Athenapallas's Blog

July 31, 2010


Filed under: Modern Athenas,Novel in Progress — athenapallas @ 8:38 pm
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 In the West Macdonnell Ranges of Central Australia our writing guru Jan Cornall taught us these 4 noble truths:


At the finale to this wonderful week of learning, writing,                      

Desert Writers Walking

exploring country, listening to the stories of traditional owners  

and visiting  secret women’s  places,  

we presented our work at  the Desert Writers’  Festival of Hermannsburg .   

While it was good to realise that as writers we cannot fail and that the process is the truth,  

the power of our group experience combined with the talent of  eight extraordinary women to produce some wonderful examples of writing in a variety of genres including film script, biography, poetry, haiku, memoir, short story and novel. 

Athena was  asked to present a short precis of her latest                  

Desert Writers Listening

work in progress, Digging Up the Dead   as  well as to read 

 a scene she wrote under the  mesmerizing influence 

of her desert writing experience. 

But  be warned, as noble truth no 3 asserts, 

this may bear no resemblance to the finished work! 

Digging Up the Dead

Athena Pallas, nicknamed Pal,  is a very unusual Diviner  who is summoned  in 1992 to Yungaburra, a small mining town  in Queensland, by David the mine geologist. After the death of Gary, the blast engineer  in the open cut coal mine, and with the coal running out on top, the mine bosses decide to go underground to extract the rest of the coal left in 1972 when a gigantic underground explosion sealed the mine entombing 12 miners. Alice,  Gary’s girlfriend and the  daughter of George  one of the entombed miners joins Naomi, an Aboriginal elder concerned by  the mine’s desecration of sacred burial places, to help Athena  find out where and how the miners died and to stop the re-opening of the mine.  David, Alice and Naomi have a secret ally who is funding Athena’s assignment and gradually other townspeople like Stan the wily newspaper editor and  Edgar the enigmatic Mining  Warden are drawn into the events that follow. 

Mysterious signs and happenings lead Athena  to think she may be the mortal manifestation of Pallas Athena, 

Desert Writers Climbing

the Warrior Goddess of Ancient Greece, or

that  someone or something is trying to drive her crazy. 

In any event she will need all of the powers of this goddess

as well as those of ancestral Aboriginal spirits 

 to complete her mission and defeat the mine…….. 

As  the plot thickens Athena has a vision of herself at the Gateway to the Underworld where she engages in mortal combat to save George and learn from him what really happened underground in 1972. 

……An enormous roar came from the depths of the tunnel like the explosion George had described but I knew that this was no mine explosion because although loud it did not bucket us with a fiery gaseous wind.  

However I knew we were in trouble when Cerberus the guardian dog  of the Underworld sprung into our presence and sat defiantly on his haunches in front of  us. 

Up close he was a terrifying sight. With three huge heads all with vicious white teeth he reminded me of  the jagged jaws of the continuous mining machines that tore out and swallowed the coal before spitting it into the shuttle cars.  

Here the similarity ended for I could see  the end of his serpent’s tail between his legs and there were innumerable snakes attached to his body.            

Nicholas Guarding Desert Writers

The snakes and his tail were deadly 

if you were foolish enough to  touch them. 

I threw my aegis shield over George to try 

and protect him from the pernicious poison I knew the Dog had in store for us if I defied him and tried to enter the Underworld. 

Cerberus seemed to be able to read my thoughts for suddenly there was a swishing sound and movement of the air in front of me. One of the Dog’s heads moved towards the sound and then the head flung itself towards us. 

I grabbed my shield to stop it before I realised it was detached from its mighty body as if it had been decapitated by an invisible sword. The hideous head fell useless at my feet, but I knew that even a two-headed Cerberus was a formidable opponent. 

Before I could think of a plan, his whip like serpent’s tail flashed out from between his legs and caught me on the side of my head. Without my helmet I would have been showered with the most toxic substance known to the gods-capable of immobilizing whole armies let alone  one woman, albeit the Warrior Goddess and daughter of Zeus. 

Recovering from this close encounter with Cerberus’  tail I lost sight of his heads for a moment and he leapt towards me with all his remaining teeth bared. I cried out: 

‘Zeus, don’t leave me, I have much to do in mortal realms. I must return above.”  

As I yelled these word another decapitated head hurtled towards me………. to be continued maybe …..

The audience clapped enthusiastically when she finished reading this scene but now the writer is left with the task of working out what on earth this means both  for Athena and the story! 

She will keep you posted maybe…… if she survives… 

*From One Continuous Mistake, The Four Noble Truths of Writing by Gail Sher

July 30, 2010


Filed under: Athena's ragings — athenapallas @ 5:28 pm
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Athena mounted the pulpit of this historic church and this is what she said to the ghosts of the past, present and future.

 I, Athena, The Warrior Goddess proclaim this to be a special place full of enormous power and inspiration emanating from the cataclysmic intersection of three cultures and Peoples: the Evangelical Lutheran Missionaries, the Expansionary European Settlers and the Aranda People of the West McDonnell Ranges of Central Australia.

 All three groups required courage and endurance to survive in this, one of  the oldest and driest continents on earth. And in the violence of their meeting a fire was lit whose flames can still sustain us or consume us if we do not listen to the message that this brings namely:

The Land is everything and  without it we are lost.

With no knowledge of  the  land we are doomed,

and if we approach it with ignorance and greed

we will die and our descendants will be cursed and the land will no longer support us.

From our connection to the land comes our humanity and our spirituality.


