they were flowering.

All that mining and destroying the land is something that worries me a lot. It’s not only happening in the Pilbara either, it’s everywhere, the world is off its axis, they’re destroying everything just to make money.

To me, Australia is a big country, and it’s crying poverty today, all through people being greedy. Greed is a terrible thing, and I think everyone should be equal.

It makes me very sad to say this but I don’t think I’ll see a time when there will be true equality in this country, because to me it’s too far gone. I believe there is a time when Jesus comes back and they say there will be a new heaven and a new earth. But until then I don’t think it will change. That is if people don’t develop a respect for one another, and a respect for our land, and stop tearing this beautiful country apart.

I saw some people on the telly the other day, trying to stop these bulldozers from going through and destroying a forest. I felt sorry for those poor people, because they were the ones getting arrested and made to stand aside. The people who were behind it, the greedy ones who don’t care what they’re destroying, they were allowed to keep on going...There’s too much machinery ripping up the country and putting nothing back into it. It really makes me wonder what’s going to be left for future generations.’

Extract from When the Pelican Laughed by Alice Nannup*, Lauren Marsh and Stephen Kinnane 1992 (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, PO Box 320, South Fremantle, Western Australia 6162).

*Alice Nannup was born in the Pilbara, Western Australia in 1911. She was taken from her community at the age of 12 and sent south to work as a domestic servant. After her marriage in 1932 she raised ten children. Known as ‘Nan’, she lived in Geraldton surrounded by friends and extended family until she died in 1995.

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