australia needs psychic healing

Straight up, I’m an aussiephile. I like Australia. I love Dorothea Mackeller’s 1904 poem ‘My Country’. She writes first about the love of other landscapes – probably referring to England… and then the second verse cuts to the core of Australiana with possibly the most well known, well loved, and most evocatively iconic lines of poetry ever written about Australia. It’s as near to a quick trip to the essential Australia as you’ll ever get.

The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze…

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

But the poem has changed for me. It’s become something more bitter and twisted. I find I can’t read the last three verses in the same way I used to. I wonder when I think about Jake Kovco and the drumming he heard, and how he was paid back, and where his homing thoughts flew.

A close friend of mine was ex army. I think about him a lot. He, like Jake, was very skilled at what he did. Like Jake, had every likelihood to have found himself in the wilful, lavish, brown country that is Iraq. I lived not 10 minutes away. We talked a couple of nights before…but my friend, like Jake, both soldiers – brothers in arms, found peace with a bullet.

And this is where their stories diverge.

We buried my friend with due ceremony, and did our best to comfort his family.

In respect of Jake, I find it utterly gutting that billionaire Kerry Packer can get a state funded memorial service, and the Australian army cannot afford to bring one of their own home. But not just one of their own, the first Australian lost in Iraq. It’s not as though there have been thousands lost, and slip was made because of the volume; no, this is sends a signal of gross and callous moral ineptitude not only to the Australian public, and the Australian military abroad, but to the world at large. If you’re after publicity for Australia, John, and I imagine you are because of all the tourism advertising we see here – um, where the bloody hell are ya?

I assume you pimped your role with the aussie flag and struck your usual pose on tuesday. I know you favour attempting to engender respectability by drapping the flag over every event even slightly attended by the media. I believe after it began to stick and stink you offered your private jet to fly Jake’s mum to pick him up. John, it was too little, too late, shamefully late.

I know it’s not deliberate. But it is symptomatic. I know it’s hideous. But it can be used to make meaningful changes. I know you’ll go to the funeral. But there is no alternative. I know there’ll be tears, perhaps even from you. But that’s ok, because puppets don’t cry. I know you can’t make it right. Because it’s not, and never will be. But that’s not a reason for not trying. Not for yourself, or for Jake, or for his family. But for all Australians, and indeed, for the rest of world.

Please, John, have some courage and moral convictions that sound like they came from a human.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

What Australia needs is the end of the stinking reign. They need the steady, soaking rain.

One thought on “australia needs psychic healing

  1. kate

    “What Australia needs is the end of the stinking reign.”

    I need not say more.

    Lynsey, can you bless your gentle readers with some literature that captures the heart of New Zealand?

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