ABORIGINAL ART & CULTURE

A kind and thoughtful man

SID and I go to sit by the beach of a million bleached shells, piled high along the tide's edge for as far as the eye can see. This too is Saltwater Crocodile territory. The Crocodiles sleep in the morning sun. It is here we stop to talk.

"Here language is the vessel that nurtures oral culture, history, knowledge, education and ceremony. He is a freshwater man living in saltwater country"

In Pormpuraaw SID BRUCE SHORT JOE learnt to speak the Thaayorre language. In his teens SID lived with the Kugu, his grandmother’s people and he learnt those languages. He has told me often that these languages are very different from each other, sometimes the words are the same but they have a different meaning.

SID BRUCE SHORT JOE is also a peacemaker, welcomed by other tribes because of his language skills, to calm trouble ahead. He is a carer of old and young. He is a kind and thoughtful man, his freshwater totem, the blue tongue lizard.

“We believe our people were created with their totem, trees and animals from traditional lands can be totems”.

Like many Aboriginal people on Cape York in North Queensland, Australia, SID BRUCE SHORT JOE no longer lives on his land, his tribe long since displaced from their lands, now a cattle station.

“At certain times of year we may go to stay with relatives in different country”.

His tribe’s country is north east and inland from Pormpuraaw. A chance to visit country, once more, negotiated as part of land rights, a visit to scared sites and dreaming country. Still a difficult journey in a heart and in a soul, “they make it hard” – of course they do, as we hope the dust of all those years will cover our tracks.

Sid (Syd) Bruce Short Joe is a member of the Creative cowboy films Culture counsel.