Monday, July 04, 2011


A sign on the Unley Uniting Church caught my eye as I drove to work work this morning. “Trading asylum seekers for refugees is despicable”, it said in reference to the recent deal struck between the Australian and Malaysian Governments. And I agreed and thought how far we’d retreated from the early days of the colony of South Australia when the British unsettlers welcomed German refugees into the lands they had stolen from its Aboriginal custodians. Perhaps we’d forgotten ‘cos a place name’s origins become obscured and one suburb’s the same as another.

undistinguished suburb within the ugly
urban sprawl of feral occupation…

Where once the Kaurna in their settled
and stable custodianship walked the riverside
in 1838 came Kavel’s boatpeople; asylum seekers
fleeing religious persecution at the hands of
Prussia’s King and Junker nobles…

Not for them a Norfolk
Island cell or a Van Diemen’s Land
solution; each an honoured guest at George
Fife Angas’s behest in a paradise
of religious dissent…

Whitewashed walls of wattle and daub; the yellowed
thatch of sloping roofs; a pair of oxen
double-yoked through a redgum collar; an open
dray and a lad stooks hay, muttering in
guttural Deutsch “Get thee
behind me Satan!” for he
has taken in the blonde-haired girl
whose thick double plaits come
across her shoulders like door snakes and fall
down her breasts like shards of waterfall to
hang in mid-air and never splash
into that dark pool below….
that dark pool below…
that dark….Oh get thee behind I say!

Only in the context of imperialist
war with the white-washed walls
now clay brick and the dirt
lane become macadamized and each house
a row of English roses and the German name all that
remains of those persecuted arrivals does the
host community assert its narrow Anglo preference
and Klemzig is no more for Gaza is gazetted; a decree
to spite the Austro-German ally
Turkey and a Palestinian place-name
obliterates the Prussian on the land of Kaurna people…

1935 and it’s Klemzig again except
at the local footy club which plays on
today under a Middle-Eastern name….

And I shouldn’t call this suburb bland but
the whitewashed walls and the guttural noise and the
girl with thick blond plaits and the boy whose
every thought the Good Lord had placed to account
are gone;

and it’s
an undistinguished suburb within the ugly
urban sprawl of feral occupation


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