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LEN KENNA - Anthology

Updated: Sep 5

Poetry © Len Kenna August 2023

Illustrations © Crystal Jordan 2023


I wrote this small anthology of poems because I was struck by the lack of empathy towards the Aborigines and English Convicts transported to Australia, but secondly and more importantly the lack of analysis of crimes committed on the frontier and its impact on Aborigines, has not been properly explained.

This anthology was not written from inspiration, but it was a deliberate attempt to paint a picture using words to show the suffering and anguish that occurred in the early days of Settlement. And the criminality that formed the White population of Australia and as a consequence the writing of this anthology was more like a bricklayer building a brick fence, putting one brick on top of another, in the same way the facts were compiled and sorted. As the right phrase was arrived at it was placed in the right order on the page until the poem was complete. As a result, it was a long, slow, and trying process until the anthology was completed.

There was little attention paid to metre and line length in the poems, because I was more concerned with painting verbal pictures, albeit very dark and at times, confronting pictures.

As mentioned in Volume 1 of ‘Are Indians An Ethnic Minority?’ There are a large number of similarities between the development of India and the development of Australia by Europeans. One of these differences which was not discussed previously is the conquest of both countries by English invaders.

The conquest of India by the English was carried out by fighting European countries who had interests in India and then England taking control of these territories in India. There was no open conflict between India and England, it was a slow and gradual takeover of most Indian Principalities. This was achieved with the aid of compliant Indian Maharajas who in many ways facilitated the transfer of power to England without open conflict between England and the people of India.

Two hundred or so years later England claimed the Australian Continent and proceeded to take possession of it in an unusual way. The difference between the conquest of India and the conquest of Australia was that England introduced English Convicts into Australia in large numbers and overwhelmed the local population of Aborigines without open warfare.

When the Blue Mountains in New South Wales were crossed the wealthy classes in the Colony and many ticket-of-leave prisoners crossed the Blue Mountains into the interior of the Colony and greed and avariciousness ran riot and, as a consequence, they ran roughshod over the rights and properties of the Aboriginal people. The Aborigines were left with no economic means to sustain them and their families: they drifted aimlessly or were placed in missions to be controlled by White people.

In the 1880s there was a rise of nationalism in the Australian Community which was no longer English, but many Australians considered themselves to be British, as was seen in the arts such as painting and poetry. Politically there was a strong movement to have all the existing Colonies of Australia to be formed into the Federation of Australia this was achieved in 1901. It was into this social economic political and racial malaise that Indians found when they arrived in Australia.

I am publishing these poems so that Indian people living in Australia can appreciate the social and economic hardships and living conditions of the Aboriginal people that the early Indian arrivals experienced.


Dirt – Cruelty – Poverty and Hate,

Strange fruit hanging by the prison gate,[1]

Stray dogs feasting on flayed flesh.[2]

A living hell for the rest.

Covered in coal and sooted grime,

Being poor is their only crime,

Boys and girls crawling across factory floors,

Enslaved by draconian laws.

Animals have no feeling or rights,

Sleep wherever these winter nights.

Murder, theft, and petty crimes rife,

Hunger and starvation caused this strife

The Church is implicated too;

Feasting on poor men’s toils.

Bloated by distant wars and ill-gotten spoils.[3]

They serve but a privileged few.

England is ruled by force and fear.

Those two Englands heading here.

There only concern is wealth and power,

This is England’s finest hour!

So fill up the boats; wait not a day

Send them away; come what may![4]

Long live the King!

Long live this mad and glorious King![5]

[1] “Strange Fruit”, a protest song sung by Billy Halliday written as antilynching poem by Abel Meeropol under the name Lewis Allan. [2] Dogs licking up flesh and blood from floggings of the previous day. [3] The bounty from wars in India were donated to the Church of England. [4] The start of transportation to Australia. [5] King George III suffered from a mental illness.


What’s troubling you there; young Jackaroo?

Here alone and quietly drinking,

The sun is setting over there in the west,

And no birds sing.

I met a girl out there in the bush,

Dark - beautiful - she was a child;

Her hair was long, her teeth were white,

And her eyes were wild.

