Canberra road trip day 2 by Colleen Keating


Sunday 28th March 2021

The Untold Story

At Canberra the air tingles with a vitality
that is breathtaking. We meet the proprietor
on our way out
and stand by our motel room
talking of this moment –

the morning breathes a sigh of fruitfulness
whispers, here I am at my best.
It tastes of autumn crispness.
It feels mild and mellow
and so day two begins.

Thank goodness for google maps –
with her instructions
it takes 7 minutes to loop
around and over the bridge
and out to The National Museum of Australia.

The entrance walk
is now a procession of wildflowers
grevillea, banksia, eucalypt, bottlebrush.
a symbolic landscape Garden of Dreams
exploring ideas of place and country.

And what a great experience we were in for
The story of an untold story –
our nations’ origin story
and how differently it is remembered
by its two peoples.

Exposure of the lie of the bible story
taught to all Australian children
about ‘the discovery ‘ of this land
is nakedly bare.
We meet a young Indigenous man
who explains the exhibition and we enter –
flip back into first contact and re-experience
as if time absorbs us in its arms
carries us  into an other worldy experience.
and three hours were gone
when we exited back into the light

The Untold Stories of Cook and the First Australians
reaffirms and articulates our thoughts
for so many others  will be a transformative experience.
To our right side was the journey on the Endeavour
maps, telescopes, sextants, levellers, ropes and pressed plants
to the left was how it effected First Peoples
as they followed the journey on land
from the southern most point Pt.Hicks
to Possession Island in the far north
their story carved onto a message stick
and passed by runners, sometimes by smoke signals,
bull roarers, conch shells
the mirror-message,
reflected from shiny mother of pearl shells.
How inspiring for the future of our country
to see the true words of Cook and  Banks
from their  original journals
alongside the thoughts and ideas of First Peoples
who witnessed the passage from land.

How interesting to see together the two painting
of the raising of the Union Jack–
original painting at Botany Bay in mid 19th century
and under it the commissioned painting to white-wash the story.
(in it the fearful black people are gone
and a black servant dressed in suit and waist coat
serves drinks to the group of men raising the flag.
Could the white-washers of that day
ever conceive they could be exposed?

Our picnic today
was in the Garden of Australian Dreams
on the banks of the Lake Burleigh Griffith
outside the National Museum.

Then off to the National Library
one of my favourite venues
with its 16 marvellous stained glass windows
and the three precious French tapestries in the foyer.

Here the Ellis Rowan, The Bird of Paradise  exhibition
was remarkable
every painting unique
stunning in colour and flow
and just beautiful to see.

I had read the story of her life,
painting wildflowers
(interested because of my research on Olive Pink
another woman plant illustrator)
and this was a new addition
that she took on<
with financial support from several groups close to 70
a wonder woman set off for the wilds of New Guinea

All her life she fought for her rights –
told she could not paint landscape she painted still life
then told they could not be judged in the competition
even fought the art gallery to buy her work
(which they did for 5,000 pounds in 1923 after she had passed (1922)
and the same year they bought the original Captain Cook journal
also for 5,000 pounds.

Back to our motel very tired<
but full of enthusiasm and very happy
about an enjoyable day
as Mary Oliver says
“O what is that beautiful thing
that just happened? “






One caption of the exhibition.

‘The story of the 1770 voyage of the Endeavour lies at the very core of the Australian nation.

James Cook, the Endeavour’s captain, is celebrated as a peerless seaman and a remarkable leader whose voyage transformed European knowledge of the world.

But the land Cook charted – strange and ‘new’ to Eupropean  eyes was an ancient continent, home to First Peoples whose history stretches back more than 65,000 years. Until now, their voices have been missing from the Endeavour story.

In this year, the 250th anniversary of the voyage, it is fitting to experience the other side of the story and here we enjoy the story from the sea to the land and from the land to the sea, and embrace the shared history of this country.’