 In the  heavens ancient Gods may reign and fight among themselves but here on earth the mortals must collaborate and co-operate if they are to survive and flourish.

Pastors standing here in this pulpit may have raged about the wages of sin and declared the Glory of  their God but they also grew to respect, sometimes to their detriment, the power of Indigenous Dreaming and the intricate web of relationships between the landscape, the flora,  the fauna and the peoples of this land we call Australia.

I, Athena salute this sacred place and humbly thank all who have stood here before me.

July 12, 2010

WALKING IN THE STEPS OF DESERT HEROES- Macdonnell Ranges Central Australia

This is Nicholas 19 year old lawman of the Arunda people and  Indigenous guide for the Desert Writers Into the Blue Creative Walk   in the West Macdonnell Ranges of Central Australia   a modern unsung hero befitting the NAIDOC  2010 theme of closing the gap through celebrating our unsung heroes.

And this  is the story of the amazing relationship between Nicholas’ family and the family of Pastor Carl Strehlow, the Senior Missionary of Hermannsburg, the first Aboriginal Mission in the Northern Territory, established by the Lutheran Church in 1877 on Western Arunda traditional lands.

The  story is narrated by Nicholas’  grandfather Herman Malbunka and the first part is  about his grandfather Hesekiel Malbunka, a senior Western Arunda man, a lawman of his country and the friend and cultural mentor of Pastor Carl Strehlow. An unsung and sung hero as the story will demonstrate.

 When Pastor Carl became fatally ill Hesekiel was sent to Alice Springs to send a telegram for help.

Hesekiel knew how critical his task was, he needed to act quickly. Once out of sight of the Mission and other people, he pulled out a lump of soft grass.

He sung that grass to act as the sun and stay high in the sky, for him to complete his journey in the daylight hours.

Hesekiel completed his song and then put the grass in a high fork of a tree and travelled overland by INKALAKA (foot  walk) using the power of song to move through country in record time.

He sang just three songs chanting rhythmically in his mind,his sacred songs learnt through the law.

He walked an incredible 250ks  in two and one half days. On his return he removed the grass in the tree and returned to the Mission compound.

Ted Strehlow Carl’s son said this was faster than our horses would have been at that time.

Ted Strehlow and Gustav Malbunka, Hesekiel’s son were born on the same day 6th June 1908.

One day when only boys they were  down at the Finke River playing. Ted dived in and hit his head on a rock temporarily knocking him out. Gustav dived in and pulled him  up onto the bank saving his life.

Carl had saved Hesekiel from a notorious policeman some 20 years earlier.

Gustav had now saved Carl’s son, these families had strong bonds of friendship, they were friends for life.

Herman Malbunka Narrator (From the Occasional Paper 4 2005 Strehlow Research Centre)

Now Herman’s grandson Nicholas, an initiated lawman works as a guide taking people into his family’s lands and the lands of others Western Arunda people.

He is in some ways a typical teenager full of mischief and fun        

but in others he is different.

He walks tall, he notices all that is happening around him,

he takes his responsibility as a guide seriously,

imparting information where it is appropriate

and sometimes keeping quiet.

He is kind and thoughtful to older white women

who must sometimes seem slow. 

He laughs, sings, dances and jumps for joy a lot of the time.

He took himself all the way to Adelaide to complete his secondary education so that he would not return to his people to get married and have children before he was 20 years old.

‘I will do that later’, he said, ‘maybe when I’m 24. In the meantime I want to work, earn money and learn new things’. 

In the course of several conversations during our desert walk  he said things like:

Our family and our people love and respect the Lutherans,

they worked   hard to help us,  

they saved our lives and stood up for us against the government and others… 

They helped us get back our lands and

they brought us the Word of  God but did not interfere with us.

We have a new church now but some of our people have forgotten.

 Our family will never forget.

There is another side to this story. Although the missionaries here did much to save the people as they fled from massacre, drought and disease,  in the single-mindedness of their Christian beliefs of that time, ancient sacred places were desecrated. Mudgooroo in his dictionary of Aboriginal Mythology reports the Christian exorcising of  the main keeping place of sacred objects (tjuringa)  at Manangananga cave two kilometres from the Mission in 1928 and that sacred objects were sold to tourists and Anthropologists at a shilling a time. But apparently  in the 1950’s there occurred a tribal revitalisation movement which saw the re-sacralisation of the  Cave. And by the 1970s the sale of sacred objects and songs was at an end.

July 6, 2010


Athena has just returned from an amazing  journey through the Macdonnell Ranges of the Central Australian Desert,  which stretch 400 kilometres on either side of Alice Springs . A life changing event for the Warrior Goddess as she met Ancestral Spirits,  a modern Aboriginal Law Man and Senior Traditional Owners of the lands where she alighted.

In the coming days/weeks she will post photos and stories that she gathered in the company of an extraordinary group of Modern Athenas/Writers led by Jan Cornall performance poet, composer, writer and teacher and Raymond Hawkins  a Modern Hermes of Into the Blue Creative Walks   and  a young  Aranda Law Man Nicholas Williams.

A sample of these posts include the following:

Dog Rock Python-The Desert Oracle                                         

Charioteers of  The Pound

How a Meteorite and a Baby Formed a Landscape

Friends For  Life- an Aboriginal Miracle.

The Amphitheatre of  Centralia

The Four Noble Truths of Writing

Athena’s Sermon from The Church at Hermannsburg

Listening to the Rocks of Ormiston

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