The other day I was walking around Federation Square and I noticed all these tents set up behind it. They were of a strong white vinyl/plastic and a couple of meters square in size. I looked inside one and they even had a mat flooring. 'Wow' I thought, 'these are great, the city has finally solved the homelessness problem..' but no, they were there for the Sustainable Resource Festival that weekend. As far as I know Melbourne doesn't have a night shelter for those sleeping rough. I wonder how much resources it would take to set one up? For a couple of days the tents were empty, residents: at least one.
In the morning I found the guys at a different place, down by the river. Robbie was standing there, in drab blue denim pants and jacket and bare feet. With shoulders slightly slumped and fists half clenched, he looked like a washed up brawler who still had fight in his heart and carried a long deep memory of events past forgotten but with their history visible enough in his eyes that he would instantly get your respect, even if you didn't know why you were giving it. I wished I had a camera, it was one of those lasting defineing images. In fact as I have come to know Robbie he is really just a big softy. Yesterday I was sitting with him at the meeting place and along came Nora (one of the friendly Credo girls) who sat down with us to say hello and have a chat. Robbie talked about the environment, materialism and how precious young women were, to be looked after as our most valuable resource. He even reached into his jacket and pulled out a pen set (from the souvenir shop across the road) and gave it to her as a gift, and then asked me to find her a flower. He may even be a Christian? as he mentioned there was a particular Church he likes to go to on Sunday mornings (where they give him a bottle of port to start the day.. I guess alcohol[Communion] is served in Churches most Sundays, his just comes in a bigger size..). Actually I have never seen him in a fight, he only tends to get upset when people are inconsiderate or disrespect his indigenous values. He is almost a living statement of 'What else can I do? White man's society hasn't left any room for me (and my people) to exist..' His favorite thing is to pat a pair of little dogs, a lady walks by with most days, he calls them his pupps.
Also by the river I saw the indigenous guy Pete, whom I'd been on the lookout for. I introduced myself, reached into my bag and pulled out the sunglasses his lady friend had left on the seat last Wednesday. Returning them to him he was a bit surprised and it was a moment before he remembered whom he had been with, and thanking me said he would return them to her later. Not long after, I was standing by the river railing, staring at the jellyfish, and he came over to talk to me further. He told me of some issues, and then asked me to pray for him and his family. I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed with him for bit before he returned to sit with the others.
In the afternoon I was sitting at he steps with Dougy and Troy (another indigenous guy of the crew who is usually high and happy but also quick to anger and violence). They were both very drunk and they started arguing together that quickly escalated into violence. They were yelling at each other and standing toe to toe with Troy gripping Dougy by the throat and Dougy standing thee with his bottle of port in one hand behind his back. I decided to see what influence I had gained with them and walked up to them telling Troy to let Dougy go and for them both to seek peace. Unfortunately I got Troy's name wrong and he turned to correct me but remained gripping Dougy's throat with full force. The distraction allowed Dougy the moment to 'bottle' him (smash the bottle over Troy's head) and I was showered with port and glass.. Influence not detectable, and so I stepped back and went to sit down and let them resolve it (I didn't half blame Dougy for his action as he probably couldn't breathe for the last minute and there was no indication of being let go). Troy seemed ok, thanks to his cap, probably more stunned by the action than the actual impact. Then one of the older, most respected indigenous elders, charged Dougy and wrestled him to the ground yanking the rest of the broken bottle out of his hand, and it was over. The cops wandered over and Troy ran off. Dougy waited for an ambulance to arrive to check him out as Alice (sitting nearby) had told the cops that Dougy had hit himself over the head with the bottle. At first I thought she had seen it wrong, and then I realized it was to protect Dougy from being charged with assault, as it's probably not an offence to hit yourself over the head. Interestingly Dougy was later 'punished' by the indigenous community for the fight, as while he generally has more respect than Troy, when it comes to violence the indigenous community rally around their own before anyone else, whether the person was in the right, or wrong.