Great Southern Land

KayDee wrote a wonderful post the other day about her love of the outback. Although I was not born in Australia, I love the outback too. It makes me feel Australian.

There are many things and behaviours that people from Europe or Britain or America consider to be characteristic of Aussies.

They include:

Surfers, utes, blue heeler dogs, shrimps on the barbie, the Crocodile Hunter, beer- swigging, chardonnay-drinking, vegemite-munching.

Most Aussies are coast dwellers. We live in urban environments. Sydney (where I live) is a typical of most cities around the world – busy, crowded, hustle bustle, multicultural. But is it truly indicative of what it means to live in Australia or be Australian?

One place is.

This place.


Look at that rock. Uluru in Central Australia.

I have stood there looking at it, feeling the red dirt between my toes. Hearing the spinifex crackle in the wind.

I felt my heart soar looking at that rock, ancient, immutable that has probably stood there for tens of thousands of years. It is the closest I have ever come to feeling the presence of God.

There is a reverence in the air that sweeps right out to the horizon. There is a preternatural knowing.

People who are not Australian say it is a young country. That it has no history to compare to that of Europe or Britain. My own father even quips on occasion that there are public toilets in Glasgow, Scotland that are older than Australia.

All those people are wrong. Australia is an old, old country.

Out at the rock where the sun turns your hair blue-gold there is a quiet certitude, a sigh like heaven itself is shifting.

There is a story there ingrained on the grasses and the dirt. As you walk you learn the story, and you smile because it is as if you knew it all along.

At night there are cool winds that sweep the smell of the umber dirt into your nostrils. Stars and ghosts dance. Birds fly into the swollen dark mirroring the call of their brothers breathed centuries before.

You might never have been there before looking at that rock pushed up like a gift from the centre of the earth. But when you finally make it you will understand without a word being spoken. There is such clarity of light there that the world appears without flaws. There is a recognition of what it is, a far-reaching sense of familiarity.

Uluru. One of the reasons why Australia is called the Great Southern Land.

14 thoughts on “Great Southern Land

  1. I have often felt that if I ever made it to Australia, I would immediately know that land the way one knows a lover: intimate, comfortable, deeply in love.

    Your post makes me think I could be right.


  2. Been there … about 1962-ish.

    We went there in an old Chevrolet ute, & the only facilities were a primitive campsite and a 2-hole dunny.

    They tell me it’s vastly different now … the resort hotel that sprang up uses artesian water that last saw daylight a zillion years ago. Which I can accept … if it didn’t have a swimming pool the size of Coniston Water. What an unnecessary waste!


  3. Yayaya, beautiful. And that big emanating rock, so full of life and colour is just about right in the middle of the island, as though everything just spreads out from it. I like to remind people that Australia has the world’s oldest living culture. Indigenous Australians have been doing what they do for over 25,000 years. Also, you are wonderful, Selma.


  4. KAREN:
    I think you would too. I can see you tuning in to the vibe of the place. I hope that one day you get the chance to visit!

    I guess that pool’s there for tourism’s sake, but I agree, it does seem to be a waste. You have to write about your travels there in the Chevy ute. Sounds like the start of a movie!

    The song fits perfectly. It’s funny, I wasn’t a huge Icehouse fan but I always did like that song. It seems to capture what it’s all about.

    25,000 years is a long time. You can feel those years and more out at Uluru. I thought in recognising that I would feel insignificant, but I didn’t. I felt like I was connected to it all. You are wonderful too!


    It is amazing. I hope you get the chance to see it one day. It’s an anciient place out there. You can feel it!


  6. I’ve always wanted to go to Uluru and walk around it… and to my shame I haven’t been… I’ve seen more of the world, yet less of Australia, than most people I know.


  7. Thanks for the shout out Sel and you said it far more eloquently than I ever could. It is also the closest thing to a spiritual experience I’ve ever had. It’s magical, mystical and quite simply, awe inspiring.

    One day I will go back there just to feel that peace seep into my soul again.


  8. BEAR:
    Many people do that. My cousins in the UK have hardly visited anywhere in Scotland or England but have travelled everywhere else. I think we feel we’ll always have time to see our own country. You would love Uluru. It’s quite awe-inspiring!

    You were pretty eloquent yourself, hon. I really want to go back too. And to Kakadu. I love it there. The wildlife is amazing. I’d love to go on a driving holiday right round Australia. It would be so much fun!


  9. One day, I will come visit — and this is what I want to see.
    A city is a city, I’ve seen those. But where else am I going to see that?


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