Problems and Solutions
The weekend passed quickly. Patrick devoted Saturday morning to writing a summary of his flight to Menindee and his suggestions. He pointed out that the group was aware of the arrangements made in Kakadu, NT, in the landmark agreement that gave the traditional owners, through the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, the right of veto and consultation over all aspects of the work on their land; and that the Mirrar people, supported by thousands of protestors, had successfully forced Energy Resources of Australia to cease its mining project at Jabiluka in 1999 and to return the mine - which is within two kilometres of the dig site - to the natural landscape.
“At present,” Patrick concluded “Kinchega National Park is a protected area. The eastern edge of the Park is formed by the Darling River. The Park is 44,259-hectares (109,370-acres). The Cawndilla Channel runs from Lake Cawndilla to the Darling. Marking off the area north and east of the Channel to the end of the Park would grant the group part of Lake Menindee, part of Cawndilla, and all of Echo Lake and the land to the western bank of the river.
“No uncontrolled fires would be permitted. No piles of trash. No dead cars or utes. The excavations might be limited, but not barred. Access by Griffith Aboriginal Medical Service will be permitted, and regular consultation with Broken Hill and the Aboriginal Land Council in Parramatta will be required.
“The State and the National Park will thus permit a group of aborigines to settle in a portion of the current protected area. No part of the town of Menindee nor of the grounds of the Menindee Central School will be impinged upon. Archaeological research will continue.”
“Looks OK; reads well,” said Rachel.
“I’ll let it sit till after lunch, then send it to the Minister, copying both Jason and Craig as well as Roy. I hope she’ll ask me to come and discuss things. I really don’t think I should be doing this ten or fifty or a thousand times.”
“Yet that is an appropriate role for you. And you have effected this at a very minor cost to the State. Including the flight, I’ll bet this comes to under $5K.”
“Perhaps under three.”
“And that’s a lot less than shipping an armed group – park rangers, police, army, whatever. What did the Redfern riots in 2004 cost?”
“I don’t know, but more than a few thousand. I know the rail station was set afire at one point.” [“Fifty police officers have been injured in Sydney following a night of rioting sparked by the death of an Aboriginal youth.” CNN 16 Feb. 2004]
“Let’s go out for lunch and do a grocery mission.”
Later, Patrick sent off his report and he and Rachel were reading. She looked up from the last pages of Hauser. “You know, I could just sit down and write the dissertation.”
“Well, it seems to me that UNSW says it should take you three years. And you still haven’t final approval, do you?”
“No. I’ll bug Dr. G on Monday, and go there to see him on Tuesday, if necessary.”
“Hmmm. I’m waiting to hear about Menindee. But, that aside, I’m going to begin on my pamphlet next week. And I’m going to read some fiction.”
“More Grey and Upfield?”
“No. I thought Malouf’s Ransom. It’s a reimagining of the Iliad that follows the relationship between two grieving men at war: Achilles and Priam. It came out years ago, but I’ve not read it.”
“I’ve read some of his poetry.”
“I bought Ransom when I was in the CBD a week or ten days ago.”
“Just frittering away our resources!”
“Absolutely! Think of what my paperbacks run compared to your art books!” He reached over and tickled her. “But I’ll take out the difference in trade!”
“No. No! Not now. And don’t tickle me!”
When they had dressed again, Rachel began dinner preparations. Patrick phoned his father.
“Hey! I’ve sent in a report on Menindee, but don’t expect any kind of response before Monday ... Have you heard from your daughter? ... Oh? ... in Adelaide? ... Maybe we can get down there. They’ve got over 50 Williamses and a bunch of Dupains. And you? ... Both Sandra and Winnie! You sly dog! I’ll talk to you during the week.”
“What was that?”
“My dad. He took both Sandra and Winnie out to Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Opera House.”
“How was it?”
“I didn’t ask. The review in The Telegraph was negative a few months ago. You can ask Winnie. But he says Sarah has begun studying at the University. I thought we might go visit for a week: you could look at the Williams and Dupains.”
“At least two or three weeks. When things settle down. And after Dr. G approves your proposal.”
“OK. Dinner in about 20 minutes.”
Sunday was pleasant and (relatively) lazy. At ten Patrick took the bed linens, towels, etc., to My Beautiful Laundrette on King while Rachel hoovered. He was back with everything neatly folded by noon. After lunch, Rachel redid her proposal and sent it off with a note saying that she’d appreciate either approval or another appointment for a real conference.
“Isn’t that rude?” she asked.
“No. Probably more forceful than he’s used to. But he can look at it as a learning experience.”
“Of course, that’s why you married me!”
Monday Patrick’s phone went off at nine. It was Roy. He had read the report and it appeared reasonable to him.
“Well, no one else has spoken to me. Can you get word to Archy and his group?”
“Haven’t you sent it to him?”
“I have no way of doing so. I thought he would phone me over the weekend, but he did not do so.”
“I will call him. I will then phone Jason. I will get back to you in the afternoon.”
While Patrick was reporting to Rachel, his phone went again.
“Good morning, Craig.”
“No. I’ve not heard from the group at the lake, nor from the Ministry. Roy called and said he’d call later today. Yes, I’ll let you know.”
Patrick got off and looked at Rachel. “It’s going to be crazy. You get out of here and read or look at pictures.”
“Yes, dear. See you later.”
Patrick made more coffee and began Malouf, but he’d barely gotten started before the phone rang. This time it was Jason.
“I think you’ve a good notion there,” he began.