Banyjima, Yinhawangka, Kurrama – these are the traditional people of the Pilbara. Their songs are their stories, their history. They sing the land, its names, its places. They sing their culture. They sing a song of the Pilbara.
It is the story of creation spirits that travelled across the land when the earth was soft, making the mountains, the rivers, the gorges, the animals and plants. The spirits named all these things and gave the people language. This song has been sung since the first people walked on the Pilbara. It is an old song.
There is another song about the Pilbara, a new song, a white fella song. It too is the story of creation. It tells of tectonic collisions, uplifting, folding, tilting, molten rock oozing from the primordial fires of a new world, the Pilbara 3500 million years ago.
I walk through Karijini and I hear that song and I know this is an old place, old as time itself. I hear it in the weathered scarps of the mountains rising out of the plain. I hear it in the deep-carved gorges, their rocks worn smooth through countless ages by ancient rivers. And I hear it on the wind, whispers from long ago when the first people walked on the Pilbara.
Where is Karijini? It’s a long way away, where the ground is stained with the lifeblood of the Pilbara – iron. To get here requires determination, a sense of purpose. To arrive here is to come home, to connect with that essential part of ourselves, to realise our insignificance in the immensity of time.
Karijini is too old, too profound, too beautiful to be explained in a few hundred words and a couple of images. You need to stand with its rust-red earth beneath your feet even to pretend, like me, to know this country. Nevertheless, I have tried to convey my impressions of its magic. If ever you stand in Karijini where I am now, or some place nearby, you will know what I mean.
This is my song.