“We Are Going” is a poem by the Aboriginal Australian poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal, who was a leader in the struggle for Aboriginal rights in Australia. Australia was once a British colony—in fact, it is still part of the Commonwealth—and the poem examines the impact of British conquest on Aboriginal Australians, their way of life, and the natural world. Ultimately, the poem shows the profound destructiveness of colonialism, while also powerfully asserting the beauty of Aboriginal culture and identity. “We Are Going” was published in Noonuccal’s 1964 collection of the same name, the first book of poetry to be published by an Aboriginal Australian poet.
They came in ...
... of their tribe.
They came here ...
... old bora ring.
'We are as ...
... the old ways.
We are the ...
... wandering camp fires.
We are the ...
... the dark lagoon.
We are the ...
... now and scattered.
The scrubs are ...
... from this place.
The bora ring ...
... we are going.'
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
The Poem Out Loud — Listen to Oodgeroo Noonuccal read "We Are Going" in this 1986 audio recording. Interestingly, in this reading, the text of the poem is slightly different, including a longer transition between the opening scene and the collective "We" beginning to speak.
British Colonialism in Australia — Learn more about British colonialism in Australia, and the impact on Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples, in this article from Australians Together. The article describes the brutal history of colonialism in Australia, beginning with the arrival of the first fleet of British ships in 1788.
Biography of Oodgeroo Noonuccal — Read more about Oodgeroo Noonuccal's life and work in this article at the Australian Poetry Library.
Interview with Oodgeroo Noonuccal — In this interview originally conducted in 1981, Oodgeroo Noonuccal talks about why change in Australia will come with the younger generation, and what she hoped to achieve through opening an educational center on her home island of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island).
The White Australia Policy — Learn more about the White Australia Policy, the set of governmental policies that established and maintained white supremacy in Australia. Oodgeroo Noonuccal and other Aboriginal activists struggled against the White Australia Policy to obtain civil rights for Aboriginal Australians. This article discusses the history of the policy, as well as how it still impacts Australian culture today.
Photograph of Oodgeroo Noonuccal at Moongalba — View a 1982 photograph of Oodgeroo Noonuccal at Moongalba, the educational center she opened on her home island of Minjerribah.
1They came in to the little town
2A semi-naked band subdued and silent
3All that remained of their tribe.
4They came here to the place of their old bora ground
5Where now the many white men hurry about like ants.
6Notice of the estate agent reads: 'Rubbish May Be Tipped Here'.
7Now it half covers the traces of the old bora ring.
8'We are as strangers here now, but the white tribe are the strangers.
9We belong here, we are of the old ways.
10We are the corroboree and the bora ground,
11We are the old ceremonies, the laws of the elders.
12We are the wonder tales of Dream Time, the tribal legends told.
13We are the past, the hunts and the laughing games, the wandering camp fires.
14We are the lightening bolt over Gaphembah Hill
15Quick and terrible,
16And the Thunderer after him, that loud fellow.
17We are the quiet daybreak paling the dark lagoon.
18We are the shadow-ghosts creeping back as the camp fires burn low.
19We are nature and the past, all the old ways
20Gone now and scattered.
21The scrubs are gone, the hunting and the laughter.
22The eagle is gone, the emu and the kangaroo are gone from this place.
23The bora ring is gone.
24The corroboree is gone.
25And we are going.'