I love the slow, warm tropical evenings - having a beer on the verandah and the geographical situation of Darwin itself as it floats on a peninsula jutting into the vast expanse of Darwin Harbour; a harbour that is four times as large as the famous harbour in Sydney. The city is experiencing an economic boom fueled by mining and tourism. Consequently the skyline is constantly changing. The population is young with the average age being about 28. It just gets too damn hot and humid in the wet season and when people retire they often move south. For me Darwin has provided employment, friendships, great weather and proximity to the islands of the Indonesian archipelago this being one of my special interests.The Australian Federal election will be held this year(2007) and I will be travelling to Arnhemland in the Northern Territory to help conduct polling at remote communities along the Territory's northern coast. Places with such lilting names as Ramminginning, Millingimbi, Yirkala and Milakapiti. Darwin has been a base and destination for me since God only knows when(1973). This year we worked long hours painting industrial buildings, millionaires mansions and two bedroom flats. Sometimes you got to "Stand up for Your Rights". The issue is still pending.
When you get to Darwin make sure you take a ride on one of the local buses. Go out to Casuarina Mall on Saturday morning. A ride on a Darwin bus is not just transport its a movie with characters straight from central casting.
The driver could be Chinese or Indian or Maori or Anglo or Aboriginal. Today he's Indian.
Up the back of the bus is a group of tribal aborigines, men and women laughing loudly, talking in language poking fingers at each other being larger than life. The skinny little Chinese lady in the row in front of them is sitting quietly staring straight ahead. The two young girls in front of me, one brown the other mediteranean looking, are sharing an "i-pod" one ear each and giggling.An old Irishman in a white suit and a red baseball cap hasn'stopped talking loudly since he got aboard and is harrnguing a white curly-haired Aboriginal lady with a non stop dissertation about all things Irish. "Best country in the world!" he says. She smiles but can't get a word in edgewise even if she wanted to.
The guy asleep across two seats cradling his beat up old guitar looks like he should have gotten off the bus three stops ago. At the front of the bus there is a clutch of backpackers with packs the size of small refrigerators talking in german discussing the best stop to get off at for the Museum of Art.
There are five languages being spoken around me. The old Irish man is now doing a jig to get his point across to the old white haired Aboriginal lady who covers her mouth with one hand and giggles as he rants on.
The tribe up the back gets off at the university no doubt heading for the beach and bushland down behind there to drink wine and party on. Three skateboarders all dressed in black climb aboard and slump down in the rear seats chattering away non stop. They are followed aboard by a stunningly beautiful Sudanese girl with her hair piled high on the top of her head and carrying her books. She sits next to me and I ask her if she has ever spoken to any of the tribal aboriginals she had met. After all she was probably in a tribal situation herself not too long ago before she came to Darwin as a refugee.
"Oh no!" she said. "They Voodoo they might put a spell on me!".
Only recently I had asked a 16 year old barefoot tribal Aboriginal boy whether he had tried to make contact with any of the newly arrived black refugees from Africa.
"Nah he said. They just wanna be white people. They wearin' shoes!"