Dogs on the Backs of Utes 19


Late this arvo in the Woollies car park at Scone.

Moments before I took this photo, they were both all over me trying to love me to death. Much wriggling and tail wagging and licking on their part, and much patting and tickling on mine!

It was just what I needed today.

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Dogs on the Backs of Utes 18 – Vale Mary

Terrible things happen on farms.

I took these photos of my neighbour’s dog Mary, with her pup, on the back of his ute six weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, Mary was killed by one of our cows. It was horrible.

It happened while she was helping my neighbour move our herd. He heard her yelp but by the time he got to her, Mary was dead. There was not a mark on her. My neighbour didn’t see exactly what happened in the long grass but he did see which cow it was that killed her. He thinks she must have been kicked in the heart.

It’s easy to forget how dangerous cattle work can be. And how fast bad things can happen.



Lovely Mary. So sad.

Mary’s pup is a fine handsome boy. He’s six months old but he doesn’t have a name. My neighbour just calls him the pup. His litter mates have all found homes in the district, working dogs all, except for one of the bitches.



When he was younger, the pup used to ride in the cabin rather than on the back of the ute. Here he is, at the end of February.

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20,000 Aboriginal artefacts


The new M15 Hunter Expressway knocks half an hour off our trip to Sydney. It bypasses the most tiresome part of the old journey, replacing it with travel at 110 kilometres an hour.

During the construction of the 40 kilometre expressway, archaeologists found over 20,000 Aboriginal artefacts. The eight-year long archaeological dig was one of  the largest subsurface archaeological investigations ever conducted in Australia.

Archaeologists found hammer stones, axes, stone tools, scarred trees, ceremonial sites, fire pits, open campsites, grinding grooves and artefact scatters. They are believed by the archaeologists to be 4500 to 5000 years old.

Artefacts were found along the whole length of the expressway, but most were discovered at Black Creek.  I wonder whether there were still Aboriginal people living along Black Creek at the time of white colonisation. It seems likely, as the name given to the creek by white men suggests that this may have been the case. Blacktown, a suburb of Sydney, for example, got its name from Aboriginal settlement there in the early days of the colony.

In a report on ABC news online on 14 February 2014, archaeologist Jan Wilson said 122 Aboriginal sites were identified, mainly on elevated areas and close to fresh water.

“We have a lot of evidence of Aboriginal people producing stone artefacts in sites,” she said.

“Of them using the flakes of stone they were manufacturing for cutting and slicing and sawing and of modifications to the artefacts so that they could make specific little tool types that people were using as a multitude of things; a spear barb, as knives as scrapers.”

She says residue testing has also been conducted.

“So we actually know that people were butchering kangaroos, we know that they were processing various types of plant foods, so we can start to look now at what times of the year people were in those sites,” she said.

“One of the artefacts we have here has someone’s fingerprints on it and that’s just amazing to see a single person.”

More than 40 Aboriginal community groups were involved in the project and excavation. After further analysis of the artefacts by the archaeologists, they will be handed over to the Aboriginal community who want to put the artefacts on public display in a new museum. They want to share them, and the story they tell, with all Australians

Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Laurie Perry says the discoveries are important for their history.

“It shows occupation, people were here,” he said.

The discoveries are important for all of our history. The wealth of artefacts uncovered in this relatively short corridor of Country are just a hint of the material evidence of Aboriginal occupation and land use in the Hunter Valley over millennia. That so much was found is astounding, and emphatic, when so little of the Aboriginal history of this place is ever mentioned in everyday life. The Great Australian Silence, W.E.H. Stanner’s razor-sharp observation of the white Australian psyche and its disavowal of our Indigenous history and of the blood on our hands. This silence continues to be deafening.

These 20,000 artefacts speak clearly through this silence. They issue a conceptual challenge to the way we move through the real and the imagined Australia. Mostly we choose not to allow space in our imaginations and in our hearts for Australia’s Aboriginal history, the unique-in-the-world, living and continuous heritage of Aboriginal thought and action. We disrespect Aboriginal people. We tolerate and perpetuate racism, including at all levels of  government and society. We are so blindly racist we have little idea that we are racist at all.

These artefacts say to us, if there are 20,000 of us here, then there are 20,000 of us somewhere else, and 20,000 somewhere else yet again, and again and again. If you look. Below the surface. Always here. Aboriginal Australia is always here. Not the past, but the past, present and future.

There are information panels at the expressway rest areas that discuss the Aboriginal people of the Hunter. I’ve included images of them below. The image on the first panel gives a good idea of the landscape through which the M15 was cut.

The final panel on the Hunter Expressway songline is quite disturbing, I find.  It is great that the bridges have all been given Aboriginal names by local Aboriginal people, presumably in the Katang language though the sign doesn’t say. However, the characterisation of the expressway as a ‘songline’ is simplistic and questionable, given the complexity, power and sacred basis of real songlines.

Aboriginal songlines are among the great cultural objects of human history; they are alive still and deserve the greatest respect.

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Chocolate Lily

We went up Lagoon Mountain on Tuesday with a botanist and were lucky enough to find  a Chocolate Lily. Just the one plant, flowering out of season, at the start of winter instead of in spring. For such a small flower, it’s fragrance is very strong. And it really does smell like rich dark chocolate.

Chocolate Lilies were a source of food for the Aboriginal people who, for thousands of years, lived here where I live now. They roasted and ate the tubers of this plant. After the impact of sheep and cattle grazing over the last 180 years, it’s wonderful to see one now.

I’ll look for more in spring.


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Dogs on the Backs of Utes 17


I took this photo in the main street of Scone last Saturday, just as the ute was pulling away from the curb. So the answer is yes, this tiny dog really was relegated to the back of the ute.

I’m pretty sure it would have been much happier in the cabin. In a perfect world that’s surely the way things would have been…

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Aboriginal scarred tree 4

Last Sunday we walked over to the very beautiful paddock know as the Lower Wilderness. We went to check on a water trough that had recently been overflowing. My brother had adjusted the float while we were away. It was fine.

Afterwards, we climbed our neighbour’s hill, looking at all the old trees. At the top I turned and looked back at our paddock. On the opposite hill, I saw this; a truly magnificent Aboriginal scarred tree.


It is a huge White Box. It is a strong and healthy tree, with widely spreading branches, indicating it grew without competition from other trees.  A ‘specimen’ tree within the park-like Country, created by Aboriginal fire stick farming, that was noted over and over in documents written by the first white people in the Upper Hunter (and everywhere else). It is the biggest and oldest tree on the hill. There are some fallen limbs, but it is an awesome ancient living thing.


The scar is very large. It was made when an Aboriginal person cut out a large section of bark with a stone axe. It is also very old. You can tell this by the huge and deep vertical rolls of bark that have overgrown the scar on both sides. This takes time; a lot of time.




My husband is 187cm tall. Standing, looking into the scar, his height gives some idea of the size of the tree and of the scar.


The scar will remain, but if the tree keeps living and growing, one day it may be completely covered over by overgrown bark. The two sides will join and the scar will be hidden. A thin faint line, and these bulbous bark formations thickening the trunk, will still tell the story to those who know what to look for. You can see it happening at the top of the scar, the thin line clearly visible in the already healed-over bark.

But, for now, in this lifetime, I can put my hand deep inside the tree and touch its heartwood.


DSCF6776The back of the tree.


The view from in front of the tree; Gundy Mountain in the middle distance, Mount Woolooma in the far distance.


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Men with chainsaws 3

Halfway between Gundy and Scone…




Never give a boofhead a chainsaw.

Unfortunately, it happens a lot…

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