THE LAND WHERE THE CROW FLIES BACKWARDS
Young is an Aboriginal, like Kath Walker, and like her he grew up in
Queensland. In almost every other way, the two are unlike. Dougie Young
is what the anthropologists call a "fringe dweller"; he lives today in
the "blackfellows' camp" outside Wilcannia in western New South Wales.
does not want to be assimilated into white Australian society; he just
wants white Australians to stop pushing him around, and leave him and
his people to live their own lives in their own way. He does not wish
to be known to a white audience as a poet; he just makes up songs to
amuse his black friends in the hill-billy style which today is common
musical idiom of bush workers, white or black.
a lucky chance, some of his songs have been recorded by an
anthropologist friend, Jeremy Beckett. Like this one, they show that
Dougie Young can view his position with both dignity and humour.
the pelican builds his nest" is a phrase which derives from the belief
of nineteenth-century Australians that the centre of the continent was
a land of green grass and great inland rivers where the pelicans
nested. In fact it is a land which is seldom green but often very
dusty; the crow flies backwards to keep the dust out of his eyes.
friend gave Australian author Frank Hardy a recording by a calypso
singer, about the white "aristocrats" who tried to keep him down where
he belonged - in the slums of Kingston Town. Hardy wrote a new set of
words to the calypso tune, and showed them to Gary Shearston.
liked the song. But he changed the tune a bit here, and a bit more
there. He discarded some of Hardy's verses, and wrote new ones of his
own. Some of the new verses were entirely his own; some were based on
ideas suggested by friends; some were adapted from verses in other
people's songs. One person walked up to him after a concert and
presented him with a whole new verse, already written down (the one
about a visit to King's Cross).
in its present form, is very much a collective effort. It is full of
local and topical Sydney references, too numerous to explain to those
who are not Sydneysiders; people who live in other cities can amuse
themselves by making up new verses to replace the ones they cannot
Richard Brooks and Les Miller desert their respective instruments at one point to join in a singing - or chanting? - commercial.