I put her on my speedy horse,

And we happily flew away

Sideways she would look at me,

Laugh – sing, and gently sway.

She took me to her special place,

Native food, berries, nuts, and honey too.

And in her native tongue she whispered,

I love you true.

We lingered there for quite a while,

I’ll never forget that loving smile,

And she moaned a special moan,

I held her tight and fell asleep.

We slept that night a special sleep,

And then I dreamed an awful dream,

The worst dream I have ever dreamt,

On that cold hillside.

I saw brown boys - brown girls too;

Zombi like - drunk - dirty - they cursed and swore,

They staggered and swayed and came my way,

“Money” - “Give me more.”

And they laughed a terrible laugh,

And appeared again and again,

Columns of tortured people - all brown,

It burnt a hole in my brain.

We lingered there for many a day,

And days moved leisurely by,

A child added to our bliss,

We departed there with a saddened sigh.

And entered the real world,

It caused such a fuss!

The Protector was called.

I was chained - covered in dust.

We were cast aside - shunned by all.

Thunderbolts of hypercritical fury,

She was sent away -

That - disgraceful - awful day.

She left in a daze - she went alone,

Walked all the way home.

They danced and sang and pointed the bone.

Frightened - confused - alone.

Hungry - tired - footsore -

She laid on a patch of grass

Pressed him to her breast and slowly died.


And that is why I am sitting here,

Alone and quietly drinking,

The sun has set in the west,

And no birds sing.


Breaking through the haze that summer day,

Strange sights far out to sea,

It slowly comes our way.

It is an omen – it frightens me.

We gather on the beach in fear.

It comes nearer and nearer,

And arrived on the incoming tide.

Fear spread far and wide.

White ghosts floated our way,[1]

Strange wet animals struggled onto the sand.

Eleven ships arrived that way,

This is how they entered our land.

We ran for the trees and waited,

Frozen in thought and anxiously anticipated.

They are many – we are few.

This is all so new.

We waited for them to go away,

Some did [2] – most stayed.

We watch trembling – and then,

They are men – mere mortal men.

They met us with gun and sword,

Subjugated – our pleas ignored.

They said they had the right.

Might is always right.

You are British Subjects now – they cried.

You have the protection of the King – they lied.

You must pay allegiance to the King,

Why? We cried. What is a King?

The two Englands arrived that day,

And it remains so to this very day.

The reign of terror began.

It is England over and over again.

They introduced the ball and chain,

Hangings too! And flayed flesh flew,

Backs cut – Bleeding – Inflamed.

The agony – the suffering – it’s nothing new.

My poor bloodstained land!

Domination became the order of the day.

They marched – saluted – followed the band.

Cruel – despotic – sadistic men – this was their way.

They chopped – they dug – killed and burnt,

Left nothing behind except bare dry dirt.

They hunted for food and ate what they brought.

They didn’t share – we constantly fought.

A drought is raging – it hasn’t rained for weeks.

We compete for food along dried out creeks.

We gather all day – fish at night,

Guided by our fires and the bright moonlight.

They shed their ball and chain,

Rose above their station with greed and hate.

We are alone now – dishonoured – disdained –

Condemned to wither and die or assimilate.

Our only crime; we were not like them,

Cruel – nasty – sadistic men.

They said we were all God’s creatures.

We were condemned by our dark black features.

Gone our meeting places – our sacred sites -

Our Paradise Lost – our Garden of Eden.

Persecuted – abandoned – gone our freedom.

We are faced with cold empty nights.

We wander across this strange foreign land.

Hungry – sick – don’t understand –

Because of this attrition –

Tribes disband - no one listens.

The evil spirit spread its wings,[3]

We don’t understand this thing,

It moved on and on.

No more dance – no more song.

It spread across mountains and plains,

So much sickness - so much pain.

My baby is lying over their crying,

While my culture is slowly dying.

[1] White is a symbol of death and ghosts for Aborigines. [2] La Peruse arrived a short time after the First Fleet and did not stay long. [3] Disease.

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