Here is the latest chapter in Croakey’s Poems of Public Health by Canberra poet Owen Bullock, with four new pieces – including one (ever) timely reflection on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Read the background to this occasional feature and his previous Poems of Public Health, where he wrote ‘on demand’ on climate change.


a Permablitz day (10-4)

Rob taught us the bindings

for the bamboo tripods

with flax or string

Rose designed the trellis

of hazelnut switches

James dismantled pallets

and Hugo turned them into compost bins

Sue organised the double-digging

of veggie beds

Trish & team moved and planted fruit trees

twenty-eight people came together

to work, learn, share company


by the end of the day

compost bins were cooking

fruit trees mulched

veggie beds full of seedlings

irrigation installed


Marie, whose garden it was

a novice

now eats from it every day

studies organics

and teaches her neighbours

about food

Owen Bullock



this story

of 40,000 years

of a people

the first


(who isolated a pigment

for painting, that highest attainment

of civilisation)


it was never

terra nullius


and what of

the next generation?


they want to live

in a better world


1890s constitution drafts


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples

and women


women could vote in 1902

Aboriginal women in 1962


the 1967 referendum

removed Section 127

natives shall not be counted

Section 51 still allows

for discrimination

voters may be banned

on the basis of race

indigenous people

aren’t mentioned

in the only western ruling document

without an anti-racial discrimination



to change it

and grow further

Australia needs a majority

a majority in each state

Owen Bullock




endometriosis . . .

a female critic

told a woman writer

that the gory details of hysterectomy

should not be discussed

in a story

and I wondered . . .

since details seem vital

to understanding


a male poet

an occasional editor

told me

women’s issues

weren’t universal enough


but because women represent

52% of the world’s population

I thought they might be

Owen Bullock



the driest continent

fourth highest consumer of water


agriculture, then residential

but household use is declining


desalination may be the answer

some experts say


Owen Bullock

OwenBullock has published a collection of poetry, two books of haiku and a novella. He has edited a number of journals and anthologies and taught students of all ages. He is interested in the potential of poetry to fulfil a variety of social roles. Owen is a PhD candidate at the University of Canberra.

  •  You can track Owen Bullock’s series, Poems of Public Health, here:
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