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Kurraarr Far Country 1972 | Julie Janson

2022 Bundanon Writers Week Poetry Commission

Kurraarr Far Country 1972

Julie Janson

The humpy sits in majestic isolation in ngurrampaa, country

Washing flaps white on a line and I fly back to a kuthi song from the blue

blinding sky

The river and the hot shack of tin, sticks and cardboard from the tip

Where you boiled water from the Darling in the forty-four-gallon drum

We hung the children’s nappies on barbed wire over white dust


By our river, my kaathii sister

The sun shone, burnt, and broken glass glinted

The nuns rode past on bikes in long blue saris

What were they doing there amongst the Ngempa people?

Not needed in India alongside mother Theresa

Reserve house walls thin, corrugated and whitewashed

The way our history was whitewashed

No killing happened in this land all happy smiling brown people eating nuts and berries

Let us weep

And Jenny taking down the china cups and saucers from the suitcase

to fill with tea and Sunshine powdered milk, to drink with yellow damper from a fire in the middle of her shack. And Golden syrup

Where four children slept with mum

And Manny bought a live sheep to sooth with kind words before cutting its throat

To feed a barbie to a big mob from the reserve

Old Murri men speaking of their initiation and showing us scars

Sharing a flagon

Of walking at thirteen years old for days in the semi desert of mulga and bones

with only a bottle of kali water – a Schweppes glass bottle.

Of catching gulbree emu by lying on your back and shaking legs in the air

The curious bird beaten and cooked

Or the green eggs broken, kapukaa cooked in a huge cake for everyone

Essie Coffey and her house of beaten fibro in Dodge city, Brewarrina

Her movie and her making light as air dampers on the fire for thirty

Her dancing the hula while her hubby played a ukulele

A Muruwari woman of high regard

Of Uncle Bill Reid the Pastor and his kind heart that shook when he heard those stories

about Major Nunn’s campaign when troopers mowed down Blacks like rabbits in a shooting gallery, we weep

The reserve a place of love and gunjies driving past at midnight

hovering, waiting to bash a Murri man

A humpy home with Laminex table and a meat safe and tins of camp pie

Of women (dubai’s) cross legged on the ground playing bingo

And washing flying in hot Bourke wind



In response to ‘The Humpy’ by Reuben Ernest Brown.

Julie Jason is a Burruberongal woman of Darug Aboriginal nation. She is a novelist, playwright, and poet. Her most recent novel: Benevolence published by Magabala 2020 – to be published by Harper Collins in USA and UK August 2022 – Longlisted for NIB Literary Award 2020 and the Voss Literary Award. Her new Indigenous crime novel Madukka the River Serpent will be published by UWAP 2023. While living in remote Northern Territory Aboriginal communities in her early years as a teacher, Julie began writing plays and making giant puppets, masks and costumes. Her career as a playwright began with productions at Belvoir St Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre and Sydney Opera House. She is co-recipient of the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Poetry Prize 2016 and the Judith Wright Poetry Prize 2019. Julie is a graduate of AFTRS screenwriting and NIDA Playwrights Studio.

This poem was commission by Bundanon and the South Coast Writers Centre as part of the 2022 Bundanon Writers Week program.

Poets were invited to write a poem in response to works by Reuben Ernest Brown (Uncle Ben Brown) from the exhibition The River and the Sea


Bundanon acknowledges the people of the Dharawal and Dhurga language groups as the traditional owners of the land within our boundaries, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.

In Dharawal the word Bundanon means deep valley.

This website contains names, images and voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.