The Clash of Civilisations

tardis.jpgStrolling along the foreshore near Rapid Creek with “B” last evening. A mob of mildly agitated Aboriginal women approaches. One of them comes up to Jenny. “Dat thing dangerous, you know,” she says, gesturing towards the gleaming new high-tech aluminium automated ablution facility just installed by the Council near the Beachfront Hotel. It replaces the decrepit, dirty old brick dunny block that cost a fortune to clean and maintain. The new one is said to be self-maintaining. The doors fly open after 10 minutes use, and a disembodied android voice intones “Warning! Leave the cubicle immediately!” Then it cleans itself with jets of high pressure water and hot air.

Us Aboriginal people can’t use dat thing, you know. Dat thing dangerous.”

tardis-w.gifJenny looks bemused and says nothing. I can’t help myself. “I know what you mean. But I reckon that thing’s a tardis. You might be able to time travel in it.” Baffled, the woman shakes her head sadly and wanders off.

Why did she choose me, I wonder?,” Jen muses as we stroll on across Rapid Creek footbridge. “Because you look like the sort of person who would sympathise with her concerns. I reckon that thing’s dangerous too. It freaks me out. I wouldn’t use it. I might go in to check it out, but I certainly wouldn’t have a shit in there.” Jen says “I wouldn’t even go in and check it out“.

On the other side of the creek two young policemen on bicycles are busy moving along the remaining members of the Aboriginal group camping there, shooing them back across the bridge towards the lurking tardis. Enlightenment slowly dawns. Too frightened to use the new loo, they’ve been crapping on the lawns instead, and a good burgher has complained. But Aboriginal people have always camped there, under the casuarina trees beside the creek. It’s their place. I hope the tardis time travels somewhere else, and they put back the old dirty dunnies.

Update – This morning I saw the same mob of women again, while on my morning jog. They were carefully examining the sister tardis down near Nightcliff jetty. By the time I passed there again on my return leg, they’d decided to time travel after all. Four of them stepped gingerly together into the tardis and allowed the door to slide shut silently behind them. One woman, the youngest, waited outside nervously in case rescue was needed. There’s safety in numbers. I didn’t wait to see if they finished their business inside ten minutes.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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2024 years ago

Pray for those with performance anxiety.

Procrapstination I think it’s called.

2024 years ago

Did you see K-9? That metal dog rocks.

2024 years ago

– Episode 2 or 3 of the flash new series …
Fascinating metal box on the beach.
My daughter Jes and I went to take a photograph of the amazing new loo for you lot. Jes is expert with the buttons and enters. I do notice that she remains very close to the door and doesn’t venture far from the wash basin. She plays. in then out. and again. a couple more times ….
the door closes.
A mother emergency rescue.
Press open.
Hold quaking, sobbing Jes.
Upon recovery, by way of explanation, ‘you can’t get stuck in the the other ones, they have handles going like this – flicks wrist – and spaces under the door to crawl out… you can easily get out’.
Ahhh. Yes. It is important to know you can leave.
Luckily I speak and read fluent English. I am also relatively familiar with buttons on lifts etc. What I mean is I am well qualified to mount a rescue. I shiver when I think of the consequences of no such qualification.

David Tiley
2024 years ago

We have one of those at the top of Chapel street. I came past a group of unemployed young people sitting on a bench and watching me hopefully. Why did they want me to use the dunny?

Keeping a suspicious distance (well, I did have my bike) I glanced at the door. To discover the interior of the whole gleaming space age plastic package appliance was absolutely streaming with shit. Like some huge many stomached animal had just exploded inside.

Hooooo erk. I presume the perfect victim for the audience was someone in a hurry who needed a quick piss and came round the curved side of the thing and just ducked in… maybe even closing the door before they realised…

Well, it passed the afternoon for them. And left me with my own childishly entertaining question. How did the shit get on the walls?

2024 years ago

it hit the fan?

Greg Moylan
Greg Moylan
2024 years ago

You are a patronising shit, aren’t you?

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2024 years ago

Greg, he tends to say what he thinks. It’s a refreshing human frailty.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2024 years ago

I don’t accept that the post was “patronising” in any event. It certainly wasn’t intended that way. I aimed to present a word picture of a mildly amusing sequence of events that might give readers just a bit of the flavour of living in Australia’s Top End. But I also had a more serious aim: to highlight the practical difficulties that endemic illiteracy poses for indigenous people, even in performing simple tasks most of us take for granted. You can do that by tub-thumping polemic, but also in more oblique and hopefully amusing ways. There are enough deadly serious posts on this blog already, without getting accused of being “patronising” for taking a whimsical approach to a serious issue.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2024 years ago

Well said Ken.

2024 years ago

strongly seconded. But….

– it’s not whimsical Parish it’s a goddamn case study –

– also, what part of the post did you find patronising Greg? I would honestly appreciate an answer.
Because: on moving to the NT I was told that ALP voters often change alliances and vote conservative in NT elections – this has happened to me – (or would if I was on a roll)-
:also I was fascinated by Territorians approach to the environment, tourists and our indigenous oba da rode (indicate direction with lips)
:I was also never cold.

So now 15 odd years later: I would vote for the CLP and going further afield I may vote for Mr Costello and the Liberal Party.
:I think that environmentalists who camp in Kakadu are nutcases, although I appreciate their effort for the sake of diversity.
:I have a deeper understanding of this country and our culture. That great big Arnhemland has got footsteps all over it – it is crowded out there – there is no empty outback. I somehow thought there was. There is deep history everywhere – I can feel it – Swear I’m not being a wanker.
:And I freeze in the dry – coat and blanket freeze, – won’t go camping freeze.
So answer because now it’s well past my bedtime and I need beauty sleep or Parish will run away and not help me fix my yard tomorrow.