'Some things weigh heavy on my heart'

SPEAKING FROM THE HEART: Society's preoccupation with "non-renewable culture" gives Uncle Ossie Cruse pause. Photo: Rachel Mounsey
SPEAKING FROM THE HEART: Society's preoccupation with "non-renewable culture" gives Uncle Ossie Cruse pause. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

"There are a few things that weigh heavy on my heart," says Eden Elder Ossie Cruse, looking out his loungeroom window over Cattle Bay.

It would be a perfect vista on most days, but today smoke from the NSW bushfires has drifted down the coast blanketing Eden and Uncle Ossie's view of the bay.

The reason for our meeting is to write an article about University of Wollongong's recent admission of Uncle Ossie as a Fellow of the university as well as discuss the Twofold Aboriginal Corporation's milestone 40th birthday celebrations.

But with the smoke-filled vista the conversation quickly steers into the now and discussion of the past takes a back seat.

"We're in a bit of a mess," he says of the looming condition of the planet.

"I call it non-renewable resource culture. It's about getting all the money out of the earth while we can."

"Doesn't matter if it spoils our teeth as long as we make money. That's what non-renewable culture resource does," he says, remembering a time years ago when he saw a truckload of koala skins set for America out of a Far South Coast national park.

More recently a trip to the West Australian wheat belt also left an impression on him. "All that wheat is for export, that's a massive amount of land and we're not even feeding ourselves with it.

"They've taken all the trees out, it's so dry out there as soon as they plough it up there's dust storms.

"That smoke out there - it's not false, this inferno we've created ourselves," he says gazing back out the window.

There's a long pause and Uncle Ossie attempts to steer the conversation back to the beginning of Twofold Aboriginal Corporation. He soon becomes derailed as I ask whether Indigenous author Bruce Pascoe will be in attendance. Mention of the highly acclaimed author of Dark Emu quickly veers our chat down the path of Indigenous belonging.

The recent questioning by News Corp journalist Andrew Bolt of Bruce Pascoe's heritage and validity of his claims in his book has left Uncle Ossie saddened.

"I'd like to sit down with Mr Bolt and tell him a few things," he says.

"Firstly he is talking with his tongue and not his heart. He needs to understand Bruce Pascoe is who he declares he is and he is accepted by his community."

Those who know Uncle Ossie will know he is no stranger to speaking from his heart.

And as the morning rolls on over tea, biscuits and a smoky view our conversation continues down many windy pathways touching on everything from God, treaty and the need for bilateral political conversation - all matters that weigh heavy in Ossie's heart.