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Published: June 23rd 2006
I'm on the bus with another 20 or so people, listening to Greg, our tour guide / driver talk about the fantastic landscapes we're zooming through. Kangaroos, Wallabies, Wallaroos, they're all here in the middle of nowhere. We've passed by ancient volcanoes, through dried up seas, across the Atherton Table Lands, where the landscape has almost instantly changed from lush green to cyclone-damaged tropical rainforest (that will take 10-50 years to grow back), to black basalt rocks and ferrous-red desert dust.
We've passed through Mount Surprise - so named after the British explorers were surprised to find Aboriginies here....genious - and will stop tonight in the little town of Croyden.
Greg really knew his stuff and explained the basics of the Aboriginal 'skin' system, which is basically just a class system, probably similar to the setup in India, that determines how people relate to each other and their roles, responsibilities and obligations. The system dictates who you can marry, talk to or even make eye contact with(!) - get this, it's not allowed for a Mother-In-Law to speak or even make eye contact with her Son-In-Law - sounds sensible to me!
Greg also went on to explain that
the Australian government also have a system whereby Aborginal people who have commited crimes can be punished by their tribes, rather than by a Western-style court. Punishments can be as simple as a fine to the extremes of having barbed spears thrown into you, or the worst punishment of all: banishment.
We finally arrived in Croyden, a small town full of stock men (the Australian cowboy - yes, I couldn't get Brokeback Mountain out of my head), hunters and drunkards. Our accomodation was above a pub and what better sign was there that this was going to be a good night....
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