Climate Change – John Dunn

It was a survivor emerging river ravished,
year by year from the flood.

In times past,
as now,
brilliant blue skies
turn to ochre at dusk
and fade abruptly
to indigo.
A translucent Chamberlain Gorge
is lit by a galaxy of stars.
And in that world
the tree provides sanctuary
for so many.
Native bee and micro bat,
Lorikeet and flying fox,
all enjoy the bounty
of the Boab.

The Kitja and Amga peoples
lived there then.
Spinifex, Pandanas, Cycad, and Woollybutt
framed their world
and they welcomed the wet.
Humidity and heat prevailed and
the flood was a precursor
to an abundance of gifts from the land.
Snake, lizard and possum
marooned by rising water.
Eggs of a thousand birds
were taken in a time of plenty.

For sixty thousand years
a people prevailed here.
They lived in the land
and the land was in them.
In Bulin buri
Immersed in the recurring cycle
of season and dream time.
Linking a way of life
with land and law.
The Boab was witness
to all of this.
To the past and all that was to come.

It was there
when Forrest and Durack
first envisaged empires in the north.
Opening an empty land
to enterprise, to industry and wealth.
An ambitious young nation in a hurry
and hungry for growth.

It was there to witness a clash of cultures.
An ancient race confused and
caught out by the pace of change.
Dispossessed of their lands
and their dreaming.
Confused and torn between
their wanting
and a spiritual sense of place.

A short lived partnership
between proud stockmen and landholders
finally failed, as fringe dwellers
were made redundant
by indifference
and the white man’s machine.

For a millennium the Boab stood tall.
Witness to great change but
ultimately at peace with its world.
Its presence linked the past
with present and future,
strengthening ecology and songlines
in an ancient land.

2010 began like every other year.
Lightning strikes and fire
heralding the Kimberley wet.
Monsoonal rains,
at first fell gently on the Cockburn range.
Billabong and creek,
seep and gorge filled
and the flow turned to torrent.
An aberrant cyclonic,
almost seismic maelstrom of water
lashed the gorge.
The giant spirit of the Kimberley
succumbed and fell.
New foliage torn away.
Succulent white flowers
strewn, haphazard
and dissolute .
So much had occurred on its watch,
but, in the end,
it was the force of water,
a flood of unusual severity
that was its downfall.


Author’s note: On the north bank of the Chamberlain river lies a fallen giant Boab tree. The river flows towards El Questro and is wide, swift flowing but relatively quiet and contained. What caused the giant to fall?