How often have you heard the words "home is where the heart is"?
Home is where the soul is
I can recall a television commercial promoting patriotism in Western Australia that featured the line: "Home is where the heart is, and mine’s in the West".
Then there is the evocative last stanza of My Country, by Dorathea McKeller:
An opal-hearted country,
I wonder whether this is really about the heart. I believe that it is about the soul. Home is where the soul is – and indeed, where the soul gets a big part of its nourishment.
This issue was addressed recently in a media article about an Aboriginal boy who had left home in a remote part of the Northern Territory to take up part-term residence in a boarding school in Melbourne. At the end of the piece, the boy said that while he loved boarding at the school and every experience he was having, he knew that his remote patch of land in the Territory would always be home - the place that he returned to.
While this boy was clearly enjoying his school experience and excited with all that he was learning, the closed-in spaces were very different to the wide-open spaces he grew up in. While he was making new and exciting friends from all walks of life, he was always happy to get home to a place where he felt his sense of country, where his ancestors had lived and where his soul clearly belonged.
History has shown that there are many attractive features of Aboriginal cultures. Firstly is the sense of community and the habit of sharing life’s bounty with family, and with a very liberal view of what constitutes family. A second attractive feature is the attachment to country, to a place they call home, and to respecting that place and the life it has enabled them to have.
It occurs to me that these two features and, in particular, the second of them, may lie at the heart of many of the social problems Aborigines are experiencing in Australia today. Certainly, I cannot help but think that attachment to country is central to the lives of so many Aborigines as it sustains their soul in a way that nothing else can.
Where an indigenous Australian relationship with their country or home, I can imagine there is a real sense of detachment. Further, I can imagine the affected people are starved of the food for their soul that they need to thrive as individuals and as members of their community, and the wider community. This is perhaps part of the reason land rights and ceremonial events such as ‘welcome to country’ are so important.
If I am right, then it is hard to imagine how Aboriginal people for whom built up areas were once their country must feel. This may explain, at least in part, alcoholism and other social problems associated with these people.
I have come to realise that this is also an issue for non-Aboriginal people. So often, European and other imported Australians, or Australians who are offspring of imported Australians, seem lost and in need of the nourishment that come from feeling at home – in country.
I know that I feel at home on my farm in the South-West of the state. I visited the area when I was a child and when old enough and affluent enough, I bought a small farm there. Now when I go, alone or with others, I feel at home.
When I am on the farm, no matter what I am doing, my soul is being fed.
Without adequate food, our soul decays and our sense of self eroded, so I am grateful I have found my home.