Part 1 ..A New Homeland.
They rolled across the flatlands of the Murray River plains like an unstoppable force of nature..
They rolled with tenacious persistence,
They forged a new Silesia.
They forged a new Posen.
They forged a new homeland.
From the Vistula River they came,
From those fertile river flats and valleys,
From The Oder River they came,
From those hills and mountains.
Where myths and eagles flew,
Where Roman legions once fought,
Took their dreams from their own land.
To this strange country,
To this strange and distance place.
Where dreamtime and eagles fly,
Where the indigenous people danced.
Sang their songs to a new land,
New life gifted from their God,
God of one people, one faith, one fortune.
So they were told by their pastors,
So were foretold by their gospels,
In the faith their version of religion,
Twisted, shaped to fit their character,
And to fit their culture,
And to fit their nature.
No deviation allowed,
No forgiveness those who fell from grace.
No forgiveness for not pulling their weight.
A weight owed both community and Pastor.
Pastor’s words were the words of their god,
Words of their God were to be obeyed.
Churches were quickly built,
Churches were proficiently built,
On that land that still held scent,
Scent of wild animals hunted,
Hunted and held and respected
Hunted by the indigenous peoples
Totems of the indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples driven away,
Driven away at gun-point,
Driven from their hunting grounds,
Driven from their living lands,
Driven from their ceremonial grounds,
Alongside stream and river,
Along hills and valleys,
Driven from their own particular “churches”.
The settlers had arrived in numbers,
Didn’t understand the indigenous peoples,
Forced themselves from their own lands,
Forced at gunpoint from their Homeland.
Kaiser’s army breaking the towns,
All the weavers and crafts people,
All the trades and craft people,
Despised also for their culture,
Despised also for their nature,
Farmlands enclosed by cruel governance,
Work-skills torn from their hands,
Forced to re-make their religion,
Forced to re-learn another language,
Forced to change their family names,
Forced at gun-point to flee their country.
So they come far away a sailing,
Far away to this new country.
From far away to this strange country,
With their folk their clatter and cluster.
A desperate people with nothing to lose,
A determined people with nothing to lose.
To create a new home from memory lost.
So the English governors of the day,
Knowing their plight,
Knowing their flight,
Used them to open out that wild country,
East of the Ranges, West of the river,
Open out those hunting grounds,
Open out those indigenous lands,
Used them to push into, force unto,
Confront the indigenous peoples.
Confront true owners of the land,
Force confrontation force the hand,
To “Justify” retaliation.
To “Justify” indignation.
To “Justify” brutal militia retaliation,
By the governors of this new nation.
A collection of criminals,
A collection of prospectors,
A fascist corporate state,
With no regular military,
No sober police force, only delinquents.
Seeking any excuse to break,
The agreement of The Letters Patent.
The Letters Patent that gave right,
To the indigenous people’s rights,
From the King came those rights,
From the Parliament came those rights.
A signed agreement for their rights,
Directed precisely to the governors,
A betrayal of King and Parliament,
By the Governors of the State.
“Governors”..Ha!..better called lazzeroni!
The lands of the Ngayawung,
The Ngarkat of the mallee region,
Each with its own beliefs and laws,
Each with its own language,
Each with its own culture.
Driven out from their homelands,
Driven at gun point from their lives,
If not guns then swamped and ruined
By the running of thousands of sheep
Through their hunting grounds,
Over their living grounds,
Through their water holes.
Tens of thousands of sheep and stock,
Ruining feed ruining quarry, water..
Ruining the bloody lot not a jot!
When the indigenous stood ground,
They were shot.
They were small-poxed,
They were given disease,
They were given alcohol.
The women prostituted.
Their whole system was betrayed
Religion, laws, ceremonial culture,
A society guarded by kinship,
Knowledge from the Elders,
Knowledge passed to the younger,
Exactly as our “civilized” culture,
All this was lost in the melee.
Hunting grounds and boundaries lost,
A network of respect lost,
A network of ritual lost,
A network so lost and destroyed
With the coming of the middle-classes.
White men with their property boundaries,
With their titles of land ownership.
With their grazing erosion,
With their grazing destruction,
The end of millennia ways of life.
Of corroboree and songlines.
It is gone,
It is gone,
It is gone.
Came the Silesian settlers who knew no better,
Who too were fighting for their lives,
Used as blunt-instruments to confront
Used to clear-fell the mallee.
To clear-fell too small blocks of land to farm,
Allocated to them from far away.
“Trees don’t pay taxes” they were told,
So the taxes were eternal,
But the trees were not.
Some will have to break,
The weak will fall, strong take all.
