Renewing the Dreaming
Guboo Ted Thomas was a well respected Australian aboriginal elder of the Yuin Tribe, based at Wallaga Lake in south-eastern Australia. He helped halt the logging of some of his tribal lands at Mumbula Mountain long before saving forests was seen as a wise and necessary thing to do by Western societies. He regularly took people of all races into the bush to get a feel for the place and witness some extraordinary things, often dissolving their ‘civilized’ separation from the land.
I listened to Guboo on his eightieth birthday at one of his extraordinary Dreaming Camps near Pigeon House Mountain in the country of the Yuin tribe, inland from Ulladulla. Guboo (meaning ‘good friend’) has since passed on…
R.A. – What was life like for you as a child?
Guboo – Well, when I was a boy I went to school. I only went to first class. All I learned was how to knit, sew, crochet, cook tarts and look after the garden. That’s all the education I ever had from the white man.
It was wonderful because I learned from my old people. They brought me up – school wasn’t the right place to go because I learned nothing. My father was a tribal Elder from the Monaro tribe based in Canberra and my mother is a Chinese woman. I was born in a place near Braidwood…
I wasn’t born in a hospital; I wasn’t born in a house. I was born in the bush with the miners. That’s where I was reared, with the old people. They took me away from other kids.
I used to play out there with the kids, in the morning or in the afternoon, or late at evening. Just before the sun started to go down the old fella would come out with the boomerang – what you’d call a whistler boomerang, and he’d throw it – THWHSSSS – and when we heard that coming over our heads we’d run straight inside. It was a signal. We were in bed when the sun went down. Nobody would sit there and say, “I don’t want to go inside!” No, none of that.
So when we were in bed he’d tell me a story. The old fella used to tell me a story about Noah’s Ark. Now at Mount Dromedary we have an Ark there on top of the rock.
We have everything there to show you. There’s the life of a people. Everything’s there. That’s our Bible, we’ve got it there – Noah’s Ark and everything. So those places and those rocks are our education. It’s our learning place. It’s how the old people teach us; how they’d teach me how to use my mind.
When we’d be walking up and down the beach he’d say, “Sonny, we’re gonna get a lot of fish. Look out there!” He’d say, “We’re gonna get a lot directly.” And I looked at him and I said, “Oh yes.” In my mind I said to myself, ‘how could he get fish, because he hasn’t got a net?’ But I daren’t say that to him or else he’d hit me with a stick! I couldn’t answer him back that way. So I’d just have to keep quiet and say, “Oh yes.” That’s all I’d do.
We went down and grandfather bounced along the surf. “Right,” he said, “let’s stop here.” So we did. I watched and saw one wave, and two waves, and three waves coming in. Grandfather went and hit the water and made a noise. I didn’t see anything, and then a big breaker came in and went right up the beach, and I heard this slapping noise hitting my leg, just below my knees and it was fish. When the breaker went out there were twenty fish high and dry on the beach and grandfather said, “Sonny, use your stick!” So I started whacking them with the stick. Twenty fish died that day. And every time they’d throw the spear in there’d be a silver curl on the end and they’d pull a fish up and throw it out. So that’s how we got the fish.
And grandfather crooked his arm out and the big dolphin came in and put his head there and just lay there. His tail would go over and around as grandfather was talking to him in the language. And grandfather was saying, “Chi, chi, chi, chi…” Grandfather was talking the language and I was just standing watching him. And he put his hand out and walked around steadily and then the dolphin did a cartwheel on a little breaker coming in and then a somersault over it. Then he splashed the water and said goodbye and the old fella thanked him for all the fish and sang a lament to the beach.
So that was the dolphin and that’s what I had to learn and how I learned what I know. What stuck to me more than anything wasn’t education, it was common sense. It stuck to me throughout my life.
My people walked about naked all the time. I loved that, I find that’s wonderful for the people. We wear these clothes and we’re not getting used to it. It’s like hiding our beauty. For forty thousand years we did that in the bush and we roamed around and it was a wonderful life. The kids would have the mother’s breast, and if she couldn’t give it then her sister took over. Up around seven or eight they’re still on the breast. That’s why they’re different; and then when white man came they brought the bottle and they became bottle babies and had clothes on.
Aboriginal people grow up naked and in the tribe with all those people there was no rape. And now in the days when the white people are here you go a little bit naked and you can be raped. And that’s because they became bottle-fed babies in the first place. That’s really what happens with the Aborigines because we look at sex as a great thing if it’s done the right way. It’s wonderful – and that’s Aboriginal life.
Our law comes from the mountain. When Jesus went up on the mountain he said to his disciples, “You wait here.” [As had Moses – Ed] He went up there in the mountain to pray, and most churches I’ve seen are always on top of a hill or on the side of a hill. You want to take notice of that, because they’re trying to be like Jesus when he went up there. When I see churches I say, “Look at the sacred sites.”
Aboriginal law comes from the mountain and that’s where I learned it all. Whatever Jesus did the Aboriginal people did.
Healing By Touch
Laying on of hands – that’s how I heal people, just by putting my hands on them. I don’t have to pray, because in the hands is something important. Over in Holland I just sat there and people lined up coming to me. I’d just touch them. A bloke came up and said to me, “Guboo, I have a headache all the time and it never stops!” I just touched him and put my hand on his head and I said, “You right?” He got up then and jumped up in the air on his feet and said, “I’m healed, I’m healed!” And it’s not Guboo that does it.
I go into the mountains and pray. I’m just like a battery, I go flat because people take it out of me. I have to go up into the mountain and pray to the Great Spirit.
R.A. - Do you get teachings from the rivers as well, the low points?
Guboo – Yes, well in New Zealand I went up to the top of the mountain to pray and practically right up the top there was a river running with flowing water and it was cold. And when I walked up and looked at it – “Wow!” I said to myself, “Look at this, this is marvelous!” I was reminded what the Bible says – ‘You drink this water, you’ll never thirst. Out of my belly flow the rivers of water.’ So that’s it – it’s put there for us today. See, we’ve lost that. We get stuck into the mighty dollar, and that’s what’s running the world today. And the United States is the same – they’re worse off there.
It’s bad enough over there when a Christian stands up and says, “Well, I want seven million dollars or I’ll die.” I was there when he got the seven million and if he got another three million on top of that he wouldn’t die then. So that’s money for false pretences; he never died…
End of Part 1
We first published this in NEXUS New Times Magazine Volume 1, Number 8, 1988 – see http://www.nexusmagazine.com
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