Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s ‘No More Boomerang’ presents how the indigenous culture of Australia has faced a lot of change after the colonization. It is a satire on the local people and their culture. The speaker of this poem is also one of them. But she is rather critical about the loss of cultural values and ethos. Through this piece, she creates a literary attack on the whites who dominated their region once and uprooted their culture from the hearts of their people. Alongside that, she also criticizes their mindset as they molded themselves in the colonizers’ ways.
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‘No More Boomerang’ by Oodgeroo Noonuccal describes how the indigenous culture of Australia is at stake and depicts the impact of colonization on people’s minds.
This poem describes various aspects of indigenous Australians. After the colonizers set their foot on their land, their culture was gradually destroyed. One after another, the things once the people used to embellish as their identity, lost their significance. The instruments such as the boomerang, stone axe, fire sticks, message-stick, woomera, and waddy have become obsolete as the people revamped their lifestyle replicating the style of the colonizers. Apart from that, Noonuccal talks about the impact of capitalism, consumerism, and materialism on aboriginal Australians in this poem.
You can read the full poem here.
This poem is written from the perspective of an aboriginal who is aware of the effect of colonization on their indigenous culture. It is a satire on both the colonizers and the colonized. This poem consists of 13 quatrains or stanzas having four lines. The rhyme scheme of this piece is ABCB. This rhyming scheme can be seen in the ballad stanza form. For example, in the first stanza, “spear” (in the second line) rhymes with “beer” (in the fourth line). This poem is mostly composed of iambic dimeter with a few metrical variations. The sound scheme of this poem creates a sing-song-like effect.
This poem begins with litotes. Each section begins with the phrase “No more…” The use of a negative word at the beginning of a line is used for the sake of emphasis. Readers can find several allusions to the terms associated with the indigenous Australians such as “boomerang”, “spear” etc. The poet uses irony throughout the poem. For example, the lines “Now all civilized—/ Colour bar and beer” contain irony. Readers can also find alliteration in the phrases such as “bar and beer” and “dance and din”.
No more boomerang
Colour bar and beer.
The poem begins with the main idea that is the crisis in the native culture of the Australian people. In the first two lines, “boomerang” and “spear” are the symbols of tradition and culture. Australian Aboriginal people used boomerang as a hunting weapon. It is a curved flat piece of wood that returns to the thrower after it is released. The spear is another traditional weapon that was used for thrusting or throwing.
As the native people are civilized now, they don’t use those weapons. Rather, they prefer beer nowadays and all the things associated with the colonizers. In the last line, the speaker refers to the “colour bar” that was used to differentiate between the whites and native non-white people.
No more corroboree,
And pay to go in.
In the second stanza, the speaker refers to the Corroboree, an Australian Aboriginal dance ceremony or social gathering. Once they celebrated the happy moments with other members of their community. They danced and sang together. Now pay for their self-centered entertainment. Previously, any monetary equivalent was not associated with the things of enjoyment. Happiness was a thing more than material wealth. But, now the only thing that matters is money. That’s why Noonuccal sarcastically says that now they go to movies and pay to go in.
No more sharing
Then pay it back for things.
The third stanza depicts the loss of cultural values. Sharing is not a value of a particular culture. It is the foremost aspect of humanity. In old times, the hunters brought food for their community and shared the food among others. When the group of hunters came back with a large amount of food with him, it was a festival for the whole village. There were no grudges in sharing. Nowadays, in the consumerist culture, sharing has become a vice. The native Australians once shared without anything in demand. But, now they work only for money and spend the money to fulfill their own needs.
Now we track bosses
On bus to the job.
In modern times, their only concern is moving up the social ladder with the help of money. That’s why those who work under a boss, try to please him anyhow. Their only goal is to get a few “bob”, a metaphorical reference to the increase in salary. It can also be a reference to money. Moreover, the speaker talks about the routine lifestyle of modern people. Throughout the week, one catches the bus heading towards the office. After the work is over, the person takes the same route and returns home. They have no leisure for a corroboree or dance.
One time naked,
To hide whatsaname.
In this stanza, the speaker describes how the colonizers changed the features and customs of the aboriginals. Once they remained naked and they had no shame as being naked was not an issue for them. It was a part of their lives. How they appeared in front of others portrays their originality. Then came the colonizers with their set of rules. They taught them it was a shame to remain naked. In the last line, the speaker insinuates, “To hide whatsaname.” It means that the speaker does not know showing which body part is a shame.
The colonizers came to trade with them. That’s why teaching them their rules would directly benefit their nation’s trade and commerce. In this way, they weeded out the originality to plant their seeds of hegemony.
No more gunya,
In twenty year or so.
The first two lines of this stanza create anthesis. It projects a transition as well as the destruction of the original culture of the people. The Aboriginal Australian people lived in traditional huts made with wood or bark. It is called “gunya” in the local tongue. With time, the lavish English-style bungalows stole their hearts. They associated happiness with the size of the house. It is another aspect of the cultural crisis in Australia. Moreover, this contrast hints at the effect of capitalism on indigenous culture.
They paid a huge price and put all their savings into one goal. It can take them close to twenty years or more. Still, they save their hard-earned money to buy a big bungalow. It is nothing but the vanity of humankind.
Lay down the stone axe,
For a white man meal.