“Let the strong swim,
The weak may sink”.
Underestimated were these new settlers,
Determination, perseverance in measure,
Already had they been tested,
By their own German government
Had they not been harried, shot, chased
From their own homelands.
Compelled to “Germanize” their names,
Their religion, their cultures..
The new Republic of Germany.
Suffer the consequences….
So they came,
A multitude came,
With their Pastors,
With their gospels,
With their songs,
With the village,
To Australia…to South Australia.
To the end of the century,
Slavic peoples in ancestry,
Germanic in nationality,
Eastern European in geography.
They came, veni.
They saw, vidi.
They conquered. Vici.
Three waves of Germanic migration,
The Eastern farmers and trades,
They brought their animal husbandry.
The cultured Urban Middle-class,
They brought opera to the state.
They brought vineyards to the state,
The proletariat industrial workers,
Brought their skilled metal trades.
Held themselves to themselves,
Settled in The Barossa Valley,
Settled on the St. Kitts, Kapunda lands.
Farmed the Steinfeld,
Farmed the Truro,
Farmed the Murray Flats,
Farmed from Eudunda to Sedan.
Worked their tynes knife-blade thin,
On the “Break-heart country”.
Spoke their own native tongue,
English in their homes a second language.
As any families who have lost everything,
As any who had been granted second grab at life,
They took no prisoners, social, pragmatic.
Protected their own.
Small hamlets scattered on the mallee,
Small hamlets under one pastor,
Families all working together,
Families all praying together,
Their land leased from a tyrannical landlord.
A fascist corporate state,
A fascist South Australian Company,
Even before the name “Fascist” was defined.
Cruel landlords keen on speculation,
Keen on entrepreneurialship.
Using the German pioneers as cheap labour,
To clear that land recently stolen,
Stolen from the first peoples.
Northern clans and tribes driven,
Massacred by advanced weapons,
Weapons imported without restraint,
Weapons of the American carbines,
Carbines to replace the black-powder muskets,
Muskets that needed close-quarter contact,
Close contact that at least gave a chance,
To the skilled indigenous spear throwers.
To at least fight back.
Then on it was shooting fish in a barrel.
It was all over..
New hamlets come to grow,
More children come to grow,
Hamlets come to grow into towns,
Farmlands start to produce profits,
German peoples start to organize,
Civil governance, local councils,
Town bands, choir, theatre they made,
Organised around church and pastor,
Liaison with central state government.
But kept at arm’s length,
Kept away from state intrusion,
Kept themselves to themselves,
Still suspicious of the English landlords,
Still wary of the English system.
Still leery of the hard hand,
Hard hand of the ruling class.
Ruling class that valued little,
The use of an alternative culture,
The songs of a cultural people.
Would cast adrift any group,
Any peoples hindering their path,
Toward total capital domination.
Suspicion from both parties ruled,
Little done via civil intrusion,
Intrusion into health or education,
The Germanic clusters with own schools,
With unpronounceable names,
With inflexible natures.
Watched with suspicion,
Watched from afar,
Left to their own devices,
So when disease swept the clans,
So the central administration,
Did what they did to the indigenous peoples,
…..They left them to rot!
So they drained the swamps,
So they farmed the flatlands,
So they farmed the hilltops, stoney flats,
Draught horse and harrow,
Picking up the stones by hand,
Making piles from the back of a dray.
Farmed their lands with wood and iron,
Wood, iron and steel ploughs,
Till the tynes and shares were worn,
Worn to a slither, blunt as a gibber.
Farmed the wind-blown flats,
Sang songs to the billowing clouds,
Even as their families died with the fever,
Even as their children died with diphtheria,
Or harrowing births gone wrong,
Attended only by young girls as midwife,
Too frightened by ghastly complication,
Of a childbirth gone wrong,
To do little but cry in shock,
What could very well be their own fate.
Died in fires and accidents,
Too frequent to collate,
On a statistician’s slate,
Too far from medical assistance.
Left buried in sad cemeteries
Serenaded through the fall of time
By lonely, sighing sheoaks around the perimeter of the church yard..
Under the lee of Marschall’s Hut,
Under the soil interred sixty-eight souls,
Forty two there are children.
What can a people do with an “unholy site”,
That taken so many of their small ones,
The count of tears becomes so high,
The count becomes so intolerable,
Move away from that “unholy” place,
Move over the flat-lands of the Murray plains,
Their names spread like Summer chaff,
Place to place,
Town to town,
Driven by a faith unstoppable,
Driven by a courage inviolate.
(Nb. This is a “work in progress and may be altered or added to at any time….J.C.)