The treatment meted out to Adam Goodes is one of the most shameful episodes of recent times and I have been moved almost to tears on several occasions when listening to some of outrageous comments in defence of racism and mob bullying. Adam is a courageous man, but if I could speak to him for just fifteen minutes, I’d like to remind him of Jeffrey Lee in the hope that he would be uplifted again. Remember Jeffrey Lee?
Mr Lee is an elder of the Djok, the clan whose land, Koongarra, was given to them in the Dreaming and is therefore held by the people in sacred trust. Jeffrey is its senior custodian, keeping strong and alive the rituals and ceremony needed to ensure its well-being until the end of time beyond time as it turns within the great cycle of its Dreaming. However, Koongarra is close by Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory, a region rich in the uranium so coveted by the modern world that governments often turn a blind eye to the methods mining companies will employ to gain rights over it.
For twenty-odd years Jeffrey Lee fought to have Koongarra – with its precious burial sites and priceless rock art, and home to his people for tens upon tens of thousands of years – listed with other sites of World Heritage import, and in February of 2013 he succeeded. Sacred Koongarra is now part of Kakadu in the white man’s eyes. To Jeffrey, of course it always was.
This little story would be to most of us remarkable enough, but to put it in terms that the bankers and economists of this world would understand, I’ll add just a little more. A mining company offered Jeffrey, and by extension the Djok, five billion Australian dollars – that’s A$5,000,000,000 – for the land those Dreamtime ancestors bequeathed them. Jeffrey refused it. To paraphrase this wonderful man: Money, he comes and he goes. You can always replace money but you can’t replace your land.