I open my eyes, I am standing, the old people, the ones before - we stand side by side. My family.
Phoebe Grainer

5 Jul 2019 - 11:38 AM  UPDATED 9 Oct 2019 - 5:45 PM

Nhyu jina, nhyu Djungan buma.

At my feet, my brother lies. No epitaph, no name engraved in rock. Stones covering his body. I look out to Wurramurrakunda and I think of ones before, now, to come. What did they live for? What will they live for? Wurramurrakunda is a lake that lies at the bottom of the hill I stand on. The pithchu pitchu reflects in the ripples of the slow current. I watch as each star moves in and out. Gurubugel is dancing. I can hear my grandmother say, ‘the evening star is dancing, I am dancing.’ Mituki, the protector owl calls out in the distance, I can hear sticks breaking and insects and birds singing their night song. I sit and look out in the distance, bush and darkness, not touched by mula, not changed for thousands of years, wurramurrakunda and the small passage that leads to a small open plain, its burnt brown grass looks like fire in the night. I lie down on Djungan butcheree. I feel safe, I feel, home. I shut my eyes.

‘Quadda, quadda!’

I wake, my heart beats fast, the voice is loud and close. I am scared and I know that I have come here alone. I look around, it is darker now and the moon shines bright.

‘Quadda, Quadda!’

I slowly calm myself, I am home, only my people are here. I sing out, letting the old people know who I am. I wait in the darkness.


‘Quadda, Quadda!’

My eyes search around the trees at the bottom of the hill. The pitchu pitchu shines off the red ochre on the leaves touched from mula. It looks like wet blood.


The voice does not sound scary, it sounds of a family member, familiar and old. I have heard this voice before. I stand, sweat in my palms, sweat at the bottom of my back. I look down at the red ochre path, deliberate on each grass blade and begin to walk.  

‘Quadda, Quadda!’

My monga sticks up. I am frightened but I know I am home. I slowly begin to walk down the red ochre path. The ochre soaked on the leaves slowly paints my body. I know boogagie is here.

I yell,

‘Kuku Djungan! Nyhu Djungan Buma!’

I walk the ochre path to the open plain. The warm breeze calms and pushes me forward, pitchu pitchu lighting the open plain like fire. I reach the end of the open plain. I see Jelbu, the voice calling me. Jelbu stands tall, proud. Pitchu pitchu shines down on her, lighting her monga that touches her thigh, she is as black as the pitchu pitchu. She stands, her head held high, as if she is watching from the highest mountain. Ochre covers her body. I speak.

‘Yondoo woomie nhyu?’

‘Yondoo nitchengee nhyu?’

Jelbu turns. Her black eyes pierce mine and I see myself and then darkness. I open my eyes, I am standing, the old people, the ones before, we stand side by side. My family. We stand close, quiet, I feel them, I feel their strength, they give me power. We begin to sing. I feel, home. 

Phoebe Grainer is a Djungan woman from Far North Queensland and is part of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. Phoebe completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2016. Her performance credits include SaltbushScorched and Yellamundle Festival Readings. Phoebe's work has been published in The Lifted Brow.

This article has been published in partnership with Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. Editorial support for each piece has been provided by Winnie Dunn and Michael Mohammed Ahmad.  


National NAIDOC Week runs 7 - 14 July 2019. For information head to the official site. Join the conversation #NAIDOC2019 & #VoiceTreatyTruth 

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