Linear time

is something Settlers brought here

A version of time

that creates distance

Things that happened

a hundred years ago

are further away

than things that happened yesterday


A version of time

weaponised against Indigenous peoples

Our life ways

called “backward”

the past not of the future

Our Countries

described as “new”

and newly discovered

despite being known and loved

for thousands of years

The history

of this ancient land

said to “begin”

when Settlers arrived


A version of time

that is always carrying people away

from an unchangeable past

into an unknowable future

Giving the illusion of progress

regardless of whether

anything has changed


In Indigenous systems

time is not linear

It moves in cycles

It exists in space

in Country

and is as susceptible

to action and interaction

as any other life


On such a view

the ticking of clocks

the turning of calendars

makes nothing happen

moves nothing closer

or further away

from anything else

How far we have come

from the apocalypses and dystopias

of settler-colonialism

is measured by the degree

to which affected relationships

have been brought into balance

have been healed


To think of time in this way

is a gift

and a responsibility

It is a responsibility

because individual actions matter powerfully

radiating out

across all that would be thought of

in a linear sense

as past




It is a gift

because linear years

have never moved anyone so far

that meaningful action cannot be taken

to address the wounds

of settler-colonialism

The chance has not been lost

for justice

for change


Life doesn’t move through time

Time moves through life



From Living on Stolen Land, Magabala Books.

Ambelin Kwaymullina belongs to the Palyku people of the eastern Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is an award-winning writer, illustrator and law academic who works across a range of genres including YA, science fiction, verse and nonfiction.

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