My fascination with history (especially that of the Roman Empire) began as a young child growing up in Cambridge. I was surrounded by so much history. One favourite historical ‘excursion’ was walking along one of Britain’s earliest Roman roads constructed around 200 AD. It is still known as the Old Roman Rd, and it connects Cambridge to the even longer Icknield Way. We would walk the road and then divert into a place known as Wandlebury Ring – an Iron Age hill-fort built in the Gog Magog Hills around 400 BC.
Strong childhood memories from those early years.
When I first emigrated to Australia as a 19yr old in 1972, I missed this history so much that I pined for it. Longed to reconnect with it. Where were all the fine old 12th Century buildings? In my ignorance, I initially thought that Australia was ‘so young’ that there was nothing of historical significance to whet my appetite for things ancient. I had been seduced into thinking that the only valuable history was European history.
That all changed 3 years later when I went to ‘Halls Gap’ in the ‘Grampians’ 1975.
Being a curious young man, I went searching for the story behind the naming of the town: named not after Ben Hall the bushranger, but Charles Hall who ‘found’ the gap by following Aboriginal tracks. It was in that moment that I realised I was standing on land that had a human history stretching back thousands of years. Way beyond Henry VI founder of Kings College Cambridge in 1441. That its true name was Gariwerd; a place central to the dreaming of Aboriginal people especially the Djab Wurrung and the Jardwadjali, whose descendants are still at Gariwerd.
Gariwerd is a very spiritual place for Aboriginal people, because of the dreaming stories and the abundance of food, water and shelter it provides. There is evidence of this long and ancient history, found not in bricks and vaulting beams and mortar, but in the number of continuous occupation sites found in Gariwerd and the fact, that still today Aboriginal people are drawn to this place.
It was also the first time that I had seen rock art by entering the Caves of Hands and Fishes. It was also before I fully understood the sacred nature of these sites, their spiritual significance, and ought not have ventured in. I have since been forgiven for my ignorance by an elder of that land to whom I confessed my ignorance. Which is why I now fully understand why the Uluru climb will be closed on the 26th of October, and why the Uluru Statement from the Heart needs to be heard. Or read perhaps? Here’s the link: