Australian singer-songwriter Katie Noonan commissioned several composers to create musical settings of poetry by the extraordinary indigenous writer Oodgeroo Noonuccal. I chose Oodgeroo’s poem Then And Now for its stunning demonstration of forbearance from a woman who had been mistreated for so much of her life, but who decided that racial tensions would only ever improve through reflection and tolerance.
A disappointing proportion of white Australians still choose to believe that the mistreatment and denigration of our country’s first nation either never happened or has now evaporated. Oodgeroo’s light but firm tone in this quiet reminiscence is an object lesson in generosity of spirit.
Carl Vine, January 2018
Then And Now by Oodgeroo Noonuccal (from: The Dawn Is At Hand)
In my dreams I hear my tribe
Laughing as they hunt and swim,
But dreams are shattered by rushing car,
By grinding tram and hissing train,
And I see no more my tribe of old
As I walk alone in the teeming town.
I have seen corroboree
Where that factory belches smoke;
Here where they have memorial park
One time lubras dug for yams;
One time our dark children played
There where the railway yards are now,
And where I remember the didgeridoo
Calling to us to dance and play,
Offices now, neon lights now,
Bank and shop and advertisement now,
Traffic and trade of the busy town.
No more woomera, no more boomerang,
No more playabout, no more the old ways.
Children of nature we were then,
No clocks hurrying crowds to toil.
Now I am civilized and work in the white way,
Now I have dress, now I have shoes:
'Isn't she lucky to have a good job!'
Better when I had only a dillybag.
Better when I had nothing but happiness.