Travelling north on the Augusta Highway, my Nan and I came across a young man walking along the side of the road, a man on a journey, putting one foot in front of the other for his people. His name is Clinton Pryor.
Clinton has been on the road for the past seven months. He left his home in Perth and has vowed to take a stand.
He is walking to Ngunnawal country (Canberra) and when he gets to Ngunnawal country he wants to sit down with the Prime Minister and have a yarn, a serious yarn about our future.
After hearing about the forced closures of Aboriginal communities and the uproar that had created across the country, rallies were being born and people were angry and making their voices heard in their communities.
Clinton saw this and started reflecting on his time growing up in the Pilbara. He knew what community life was like, he knew what it was like growing up in a community and he talks fondly about his grandmother who still lives in her community. He felt he needed to do something.
He started with one following car and he now has three. All the occupants are social justice fighters wanting a better outcome for everyone. They believe in what Clinton is doing.
So the cars drive ahead to the next pit-stop, the following car is always out on the road with Clinton and there is a bike that follows him up. The cyclist is integral in capturing Clinton’s images that he shares to his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Clintonswalkforjustice/
Four pairs of shoes later he found himself walking on Nukunu country (500m from Harry’s Deli) when Nan and I came across him.
After meeting him, Nan and I had lunch at the deli and the lovely staff organised a care package of jams and a salami and some pickled goods, which I passed on. Thanks, guys.
I promptly went back to Port Pirie to organise accommodation. I walked into the reception area of the Port Pirie Beach Caravan Park and presented the facts – “a man has walked from Perth, he is walking for Justice For Our People and he will be pulling up here tonight, there are five or so in his team and they are on their way to Canberra to ...” I didn’t get through my sentence when she cut me off. “It is fine. I understand. I will put them in cabin one.” Many thanks Meg.
I walked away with renewed faith for Clinton and his plight. My plight. Ours. Coming back to visit Clinton for a yarn, we sat in a circle with my sons Andrew and Michael and a Port Pirie newcomer, Dean.
I wondered how many times he has recounted this story and whether he tired from it. It soon became evident his heart is firmly planted in the right place for his people.
He has walked from Perth to Kalgoorlie then onto Leanora, across the Western desert into Pitjantjatjarra country before heading south to make his way to Kaurna country (Adelaide). He has crossed many countries, most of them unseen, but many countries nonetheless.
He spoke about waiting for permission to enter Mutujulu because of men’s business being conducted and then, once granted entry, a few days later, he had a meeting with the traditional owners.
For Clinton, it then became about sitting on country to listen. Clinton heard stories of how this country has changed and when it was being colonised how those traditional owners (some of them in their 80s and 90s) were brutally treated and their parents as well, all over land.
Memories still vivid and still readily recalled.
As Clinton walked away from Uluru, the heart of this country, he carried with him a gift, a piece of the life force that rests still, among the desert landscape.
Walking in the desert Clinton got a glimpse of how our old people lived.
How they travelled. He got to see what their eyes saw.
I was enthralled by his recollection. My eldest son, Andrew, said “the thing I remember most about Clinton is what he said about the beautiful land - it makes me want to go up to Uluru and see it for myself”
He makes his way along his songline, creating a new story that will be shared for years to come.
Protected. With Knowledge.
Thank you Clinton, because whatever you are achieving, we are watching and if we don’t understand now, we will understand one day. All of us.
Elaine Crombie is a former Port Pirie resident and actor.