Children like to set themselves challenges, and enjoy the sense of victory that results when they achieve their goal. Like G Ketewa hitching a ride on Abrantie’s bike.
This week’s photo challenge is ‘victory’, but as usually happens, I saw a few responses before I read the actual challenge, so my mind was full of ideas that, it turns out, are far removed from the challenger’s proposal that we focus on ‘that moment of glory and pride you’ll remember forever’.
My problem, you see, is that I see victory — unlike achievement — as somewhat tainted.
This grand building is Government House in New South Wales, which is where the first British colony was established on the lands of the Cadigal people of the Eora nation in 1788. It represents the victory of the colonisers over the Indigenous people.
But these victories were achieved at the expense of the people who were moved out of the Gully so that the racetrack could be built. The railing represents a victory for racism and greed, not for sport.
The traditional custodians (the Gundungurra and Darug people) had been coming to this site in summer for thousands of years before the racetrack was built. As the mountains were colonised, they were forced to make it a permanent home, and lived there harmoniously with impoverished white and Chinese people from the late 19th century until the 1950s.
Half a century on from their eviction, the traditional owners have reclaimed the Gully and joined with non-Indigenous locals to restore the environment and educate visitors about its history. This newly planted sapling, then, represents many victories: of their love of country, of their generosity to the descendants of the colonisers, and of reconciliation.
On a weekend when our world seemed shattered by hate, with the attacks in Beirut and Paris, I’m glad I was out walking in this beautiful place, with its reminders that it’s possible to heal from hate and injustice. In another 50 years, will recognition of our shared humanity be as victorious globally as it is in this small, tranquil valley? I hope so.