12 No Sugar

Year 12



Paul Buttigieg (2007)


Turns out the last light
A Blackout
A dormitory full of black kids sigh




Waiting for parents to return
A shallow promise from government guardians
If you sleep


A white education waits
If you wake


The theft of your black soul
The destruction of your family


Paul Buttigieg (2012)


We are older now
We hurt privately much more
In ways inexplicable to white fellas
We were close as little kids to our tribal glue
We were learning of the land the gathering
The dance the Corroboree
Not of religion
Not of white education
Or books
We read the seasons and the wind the fire and the rain
We wanted our brother and sisters
Our mothers and fathers our birth trees
Our hunting rights and our black land
Our brown footprints still own this land forever
But we were stolen
Scarred forever
We lost our mum and dad
Our brother and sister
Worst of all we lost our black soul
Never our fight


Jack Davis (1977)

You once smiled a friendly smile,
Said we were kin to one another, 
Thus with guile for a short while 
Became to me a brother. 
Then you swamped my way of gladness, 
Took my children from my side, 
Snapped shut the law book, oh my sadness 
At Yirrkala’s plea denied. 
So, I remember Lake George hills, 
The thin stick bones of people.
Sudden death, and greed that kills, 
That gave you church and steeple.
I cry again for Worrarra men, 
Gone from kith and kind, 
And I wondered when I would find a pen 
To probe your freckled mind. 
I mourned again for the Murray Tribe, 
Gone too without a trace. 
I thought of the soldier’s diatribe, 
The smile on the Governor’s face.
You murdered me with rope, with gun 
The massacre my enclave,
You buried me deep on McLarty’s run 
Flung into a common grave.
You propped me up with Christ, red tape, 
Tobacco, grog and fears, 
Then disease and lordly rape 
Through the brutish years. 
Now you primly say you’re justified, 
And sing of a nation’s glory, 
But I think of a people crucified– 
The real Australian story. 


David Keig (2007)


They took me from my mother
but I didn’t even know,
I was just a few months old
and she knew not where I’d go.
She was a big black woman -
I don’t know about my dad,
Its now I have my grandchildren
that I’m starting to feel sad.
I have blue eyes and had blonde hair
but it’s now greying gradually.
I couldn’t say I was an Abo
or they’ take the brush to me.

'Scrub away your blackness'
said the nuns in the Church school
'Religion’s here to save you
but you must obey our rules.
Rule one – you just be grateful.
You’re in white society.
Rule two – you must be silent
and accept humility

I scrubbed and scrubbed my body
'till I couldn’t scrub no more
the scrubbing didn’t make me white
just made my skin red raw.
I was made to feel ashamed you see
of being just what I am
and those bastards in the priest house
were even crueller than
those who’d broke a family
and split us up at birth.
That’s why they should say sorry
for all that they are worth.


Alf Taylor (Retrieved from 'Rimfire: Poetry from Aboriginal Australia')


After prayers at night I go to bed

lying awake with memories in my head.

I can still see my mother kneeling on the ground

sobbing, Don't take my child, I want him around,


When the Native Welfare came and took me away.

Even now at times I still cry inwards and say

I belong to a tribe, honest and just,

not a religion, we live by a must.


Not in a mission, but I'd rather be

hugging my mother, sitting on her warm bended knees.

For one day I'd like to tell the world

how the missionaries put my brain in a whirl.


I tried my best to play along with their rules

praying and praying and going to school.

Being a blackfella was my only tool,

doing things for Jesus and keeping my cool.


I know one day I'll be free,

free from religion and free from rules.

Free to make up my own mind and free to be cool

but I know the damage has already been done

as I see myself lying drunk in the hot morning sun.


Alf Taylor (Retrieved from 'Rimfire: Poetry from Aboriginal Australia')



of a heart,


of joy,

being parted

from her

fair skin boy.


Agonising years

river of tears


all around.



with hope

one day

she will


her fair skin boy.



on a street

she did meet

her fair skin boy.