The Big Issue has just published Naming Rites.
Here’s how it starts:
It is the day before Australia Day and a man is asking me the name of this part of the country. The traditional name.
It is six in the morning, on the beach. Dawn.
“I think this is Wathaurong country,” I offer, none too confident.
“Wat-au-rung,” he replies. “Wat-au-rung.” At first I think he might be repeating me, but later I wonder if he was correcting me.
He tells me the name of his own country, way over on the other side of this land, but I can’t catch all the syllables and the sounds. They are like eels, slipping through fingers and disappearing back into a river.
“My country is in the Swan Valley, in Western Australia,” the man says, smiling.
“Near Perth?” I reply.
I’ve never been to Western Australia, but I know the capital city is on the Swan River.
“Yes,” the man responds, “Swan River runs through Perth.” And then: “I saw a black swan first thing this morning. Here. It reminded me of my country. Made me happy.”….
The full story is in edition 423 of the Australian edition of The Big Issue, on sale from Big Issue vendors until 24 January. I will republish the story in full here in late January.