We Are Going They came in to the little town A semi-naked band subdued and silent All that remained of their tribe. They came here to the place of their old bora ground Where now the many white men hurry about like ants. Notice of the estate agent reads: 'Rubbish May Be Tipped Here'. Now it half covers the traces of the old bora ring. 'We are as strangers here now, but the white tribe are the strangers. We belong here, we are of the old ways. We are the corroboree and the bora ground, We are the old ceremonies, the laws of the elders. We are the wonder tales of Dream Time, the tribal legends told. We are the past, the hunts and the laughing games, the wandering camp fires. We are the lightening bolt over Gaphembah Hill Quick and terrible, And the Thunderer after him, that loud fellow. We are the quiet daybreak paling the dark lagoon. We are the shadow-ghosts creeping back as the camp fires burn low. We are nature and the past, all the old ways Gone now and scattered. The scrubs are gone, the hunting and the laughter. The eagle is gone, the emu and the kangaroo are gone from this place. The bora ring is gone. The corroboree is gone. And we are going. Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920 - 1993)
bora ring – Bora is an initiation ceremony of the Aboriginal people of Eastern Australia. The word “bora” also refers to the site on which the initiation is performed. At such a site, boys, having reached puberty, achieve the status of men. The ring refers to the structure of the site.
corroboree – a generic word for a meeting of Australian Aboriginal peoples. It may be a sacred ceremony, a festive celebration, or of a warlike character. A word coined by the first British settlers in the Sydney area from a word in the local Dharug language, it usually includes dance, music, costume and often body decoration.
Oodgeroo Noonuccal, formerly known as Kath Walker, was an Aboriginal Australian poet . She was a leader in the struggle for Aboriginal rights in Australia. The poem is a political activist statement on the impact of the British conquest on Aboriginal Australians. And on their way of life, and the natural world. It demonstrates in no uncertain way how the existing culture was brutally over run by the British colonization of Australia. This is powerfully paralleled by the beauty of Aboriginal culture and identity.
Today we have the sensitivity to try to redeem the situation and honor and respect the culture still evident within the country. This is not an easy task when trying to integrate the benefits of education and health from the Western way of life. However, many sacred sites have now been protected from development.
‘We Are Going’ was published in Noonuccal’s 1964 collection of the same name, the first book of poetry to be published by an Aboriginal Australian poet.