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Alice Springs


Blimey! Did you know Jon's New Zealand book Squashed Possums is out now - find out more


"Em genna kill yer", you hear whispered into your ear, as you awake violently to discover that you are blind, a few drops from the ipi-ipi plant have glued your eyes shut. The Kadiatja has come for you, your tribe has deserted you in fear, and you are all alone, except for an Aboriginal hit man, who is going to make you pay for your past crimes, with a bloody vengeance.

The Kadiatja (pronounced cha) was a one-man executor of justice. In the event of a serious crime being committed within a tribe, the Elders would employ a Kadiatja to hunt down the accused and inflict an appropriate punishment upon him. The Kadiatja were renown and feared, unusually for an Aboriginal they wore shoes, and a mask, to conceal their identity. Unlike other hunters, the Kadiatja worked alone, tracking their quarry through the desert until they were found. Since the Aboriginals were a nomadic people, they had no use for material possessions, or currency, so punishment was a physical one. A common punishment, still practiced today, is a spear though the leg. Only last year a man in Alice was arrested for rape, turned over to his community and returned to his cell a couple days later, his legs filled with bloody holes. Kadiatja, in the past would beat their suspect, and in extreme cases, pushed the helplessly blind over a cliff to fall to their death.

Well, that’s enough about the Kadiatja, I still have to tell you about my little chat in Alice Springs a few days ago. As I mentioned before, unfortunately conversations between Aboriginals and whites are few and far between. Sitting on the grass, off Todd Street, I was enjoying the weather and catching up on my diary, the black fellas approached "Bro, ye got a dollar, money for water", "Bro, spare dollar for my paints, em an artist". Politely refusing, one old fella rather than walk onto his next target sat down on the grass next to me.

He was perhaps 50, with white bushy hair, a big white beard, a black scar under one eye, and wearing a thick leather jacket in the afternoon heat, Gerry was his name. We chatted along.

"Aren’t you hot in that mate", I asked,

"Na, bro, cold, very cold at night", he answered. I asked him if he had a family.

"Got ma mum and dad mate, no married, bet I get a gal, sometimes she loves me, sometimes she hates me!"

I smiled, who wouldn’t? So Gerry asked whether I was married "no" I answered, engaged? "no", girlfriend? "well", I answered mischievously, "y'know, women they come and go".

He chuckled away, and pointed to the crested pigeons walking about, "good eating, like chicken, I'll cook you one!" It sounded like a tempting offer, and Gerry was a friendly fella, except I wasn't too sure what I was getting into here. But before I could choose my pigeon Gerry gave me some sage advice "Bro, never make love to Aboriginal woman, ye get stebbed in the beck!" Blimey, thanks for the advice Gerry, but get stabbed in the back by who? by her? "Neh mate, Aboriginal men, very jealous!" I nodded, and assured him I had no such plans on the locals. Moments later, a roundish Aboriginal woman sat down and joined us, "Where ye from?" she asked? "London" I answered, "Where ye staying?" she asked. "Down the road at 'Annies Place' I answered. "Can I come with you?" she asked. Slightly taken aback I replied "Thanks, but no thanks", and shaking Gerry by the hand, I wished him well, and made my escape! They had a good old laugh at the hostel about that one!

Blimey! Did you know Jon's New Zealand book Squashed Possums is out now - find out more




27/02/2008

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