Tommy Kapai: Don't dream it's over

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The Sydney Opera House, where Crowded House played.
The Sydney Opera House, where Crowded House played.

A mate of mine who is a top bloke and up for anything when it comes to finding out a bit of local knowledge, especially indigenous whakapapa, asked me what Woolloomooloo meant.

The question came out of the blue while waiting for a cab in Sydney where I am writing this column from, helping a mate celebrate an "I do" so "We did".

"Geez Bro, I'm buggered if I know mate" was my comeback, while at the same time thinking would many if not any locals know the answer.

So we went on a bit of a hikoi from our hotel at Potts Point - aka Kings Cross, down through the Naval Dock Yards at HMAS Kuttabul, past the very affluent seaside suburb of Wolloomoolloo, then wound around the picturesque Macquarie's Chair, until we finally arrived at one of the wonders of the modern world, the Sydney Opera House - where Crowded House were about to perform at their final farewell concert.

What was mind blowing about this walkabout hikoi, besides the mastery musicianship of Crowded House - who look a long way off from dreaming their life on the road is over, was the total inability for anyone along the way being able to tell us the meaning of these Aboriginal place names - that they live, work and play in every day.

The good news is, everyone we spoke to was genuinely interested in finding out more, especially what these iconic Sydney names meant.

Not one sailor who walked out from the naval base - proud as a digger at Dunkirk, with their full military kit on - could tell us what Kuttabul meant.

And we asked plenty of 'em, mate.

No one in Woolloomooloo fared any better. It was as if they had all gone walkabout and away from the very culture which had given them their place to call home in the first place - about 40,000 years ago.

And we thought as Maori we were hard done by in 400 short years.

All across this dream time land especially here in 'Seedknee' there are some seriously bonza 'black fella' names that could be and should be celebrated, normalised and honoured, just as we are doing in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Turns out Woolloomooloo (you try spelling that Sydney suburb 10 times in a column after a very late night at a Crowded House concert!) translates to 'place of plenty' and you can see why, when back in the day there was more kai moana than you could wave a song stick at.

Another well-known place with a why in it is Dee Why (Diwai in the local dialect) - the place of many local species of birds. As does Omanu, here in Tauranga Moana.

Kaituna has an aboriginal mahanga (twin) if we were to compare Parramatta - the place of eels, with the sacred Awa of Te Arawa.

Kirribilli where the PM and his mob camp up means baskets of fruit and flowers and the equivalent of Ohakune could be Kurnell, another Sydney suburb meaning heaps of wild carrots.

And on and on it goes like a never ending encore at a final farewell Crowded House concert.

There was a sombre sadness when I listened to the anthem "Don't Dream It's Over" and then thought about the whakapapa - the history and lineage of the local Aboriginal people where the Opera House was built.

An engineering masterpiece that every Aussie is proud of, built on land taken from the original inhabitants, without as much as an apology let alone a treaty settlement.

Not only has there been a stolen generation taken from behind the rabbit proof fence in this true blue, "she'll be right, mate" country, but there has been a total disconnect from the indigenous people of Australia, and I find this apathetic attitude towards these beautiful, intelligent dreamtime people totally unacceptable, as I am sure the original Aboriginals do themselves.

And from one crowded house in Sydney Town to another homeless home in GreerTown, here in the Bay that has plenty, the chances of a new bike has got a whole lot better for homeless kids this Christmas - thanks to the generosity of spirit of some bonza good buggers, who have chipped in 10 bucks each and thus far bought 30 bikes.

"Good on ya mate" - let's keep going and try and crack a century before stumps on December 8

Don't dream it's over tamariki ma.

Kia kaha - stay strong, dreamtime people of Australia.

broblack@xtra.co.nz

- Bay of Plenty Times

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