The Pop­pies and the Peas

The Chronicle - - Opinion - MARK COPLAND

I’VE never met a flo­ral ac­tivist be­fore and I am not sure if that is how Hazel Davies de­scribes her­self, but she is cer­tainly one strong woman work­ing for change.

In my last mis­sive I posed a ques­tion as to how we might re­spond to the thou­sands of un­named Aus­tralians who fought and died for their coun­try and kin on Aus­tralian soil? They just hap­pened to be First Na­tions peo­ple whose lives were lost as part of the Fron­tier Wars.

I’m not sure if Hazel Davies an­swers all of my ques­tions but she cer­tainly bub­bles the con­ver­sa­tion along.

I briefly met Hazel as part of a four day com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Myall Creek Mas­sacre in North­ern New South Wales last week. The Myall Creek Memo­rial is a place of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance and is build­ing each year as a move­ment pro­mot­ing truth telling and heal­ing across our land.

At the sym­po­sium Pro­fes­sor Lyn­dall Ryan pre­sented her project which is an on­line map­ping of mas­sacre and fron­tier con­flict sites across Aus­tralia. It is rig­or­ous and con­fronting. If you are on­line savvy look it up. It will prob­a­bly have a mas­sacre site near a place of sig­nif­i­cance for you.

Pro­fes­sor Ryan es­ti­mates there will be over 500 sites recorded by the time the project is com­plete.

His­to­rian Henry Reynolds es­ti­mates more than 65000 lives were lost on the Queens­land fron­tier alone, more than any war fought overseas.

So why the florist? This April, Hazel Davies was in­ti­mately in­volved in what most Aus­tralians would de­scribe as our an­nual sa­cred mo­ment.

She lov­ingly cre­ated and pre­sented the wreaths for Prime Min­is­ter Turn­bull and Gover­nor Gen­eral Cos­grove to lay at the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial on AN­ZAC day.

She then walked to the Abo­rig­i­nal Tent Em­bassy where she pre­sented a uniquely Aus­tralian wreath made from Aus­tralian flow­ers to be laid at the same memo­rial to re­mem­ber those who lost their lives as part of the fron­tier wars.

Hazel has built a re­la­tion­ship with the First Peo­ples from Cen­tral Aus­tralia and dis­cov­ered that the Sturt Desert Pea is a sym­bol of love and loss, of blood spilt on the soil.

It, like the poppy, is a flower of re­mem­brance. Hazel de­scribes the desert pea as Aus­tralia’s own Flan­ders

Poppy.

Hazel Davies Desert Pea Project aims to bring about aware­ness of our fron­tier wars and bring about heal­ing through hon­our­ing all of our dead who gave their lives to pro­tect their coun­try. Her poem, The Pop­pies and the Peas is well worth tak­ing to the heart, be­cause that’s ex­actly where it comes from.

The Pop­pies and the Peas

In Flan­ders fields the pop­pies blow Their silky mem­o­ries shape and soak our na­tion’s griev­ing walls

Red song lines res­ur­rect the lost to love

And love is given up to hope We clutch the poppy to our breast And to the creviced walls we press in …. And press on. Tal­is­man of a trans­ported na­tion Whose por­tal steps are found in blood

We cover, cover with the red The bloody truth of our dead. Now flow­ing in the coun­try’s heart The pea flower tells

Of dead who lie and cry goes up First na­tion’s blood soaks and grieves our soil

Fiery me­mory lost to shame. Bravely now with trem­bling hands We must pluck the poppy with the pea

Whose bat­tle song line

Must needs be res­ur­rected from lost to love

Un­cover, un­cover with the red The bloody truth of our dead In Aus­tralian Fields. Hazel Davies 2015

The Myall Creek Memo­rial is a place of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance. The Stu­art Desert Pea is a sym­bol of the blood spilt on the soil.

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