Australian Songlines today

August 22, 2013

Is there any way we can hear the songs of the land and waters still murmuring beneath the hubbub of modern life?
Indigenous people the Yanyuwa, of north eastern Arnhem Land, tell us the songs continue, whether we hear them or not. But they don’t have a song for the city, or for the new way of life we people of boats, planes, agriculture & machinery (now digital) brought here from afar.
So while the first Australians struggle to keep life, limb and soul together – let alone their profoundly rich cultures and languages – it’s up to us new Australians to help provide a poetic translation of our ways. One that could contribute to a better understanding of the way we can work sustainably with this land.
But more importantly, it’s also up to us to find peace within, to silence the ego voice that consistently reiterates our busy story of power and gossip.
When we let go of the fantasy that we’ve controlled the earth, and now have only ourselves to talk to and about; when we stop chattering on about our important lives and hopes and concerns; when we take time to listen to the land and the waters; what will we hear?
The song of the land, the animals and birds and the bursting of the flowers, the rustling of leaves on the breeze, the soft crunch of soil and twigs under foot, the scent of grasses, the hum of life …
It’s waiting for us. To remember to listen. Beyond ourselves.



  1. How can we sing a song for the modern way of life when it does not exist yet?

    • I know, my suggestion is a conundrum. I guess there are plenty of songs of the city, but you’re probably right – where is the one that has really listened to the land? To be prosaic about it, there’s some great folk music, and contemporary Aboriginal bands, even some rock, that has done.
      But for now I was just hoping to spread some silence (paradoxically, with words) to see what would come of it.
      If I could sing for the earth, I think it would go from wailing in pain back to the ferment of growth, the explosion of stars to the rustling of emergence from the soil, to the tinkling of waves and the groans of the deep …

      • The cacophony I usually hear often seems reminiscent of giving a young child a set of drums… and no drumming lessons.

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