Love and respect have kept artist and activist Jack Green and Josie Davey together now for 10 years and blessed them with two gorgeous kids, Jackie and Shantrelle. But on Monday this week, 150 people from the four main indigenous language groups from the south-western Gulf country around Borroloola gathered in the bush to see them formalise that relationship in a unique wedding ceremony. The wedding was in a special “something old, something new” style, drawing on indigenous symbolism and the making of lifelong social contracts, not just between individuals but between families. Jack and Josie want to bring back the best of their traditions, traditions that have been worn down by more than a century of colonisation. The families gathered around two bush shelters in the soft light of the late afternoon out of town near Jack’s camp. In one bough shade, Jack and men from clans he connects to painted up and began singing to the beat of clapsticks and the drone of a didgeridoo — with Jack playing the didgeridoo. A little way off Josie and women sat and painted up the bride and also her bush “bridesmaids”. A chanting chorus and escort of women elders walked with Josie to a central point where, holding her father’s hand she left her women folk and walked towards the party of Jack’s clan coming from the east. Jack and Josie’s hands entwined and they walked back towards the groom’s shade. Speeches were made… about the importance of ceremony and preserving Aboriginal law. The ceremony now links Jack in a special ceremonial obligation to Josie’s clan, a relationship symbolised by the passing of a burning firestick. Says Jack: “Ceremonies like this symbolise long relationships between families and clans. It’s like if there’s a ceremony on, the groom has to dance for the bride’s brother. I have to dance for that fella, because I’m married to that fire, to that sister of his. I’m tied in there now under our law. And like you have to look after fire, I have to look after and take care of Josie for the rest of my time”. As the ceremony concluded with a feast of rib bones from a ground oven, road trains from the McArthur River Mine roared past only a hundred metres away, carrying ore to the port at Bing Bong. But that’s another story, and not a happy one like this.

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