The impact of colonization is further described in this stanza of ‘No More Boomerang’. According to the speaker, they laid down the stone axe and took up the steel. The “steel” refers to the instruments made with this element. It is a use of synecdoche. The term “stone axe” is a symbol of identity and indigenous culture. This instrument symbolizes the native culture. The instruments of colonizers, referred to as “steel”, took the place of their traditional items. Thus, it destroyed their culture. Now, they work like a nigger for getting a “white man meal”. The last two lines depict the themes of racism and colonial hangover.
No more firesticks
And no better off.
Like the “stone axe”, the “firesticks” lost their value. The indigenous people used a fire stick that is rubbed and twirled to make fire by friction. When they make a fire using it, it caused the whites to scoff. The colonizers thought it would be better to replace it with electricity. Still, the natives are no better off. The colonizers scoffed at their originality as there was a belief that the whites were destined to civilize the colonized people. So, they were disdainful after looking at their lifestyle and culture.
Bunyip he finish,
Call him Red.
In this stanza, Noonuccal alludes to the mythological creature Bunyip. Its reference is found in Australian Aboriginal mythology. The creature was part of traditional Aboriginal beliefs and stories throughout Australia. So, the Bunyip is a symbol of their culture. When the whites came, they also erased it from their belief system. They inserted their characters, referred to by the term “Red”. Besides, the color symbolically represents the colonizers. In this way, the poet describes how the colonizers destroyed the cultural beliefs of indigenous people and filled the place with their cultural elements.
Abstract picture now-
Did better than that.
After saying all this, the speaker is confused. She cannot imagine a clear picture of her own culture. Like an abstract picture, the native culture has become vague. She expresses her despair by asking a rhetorical question “What are they coming at?” In the last two lines, she upholds the superiority of her indigenous culture to the alien one. According to her, “Cripes”, a reference to their cave paintings, did better than the abstract art of the colonizers’ culture. In this way, she contrasts the aboriginal art with that of the whites.
Black hunted wallaby,
This stanza contains sarcasm. In the first line, “wallaby” is an animal that is like a kangaroo but smaller than it. The “Black” or aboriginal people hunted this animal while the “white” only hunted dollars. In this way, Noonuccal portrays the materialistic mindset of the whites. In the following lines, she talks about Christian preachers. When they arrived in their country, her people thought they were witch-doctors. She ironically remarks, they “wear dog collar”. In this way, she points out a flaw of institutional religion. Such religion does not free a human from all his burdens. Rather it tames the spirit and uses the individual for the institution’s benefit.
No more message-stick;
This stanza contains a reference to the “message-stick”. It is a form of graphic communication used by the indigenous people. They depicted a message on a wooden piece and tied it to a stick. A messenger carried the stick over to long-distance and spread the message. “Lubras and lads” (ladies and men) now have televisions to watch the shows they wanted. They imitate the cultural signs shown in TV shows. The speaker mentions another interesting idea. She remarks they watch mostly advertisements on the television. It is through advertisement a seller sends the message to buy their product. It has now become a modern “message-stick”, used for commercial purposes.
Lay down the woomera,
The last stanza begins with anaphora. In the first two lines, Noonuccal refers to two items “woomera” and “waddy”. A woomera is a wooden spear-throwing device and a waddy is an aboriginal war club. The native people used these two weapons while they engaged in clan wars. It was one of the oldest weapons used by mankind. In the modern age, people use more powerful and destructive weapons, such as atom bombs. It can vanish the whole city within seconds. The last line “End everybody” sounds ironic. It hints at the mindset of the nations which shamelessly go on brandishing their atomic weapons.
The poem ‘No More Boomerang’ was first published in 1985. It also appears in the poetry collection “Australian Voices: A Collection of Poetry and Pictures”. It is one of the best-known Oodgeroo Noonuccal poems. Noonuccal, later known as Kath Walker, was an Aboriginal Australian political activist and writer. She was the first Aboriginal Australian to publish a book of poetry. Her poems advocated for the rights of indigenous people and their realities. Likewise, in this poem, she describes how colonialism destroyed the aboriginal culture.
Oodgeroo Noonuccal began her literary career in the 1960s. The poem was originally published in 1985. It is probably written in the 1980s.
Noonuccal wrote this poem for expressing her concern for the Aboriginal Australian culture. The gradual destruction of her own culture due to colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism is vividly described in this piece.
In this poem, Kath Walker projects her society as a mere external covering that is protecting a void center, representing the Aboriginal Australian culture. In her society, the indigenous culture is extinct and in its place, an alien culture is still ruling the people’s minds.
The title of Noonuccal’s poem is a reference to a traditional hunting weapon. It is a symbol of the indigenous culture of Australia. As it is “no more”, there is nothing left which she can call her own culture. This loss of identity and originality is portrayed by the title.
The following poems contain similar themes of identity, culture, and cultural destruction that are present in Noonuccal Oodgeroo’s poem ‘No More Boomerang’.
- ‘Municipal Gum’ by Oodgeroo Noonuccal – In this poem, Noonuccal explores the themes of subjugation, displacement, and injustice on Aboriginal Australian people.
- ‘Stewart Island’ by Fleur Adcock – This poem describes the atmosphere of deceit that surrounds part of Adcock’s home in New Zealand. Explore more Fleur Adcock poems.
- ‘The Plains’ by Banjo Paterson – In this poem, Paterson details the several roles played by the Australian plain. Read more Banjo Paterson poems.
- ‘The White Man’s Burden’ by Rudyard Kipling – It’s one of the best-known poems of Rudyard Kipling. This poem taps on the imperialist mindset and what the poet thinks about the obligations of the white men. Explore more Rudyard Kipling poems.