It was when I paused a moment from my workload’s pressing call
that I gazed upon the picture frames which lined my office wall
and I sensed a strange sensation and was soon to be beguiled
by the host of beaming faces as six generations smiled.
Though I laud the pioneering skills my grandfathers had showed,
my thoughts drifted to the women-folk who also walked that road
and it dawned that all our chronicles, our ballads, poems too
failed to sing the women’s praises in the way they ought to do.
From the dreamtime of our nation and the Aborigine,
long before the new white visitor arrived from ‘cross the sea,
the indigenous black mothers would seek out bush tucker food
in an effort to give sustenance to her nomadic brood.
And the wretched convict woman with her love-child by her side
forced to labour in the work house - and in vain as her child died –
how she struggled for existence in the infant colony
with the hope of serving out her time and one day being free.
Loyal wives of military men who too were forced to dwell
far away from native England and to live here quite a spell;
also women of free settlers proud to stand beside their men
in a land of sweat and sorrow and rebuild their lives again.
When the question of imbalance of the genders rose its head,
many women sought to emigrate and hoped that they would wed;
but the immigration policy developed many flaws
till the Chisolms of the century took up the women’s cause.
Once the mountains to the west were crossed the steadfast settler's wife
looked to find a piece of country where she might live out her life:
far from comforts of the cities to some isolated run
where she fought a running battle with the searing summer sun -
Where a slab hut was her castle - where a white ant bed the floor –
where she always had a handout for the traveller at the door.
Though she bore a swag of youngsters with the aid of her black friend,
sadly some would battle whooping cough: it won out in the end.