The poem We are Going by Oodgeroo Noonuccal depicts the murder of an entire civilization and way of life

The poem We are Going by Oodgeroo Noonuccal depicts the murder of an entire civilization and way of life

"We Are Going" is a poignant and powerful poem written by Oodgeroo Noonuccal (formerly known as Kath Walker), an Australian Indigenous poet and activist. The poem, which was first published in 1964, talks about how colonisation affected Indigenous Australians and laments the loss of their land, culture, and way of life. It is a potent and striking claim that "We Are Going" portrays the annihilation of a whole culture and way of life.

The poem We are Going by Oodgeroo Noonuccal depicts the murder of an entire civilization and way of life

1. All about the Poem:

Before delving into the assertion that the poem "We Are Going" depicts the murder of an entire civilization and way of life, it is essential to understand the poem's context, themes, and Oodgeroo Noonuccal's intentions.

A. Historical Context: "We Are Going" was written during a period when Indigenous Australians were experiencing the ongoing effects of colonization, dispossession, and cultural disruption. 

The poem We are Going by Oodgeroo Noonuccal depicts the murder of an entire civilization and way of life-By the mid-20th century, many Indigenous communities were struggling to retain their traditions and identity, which had been deeply affected by British colonialism.

B. Themes of the Poem: The poem addresses several key themes, including: - Loss and displacement: The poem conveys the sense of loss and disconnection experienced by Indigenous Australians as they witness the decline of their cultures and traditions.

Connection to land: The Indigenous peoples' deep spiritual and cultural connection to their ancestral lands is a central theme. The poem underscores how this connection is threatened by colonization and land dispossession.

Cultural identity: The poem reflects on the erosion of Indigenous cultural identity and how the younger generations grapple with their heritage in the face of cultural erosion. -

Mourning and resistance: There is a sense of mourning in the poem, but it is also a call to action. It expresses a determination to resist cultural erasure and assert Indigenous presence and agency.

2. Depicting Loss and Displacement:

A. Emotional Impact: "We Are Going" vividly portrays the emotions of grief, loss, and dislocation experienced by Indigenous Australians. The use of the collective "We" in the title and throughout the poem reinforces the idea of shared experiences and collective sorrow. The poem reflects the profound sense of disconnection felt by Indigenous peoples as they witness the gradual erosion of their way of life.

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B. Metaphorical Imagery: Noonuccal uses powerful and evocative metaphors to depict the loss of culture and land. Lines like "We are the shadow-ghosts" and "We are the dispossessed" invoke the idea that Indigenous Australians are becoming marginalized, like fading shadows. The metaphor of the "strange tree" conveys the sense of alienation from their traditional environment.

C. Cultural Erosion: The poem emphasizes the impact of cultural erosion on the younger generations. The lines "The gone years, the lost years" and "The scene is changed" suggest a disconnect from the traditions and knowledge of their ancestors. The erosion of language and customs is a poignant aspect of the poem.

3. Connection to Land:

A. Spiritual and Cultural Significance: The spiritual and cultural connection to the land is a central element of Indigenous identity. "We Are Going" highlights this connection, depicting the land as a place of ancestral significance and cultural continuity. Lines such as "The vine has gone" and "All things are weeping" underscore the impact of colonization on the natural world, which is intertwined with Indigenous culture.

B. Threatened Connection: The poem conveys the threat posed to the Indigenous connection to the land. The imagery of "the spirits gone" and "the waters die" represents a rupture in the spiritual and ecological balance that Indigenous communities had maintained for generations. This threat to the land further emphasizes the assertion that a way of life is being murdered.

4. Cultural Identity:

A. Struggle for Identity: "We Are Going" addresses the struggle of Indigenous Australians to preserve their cultural identity in the face of external pressures. The poem highlights how the younger generations, who are "half-caste," grapple with their heritage and struggle to find their place in a world that is rapidly changing.

B. The Role of Memory: The poem also emphasizes the role of memory in preserving cultural identity. Lines like "The bones of our fathers" and "Our spirits hear the call of their spirits" suggest that memory and ancestral connections are essential for maintaining cultural continuity. However, the poem also hints at the fading of this memory and the challenge of passing on traditions.

5. Mourning and Resistance:

A. Expressions of Mourning: While the poem is marked by mourning and grief, it is not a passive lament. "We Are Going" serves as an expression of Indigenous resistance and determination to preserve their culture and assert their presence. The poem's tone is elegiac, but it is also a call to action.

B. Resistance and Defiance: The assertion that the poem depicts the murder of a civilization and way of life can be seen as a call for acknowledgment of the destructive impact of colonization. It also implies a demand for justice, recognition, and the right to reclaim cultural heritage.


Oodgeroo Noonuccal's poem "We Are Going" stands as a powerful testament to the enduring impact of colonization on Indigenous Australians. The assertion that the poem depicts the murder of an entire civilization and way of life is a profound interpretation that resonates with the themes and emotions embedded in the poem. Through its evocative language, poignant metaphors, and emotional resonance, the poem conveys the deep sense of loss, disconnection, and mourning experienced by Indigenous communities in the face of cultural erosion and land dispossession.

In addition, the poem expresses Indigenous resistance, calls for justice and recognition, and acts as a call to action. It is a protest against the historical injustices that Indigenous Australians have had to endure and evidence of their continued fight to protect their cultural identity and history. "We Are Going" is a cultural and political statement that addresses the more general problems of colonisation, cultural preservation, and social justice. It is more than just a piece of literature.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal's poem is a significant contribution not only to Australian literature but also to the global conversation on indigenous rights and cultural heritage. It is a reminder of the resilience and determination of Indigenous peoples to protect their cultures and assert their presence in a world that has often marginalized and oppressed them. 

The poem We are Going by Oodgeroo Noonuccal depicts the murder of an entire civilization and way of life-As we reflect on the poem's themes and messages, we are compelled to consider the ongoing responsibilities we all share in supporting the cultural revitalization and empowerment of Indigenous communities, acknowledging the historical injustices, and working towards a more inclusive and just society. "We Are Going" stands as a lasting testament to the power of poetry to evoke emotions, inspire change, and shape the discourse on important social and cultural issues.



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