Know Boundaries

The theme of Boundaries has been cropping up lately. Travellers, who cross social and cultural boundaries possess a special responsibility - a most important theme in the context of leading alternative lifestyles and being `nomadic'. In books like A. Buenfil's Rainbow Nation Without Borders and Alan Dearling's book about new travellers in Europe, No Boundaries, we receive the idea that the path ahead is boundless, that all humans are brothers and sisters, and that `boundaries' amount to `walls' separating us from one another, obstacles which should be abandoned or torn down. While there is merit to this, it remains at odds with what I believe is a basic obligation to respect the land upon which we walk, which means, respecting the authority of that country's immediate custodians.

Quite simply I don't think these kind of ideas can be transported to Australia without facing the immediate problem that this continent was, and continues to be, occupied by indigenous peoples for whom the maintenance of physical and cultural boundaries are necessary for their very survival.

I raise this issue in light of recent transgressions transpiring at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Central Australia in May 2000, when dozens of people on the Earthdream2000 pilgrimage/convoy - especially those who had joined the convoy from the recent World Rainbow Gathering in NE NSW - traveled to Uluru ahead of the main Earthdream convoy for full moon celebrations.

While stories are varied and complicated, it seems that actions on the part of some confounded plans to hold the Earthdream2000 winter solstice gathering in visual proximity to Uluru, and may have jeopardised the possibility of such an event in future years. People identifying as Earthdreamers refused to pay entrance fees, stayed inside the Park over the nightly curfew, walked and camped in areas off limits to all but caretakers, thereby displaying disrespect toward the Anangu and their Tjukurpa (Law) and ultimately giving Earthdream `a bad name'.

Here, the loose rainbow philosophy of `no borders' seems to have been translated literally by many (including many travelers from overseas) who have assumed the right to eschew the geographical and cultural boundaries which the Anangu (and other indigenous peoples the world over) have struggled to assert and maintain for many years. For Anangu, disrespecting boundaries associated with country amounts to trespass, which in the case of sacred sites like Uluru and Kata Tjuta, amounts to sacrilege.

When individuals believe they have an inalienable right to go where-ever they choose `and take what they want and perform whatever acts they deem fit' thereby effectively asserting their entitlement to violate the laws of indigenous peoples, they are operating under principles paralleling the cultural chauvinism characteristic of an early colonialism.

If one knows and respects boundaries, seeking out and observing local Law, gaining full permission before entering and staying on Aboriginal land, then perhaps we may have moved closer to the kind of `reconciliation' to which non-indigenes have often paid mere lip-service.

dr g