Kalina’s Story

by Mark Cornell

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Down on a tiny block in Murrumbeena, Aidan grew up in a tin roofed humpy made by his brown skinned, frizzy haired Mum, Kalina Oak. The Oak family scratched a living selling potatoes, pumpkins spinach, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and beans from their veggie patch to the locals. The soil was sandy, Kalina said during the old days, this part of the land was under the sea all the way up to the Dandenongs. The locals nicknamed Kalina, Grannie Crap, because they reckoned the quality of her veggies was due to her pooing in the veggie patch. Didn’t stop them buying and haggling though. Truth was the Oak’s nurtured their veggies with muck from the compost heap and potash from their oil drum fire. Kalina kept the fire going all day, all night, every season, she called it, “ the eternal flame.” Aidan’s job was to hunt around the place for wood. There was a strip of wattle trees and redgums down at the local Kooyongkoot Creek. One night, as a rainbow circled moon sailed through a broth of mist Kalina, told her boy the old people’s word meant, “ the haunt of the waterfowl.” Aidan’s Mum said it was once a good place for tucker, food and medicine; when she was a little girl Kooyongkoot was chock full of platypus, water rats, sugar gliders, flying foxes, black faced ducks, old man herons, cormorants, swamp hens, eels, and black fish. The creek sang all day, now, maybe the only thing you hear around here is crazy growl of the possum or the whirof the frogs. Kalina brown eyes glistened as she sipped on her longneck bottle of stout, she had one every night as she sat down on a log next to the eternal flame, she told her son it was her “medicine,.” she called the bottle shop the “chemist.” 

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Aideen knew bugger all about his Dad, who’d nicked off after he was born. His name was Joe King, he came from County Clare, the west of Ireland.  ‘They’re different gubbas bubup, not as cold as the bloody Poms.’ Kalina said the big thing Joe King and she had in common was hatred of the money grubbers. These days the creek is called Gardiners Creek. Gardiner was the first white fella to settle in this part of the country. He was a banker and pastoralist who bought a big mob of cattle to the Kooyongkoot, soon their hard heels and big mouths wrecked the soil and destroyed the murnong plants. One drizzly arvo, Kalina showed her boy a yellow daisy plant by the creek and told him the old people used to grow and harvest it all over the place, it was their main source of tucker. She tugged the flower out of the sandy earth to reveal it’s small white carrot like roots. It tasted pretty good, sort of part radish, part coconut. The whites reckon its poisonous. Gardiner and his mob loved shooting kangaroo and possum, the din was like bloody thunder, pretty soon, two more sources of food for her people, the Bunurong disappeared. To Kalina’s people the land was mother earth, and to be shared, and as a neighbour, kin maybe, Gardiner should  leave them some food. When they tried to explain this to Gardiner, like all white fellas, he was deaf and reckoned he didn’t understand “jibberish.” Then people’s stomach’s growled. ‘When your sick you make crook decisions bubup,’ Karina watery eyes reflected the eternal flame. Out of desperation some of the Bunurong  started spearing Gardiner’s cattle. They had plenty of opportunities to kill the white fellas, but didn’t, they were pretty stupid out in the bush. You could hear them and smell them from miles away. ‘ They reckon blackfellas stink bubup but poo you can smell a Pom from miles away!’  Kalina once cackled to her son. ‘ They don’t wash, you see son, they reckon the time a Pom’s of any use is during a drought!’ The old people thought if they attacked their bloody animals, then the intruders would get the message and go away. But they kept cutting down the trees, fenced off the best land and ploughed crops.

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The Bunurong raided Gardiner’s potatoes and once caught one of his men, a bloke called Underwood. They took him back to their camp and put it to him that seeing Gardiner had hundreds of beasts, and the best of their land, surely, he could spare something. But Underwood, like Gardiner was bloody deaf and told us to stop talking “mumbo jumbo.” They let the useless barstard go, but he came back with more men and guns and blasted the old people across the Yarra. Kalina drained her stout, she reckoned they don’t know how many were killed, they never do, but two poor buggers were arrested. Tullamarine and Jun Jun. The two-set fire to the jail and escaped, ‘ Bloody heroes I reckon bubup, they deserve a memorial!’ 

Batman, the founder of Melbourne,  (this is a place for a pillage,) ended up being pushed around in in a pram before he snuffed it, his nose dropped off because he had the pox. He signed a treaty with the old people for  about  250,000 hectares of land, in return for some blankets, axes, flour and other goods, and a promise of annual rent. Batman never kept to his side of the bargain though and died in debt.  One of the people who “signed” the treaty was Derrimut, he  was the head of the Yalukit-willam mob, one of six Bunurong clans. Derrimut’s land was the south bank of the Yarra. He was good mates with John Pascoe Fawkner, they used to go hunting, fishing  and shooting together. Derrimut used to strut around the place like a bush turkey with a dirty great big top hat on his noggin. Derrimut warned his mate Fawkner twice about an impending Aboriginal attack, they were both prevented. Derrimut went with Fawkner to Van Diemen’s Land in the ship, The Enterprise, and was introduced to Governor Arthur and presented with a drummer’s  uniform, a source of pride among some of

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the locals. The was the same Governor Arthur who organised  the Black Line debacle. Where the army and settlers tried to flush the blacks out of the bush and push them into isolated peninsulas where they could be controlled. Arthur ordered the Van Daimonians to arm themselves and treat the indigenous as “ open enemies.” Before Derrimut died, he told  a government committee of his heartbreak over the way immigrants-built homes all over his  country. Penny less Derrimut was put into the Benevolent Asylum in North Melbourne in March 1864, he died about a month later. He was 54 years old. Poor old Derrimut.

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