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FRIENDS OF HOUSE OF DARWIN - An Ode to Mparntwe by Rona Glynn-McDonald
Rona is a proud Kaytetye woman and change maker from Central Australia who works with First Nations communities and high impact organisations to shape create systems that centre First Nations people, knowledge and solutions. She is the founder and CEO of Common Ground, and has a background in economics and a deep curiosity and passion for disruptive ideas.
Here, she reflects on her hometown of Mpartnwe, with some things she loves about the place, and also her journey in Country there.
Petrichor, the smell of rain as it lands on parched soil. It is a smell I wish we could bottle, to hold it close as a reminder of beautiful moments of reprieve in the unrelenting desert. This is a smell that locals from Mpartnwe know well.
Mparntwe is a place of strong energy. A place of ever present monotony and ever present memory.
Growing up here as a young person, my friends and I always talked of escape. We dreamt of green Country, less relentless and extreme. A place where we could blend into a city expanse and be unknown to Country and the people who resided there. A place of constant newness.
Off we went, all departing after school to explore unknown territory. For me, that was Naarm. First at university and then working in the CBD, Naarm offered many seasons of adventure and exploration as young people.
Now I’m returning home in my mid twenties, my perspectives are changing and that stillness found in Mparntwe is something that I yearn for.
As time has passed many of us young ones have been drawn back to this special place, where the harsh Country welcomes us and the storylines run deep.
I’ve arrived in quarantine in Mparntwe, after spending another lockdown in Naarm.
Sitting on my balcony, I watch the first light of day dance across the tops of the river red gums – I sigh with relief to be back in this place. My balcony looks over the Todd River, the snaking dry riverbed that crosses through town towards heavitree gap, and the mountain ranges that border the south side of town. Sirens ring in the background at a rate that would make more sense for the streets of New York, not a population of 27,000.
It is harsh, and it is unyielding. It’s this place of many contrasts, where in these extremes and in the challenges, many find solace.
This is a resilient community of many peoples. A place of connection for First Nations communities across the desert and a place that many migrants and settlers call home.
The ties to this place and its deep memory hold us strong. For the custodians of this land, this has always been a sacred place. Arrernte people have maintained this Country since the beginning of memory. I feel grateful and privileged to have been a visitor here for most of my life.
People say this is the heart of this continent, with energy lines, heartbeat and living memory that meet and cross through this place.
Mparntwe is sacred.
Being here reminds me of the most precious things in life; Connection to community, family, Country and place. Now that I'm older, I feel a different sense of connection here. It's no longer a place to escape. It's a place we come back to, to strengthen connections to each other and the Country we are in.
Looking up to an endless expanse of blue sky, I can see a storm rolling in from the west of town. Lightning and thunder are now within my frame. Fat drops of water will soon meet dry ground.
This is Petrichor, that rich smell that comes after a length of dry. Breathing in and letting go a sigh of relief, I realise this petrichor can only exist if we give space to stillness and continuity.