Belonging - 'We Are Going'

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- ‘BELONGING’ -

Question: What does the Oodgeroo Noonuccal poem ‘We Are Going’ have to say about Belonging and Not Belonging? How does the poet use language forms, features and structures to convey ideas and feelings?

The poem ‘We Are Going’ by Oodgeroo Noonuccal is about the displacement of the Aboriginal people in Australian society/culture and their confusion about where or what to belong to as their traditional customs are taken away/forgotten. The text raises the issues and themes of ‘Belonging’ through a mostly-‘defeated’ tone as it shows their loss of tradition and culture in the new Australia.

In order to create a sense of sympathy and consideration for the Aboriginal people, the poet uses a range of language forms and techniques to cause effect in this text. One of the most important of these is the writer’s use of Irony - in Lines 8-9 we see the words, “We are strangers here now, but the white tribe are the strangers. We belong here, we are of the old ways”. This statement, in particular, expresses the overall message of this poem while focusing on the ‘Belonging’ concept. The writer put forward the interesting yet tragic idea that the Aboriginal people no longer belong to their homeland, whereas the “White tribe” - who are unable to fully understand or appreciate it as the Indigenous do - have now overrun them and belong more to this land now than they do. This side of the poem brings it its tragic and “defeated” tone, thus affecting the reader.

The language the poet uses is quite informal and colloquial, without using any slang. The feeling created is that of a story-telling almost. They also use some Indigenous words such as “corroboree” and “Dream Time”. This is in-keeping with the poet’s heritage and the nature of ‘belonging’ to a language and to a people. Using unusual, broken-meter and irregular phrasing, the melancholy mood is heightened in that it doesn’t flow as a poem often does. This puts more emphasis on each line and makes it...
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