The story about Burnam Burnam
The following was originally posted to the e-group "Anthropos Views" in 2001.
When you've got piles of books and papers and junk, it can sometimes be an advantage not to have the heart to throw things away. A few months ago, I came across an article that was published in "News from the Goetheanum" no less than thirteen years ago about the Australian Aboriginal actor and author Burnam Burnam. I became very interested in an update on his biography and more information about his books. A fast websearch on the author, eurythmist Kristina McDonald of Sydney, yielded no results, nor did a search on Burnam Burnam, so I sent an inquiry to the AS in Australia to see what they come up with.
I immediately received the following update from Patrick McDonald at the AS in Australia, who writes as follows:
I'm sorry to report that Burnham died about two years ago. He had a big public funeral that was extremely well attended. We all miss him very much.
Here is Kristina McDonald's article from the January/February 1988 issue of the AS newsletter:
Burnam Burnam, well-known to many Australians as an actor and author, recently became the first Aboriginal member of the Anthroposophical Society. A descendent of the Wurundjeri tribe which lived in the area where the city of Melbourne now stands, Burnam Burnam maintains a nomadic lifestyle within modern society, embracing many fields of activity.
He was born in 1936 on a piece of bark under the family eucalyptus tree, the same sacred place where his father and his father's father were born. His life, however, has expanded far beyond his humble beginning. He studied law for three years at the University of Tasmania; travelled the world comparing the indigenous development of various nations with the situation of Aboriginal Australians; became a prominent figure in sport; became the first Aborigine to gain a Bronze Medallion in Surf Lifesaving; created the first private Community School for Aborigines; worked as a Parliamentary Liasion Officer to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, investigating peaceful means of solving the land rights problems for Aborigines; ran as an Independent candidate in two Senate Elections for New South Wales; and most recently has become a respected actor in several movies and documentaries.
He is currently writing a book, "A Travellers' Guide to Aboriginal Australia" which will be published in 1988, the Bicentennial Year. Many celebrations are being planned to comemorate the landing of the First Fleet in Australia. In contrast to the rising anger from Aborigines over what the invasion of white society has meant to the Aboriginal culture, Burnam Burnam chooses to preserve a more positive way of dealing with people. This gentle approach he feels is more indicative of the true spirit still living in full-bloded Aborigines, showing the qualities of quiet nobility, gentility, and dignity. His book is a contribution to a deeper appreciation of the land itself for all Australians.
"As white Australians become more Australianized and see Australia as their homeland, there is going to be a need for an acute appreciation of the mythologies which they will inherit through the landscape," he said. The book will expose non-Aboriginal people to the mythologies connected with landmarks sacred to Aborigines all around Australia.
It was this spirit of gentleness, what he calls "beingness of nature" or "Aboriginality", which Burnam Burnam saw written on the faces of anthroposophists he met at the Society's Bi-ennial Summer Conference held at the turn of the year 1986/87, which made him decide to become a member. "You Steiner people," he said, "are the Aboriginals of the Universe."
Burnam Burnam has become a volunteer consultant on Aboriginal culture to Waldorf Schools in Australia. this contact has led him to the conviction that Steiner education is precisely what Aboriginal children need. Hopefully this cry and challenge can be met by pioneering spirits within the Waldorf School Movement in Australia.
While at the Bi-ennial Conference Burnam Burnam also discovered the existence of Eurythmy. After seeing a video of a eurythmy performance by the Eurythmeum, Stuttgart, showing Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony" and Mendelssohn's "Hebridian Overture" he became convinced that this art must also find its way to the Aborigines. In the past the white race gave the worst of their society - alcoholism, drugs, and disease - to the Aboriginal culture. He wants the best. In exchange, eurythmists can learn much from the archetypal movements of the traditional corroboree dances of the Aborigines. These reveal an intimate knowledge of the land, animals and elemental forces of Australia. If his wish to have eurythmy performed at sacred Aboriginal sites such as Uluru (known as Ayers Rock) is fulfilled, the very heart of Australia could be rejuvenated. the idea alone has
already begun to pulse fresh blood into the arts. Contact has been made with the leading modern Australian composer, Peter Sculthorpe, over the possibilities of uding his music for eurythmy.
Because of Burnam Burnam's deep love for the music of W. A. Mozart which has been a healing solace to him in times of trial, he was attracted to "Idriart" which aims to unite people of all races through music and the arts. He hopes a festival of diverse cultures can be held in the center of Australia, at a site sacred to Aborigines. He believes "Culture, in all its various forms, unifies, provided human beings can respect that unity within the diversity of the races." His main ambition is to see all peoples come together to highlight similarities rather than differences.
- Kristina McDonald (Eurythmist), Sydney, Australia [January/February 1988]
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