Last week’s conference in Albury-Wadonga started with ‘Welcome to Country’ the ritual which opens every major event in Australia it seems – a greeting and ceremony conducted by a local Elder. Mrs Nancy  Rooke of the Wirajudi (think I have that wrong*), welcomed us and we walked through the cleansing smoke of burning gum trees (eucalyptus) into the conference centre, where again we were welcomed with words about education and history and the land. It seemed rather wonderful to connect with the land on which we stood, though apparently some people think this is all tokenistic, given mortality rates of indigenous peoples for example. I just don’t know enough to say yet, but am fascinated by the debate – this is really different from home!

On Sunday I drove into the Blue Mountains to see a friend of a friend (Sandy, for those who know her); turned out we had met before but vaguely in London – ended up having wonderful proper conversation followed by a walk in the rocky mountains nearby where I saw my first kangaroos (Wallaby, strictly speaking, though no one seems sure of the difference, other than Ws are smaller than Ks). Extraordinary creatures, one old and wizened, the other a young, fuzzy haired fawn, both with delicate front legs and paws, beautiful, fragile faces and industrial rear quarters packed with muscle and power. As we were leaving the older animal made three leisurely but ground covering hops through the undergrowth, which I also took as a country welcome.

* turns out there are loads of spellings and I wasn’t that far off – more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiradjuri

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