subject: Outback to out in front posted: Sat, 21 Apr 2007 04:09:47 +0100
[Metro [London, UK], April 16, 2007 p19 - transcribed by Stu]
Outback to out in front
Activist Bob Randall tells Fiona Macdonald about an Aboriginal eco-
philosophy which is catching on
Al Gore may have won an Oscar but even the former US president can't
claim a friendship with Rolf Harris. While An Inconvenient Truth
continues to do the rounds, the Australian eco-documentary Kanyini is
slowly gaining momentum.
It doesn't have the graphs or the economic arguments but it has
attracted a growing following for its combination of practicality and
Describing the Aboriginal philosophy of the same name, Kanyini
centres on the soft-spoken Bob Randall, cowboy hat wearer and friend
of the Tie Me Kangaroo Down singer.
He is one of the listed traditional owners of Uluru (aka Ayers Rock)
and writer of a 1970s song about Australia's Stolen Generation, My
Brown Skin Baby (They Took Him Away). I met him on a recent visit to
"As a child, government policy meant I was taken away from my people
in the centre of the Australian continent, Uluru. From a cattle
station home, I was taken north and put with other indigenous people
who spoke a completely different language, because they were salt-
When us kids from the desert arrived, we ran from the truckstop down
to where the waves were rolling in, jumped in up to our necks and
started scooping up the water to drink it... we didn't know.
That was our first experience in our new home and it was different as
that - fresh to salt water - the culture and language were so
different. But the feeling of kanyini was still there. I think it's
a national philosophy or lifestyle, the same for all people in our
Kanyini means two things - 'unconditional love' and 'responsibility',
or caring. The relationship extends beyond humans to all life. We
don't limit ourselves to the human species, becase we all live as one
being with every other living thing.
In my culture, we're not owners, we're caretakers for all lifeforms.
We're caretakers for our children's children's children and, I tell
you, it's a worry when you think about the way we're going. In my
country alone, the destruction of many species - the animals, the
plants, birds we've lost in 200 years - it's just unreal.
And there's no need for that if you start caring for things and don't
rush into development. Instead, we need to assess it: what can we do
to protect the other beings which have as much right to live as you
Coping with drought
Today, with the big drought in Australia, so many people who had huge
properties with sheep and cattle are just walking off them. The
can't make it work. That land should be given back to Mother Earth
and the children of that area should plant it. If you put trees back
in their thousands, the rain will come. The weather is one of the
entities we refer to in our traditional way of life.
Living with confidence
Growing up with kanyini gives you great confidence. The older trees
and animals look after you as their children, so you're not afraid of
anything. You're not afraid of the open space or bushland, because
something will show you which way is home.
But people everywhere can live like this. I just went to Darlington
and Embercombe in Devon, where people are living according to kanyini
principles. They're really caring for everything around them.
Although I'm from a different environment, I can see the kanyini in
each of them. Your culture here is so aware of the weather: entities
like Jack Frost are just like one of ours. But don't try to control
it, just accept it.
We fitted in with what was already there because we knew that was its
perfect state. You start making changes, there's going to be less
than what you had. If we have contaminated anything, then we have to
clean it up now, and do things differently so we don't make the same
mistake - devaluing other species and separating ourselves from each
We've become so used to it that we can't see the difference any more.
But it starts with each one of us and our actions - with what little
we have, we do the best we can to apply kanyini. Before we were
saying this, but no-one was hearing it. People are listening today
Sidebar: Food for Thought
Kanyini is the indigenous Australian philosophy of unconditional love
for your fellow man, animals and the environment, though Bob's
explanation using a food chain idea illustrates it better. "I grew
up knowing that everything living around me is family," he says. "It
doesn't stop you from using those other beings as food, so long as
you're willing to offer yourself as food in return. That takes some
love, I'll tell you. Saying: 'I'm happy to be your food'".