Reconciliation is a Sacred Immersion

The Indigenous Journey / Vicki Clark OAM
Over forty thousand years ago mourners gathered around a gravesite on the shores of Lake Mungo NSW to farewell someone they loved.

For thousands of years, after the birth of a child, the aunties would take the placenta, wrap it in ash and bark and then bury the placenta beneath a tree. This was a ritual to give thanks to Mother Earth, source of life.

So each step we take, we must be careful, because a child was born here. You must walk on this land carefully, responsibly, always respecting its resources and walking together with the first peoples in genuine reconciliation.

Over forty thousand years ago mourners gathered around a gravesite on the shores of Lake Mungo, NSW, to farewell someone they loved. They lit a large fire sending smoke swirling through the mourners to purify the area and smoke away evil spirits. There was obviously something very special about this man. Was he a father, brother or uncle? We know he was somebody's child. Was it the aunties who laid his sleeping body to rest, bringing his knees closely into a foetal position, placing his hands together and anointing him with the red ochre, which is the blood red symbol of life? This signalled a connection to something beyond everyday humanity. It spoke then and speaks today of a direct spirit-link with the Earth from which it came.

Can you imagine tears of sadness flowing down the mourners’ cheeks and the wailing as the final layers of sand were spread over the sleeping body?

Little did those people ever imagine that body would rise to the earth's surface, to surprise and educate people more than 1000 generations later.

Or did Mungo Man rise to the surface to give scientific evidence to the world that Australia’s Aboriginal people are the true first people to this land? 

In 1919 a child was born on the banks of Murrumbidgee River. In Balranald on Mutthi Mutthi country, at the place we call the Dippo, her placenta was also covered in ash, wrapped in bark and buried beneath a tree where her mother gave birth to her.

This child was named Alice Ellen Pearce (Kelly), a Mutthi Mutthi woman destined to be the Keeper of Culture, Law and Language. A woman who breathed life into the dry bones of her Ancestors, bringing back the dignity and recognition of the sacredness, unfolding the secrets that give life to clans and tribes today. From her humble home at 82 O’Connor Street, Alice Kelly’s name became known as the woman you need to talk to. Alice challenged the scientific world to stop taking ancestral remains and view the ancient occupation of this land through a new lens.

Mungo Man was taken from his sacred burial ground in 1974 without permission. This caused great pain and heartache to Alice Kelly who mourned until the day she passed to have Mungo Man spirit bought back to country.

Scientist soon realized they could not continue their work unless there was an act of justice. Hence the return of Mungo Mans skeletal remains November 2017,  thanks to Alice Kelly.

“By Mungo Man’s death and reappearance, Mungo Man has revealed to us that deep spirit connection his people had with the earth. For a moment, let us respectfully consider points of similarity between the death of Mungo Man and the death of Jesus.

Although the nature and occasions of those two deaths were very significant, those events on the shores of Lake Mungo resonate with those in Jeruslem.

With the spirit messages of Christ expressed in his frequent parables of the Earth, the connections revealed by Mungo Man with nature both reflect that deep spirit connection between the divine and the earth, or Mother. Like Christ, that ritual death of Mungo Man reflects a deep spirit bond with the world, with the sand, the soils, the plants and animals that we take so much for granted. The spirit-bond establishes a sacred status between people and earth, between nature and culture. The earth from which we came, here takes on its special spirit significance. In union with Mungo Man we can say the world around us, from stars in the heavens to the rocks and plants on earth, all share in the sacred relationship with the divine. Confirmed by the Resurrection of Christ, it was prefigured 38,000 years earlier. It speaks to us today in the re-emergence from the death and burial of that man on Lake Mungo shores 40,000 years earlier”. Abstract of What is Sacred, written by Dr Jim Bowler for this ceremony.

Something to reflect on:

  • What is sacred?
  • Is there someone like Alice Kelly in your life?
  • Why do you think Mungo Man rose to the surface?
  • In union with Mungo Man, do you share in the sacred relationship with the divine?
Vicki Clark OAM, Mutthi Mutthi Woman
EREA Board Member and granddaughter of Alice Kelly

Image: The Tirkandi Inaburra Indigenous dancers welcome Mungo Man back to country during a ceremony on November 16, 2017, in Hay, Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images - Used with permission). 

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