21st Century Maja (Law Man)

The premature passing of Mr. Roe is a time to reflect on the importance of sacred Australian law and culture in our twenty first century society. Mr. Roe gave his life fighting for the protection of the sacred lands around Broome. He achieved a great victory for all of us. His passing leaves us with challenges, obligations and responsibilities.


When a father dies, a great symbolic mountain falls into the sea. Bearings are gone. Life can never be the same. When a son dies there is inconsolable grief. Yet when the mountain is gone an awareness grows of its strength and majesty. Adjustments must be made. New challenges emerge. Family, sons and daughters grow to new heights. Feelings of loss give way to feelings of what has been achieved and what must be done now. Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, grandmothers and grandfathers of the future are born. The cycle continues.

In all of this, traditional law does not change. The land is the parliament. The spirit beings of Bugarregarre created all life. They made the law in which all things live in harmony. This law encoded in the Song Cycle was passed down unbroken since creation. It is the Law-keepers, Law-people, and Custodian's job to keep passing Bugarregarre ceremonies and stories from one generation to the next.

In the period since the colonization and Federation of Australia it has been the greatest of challenges to uphold traditional law and to ensure the newcomers to this land understood its significance. In a thousand generations there was never such challenges. Through the greatest tribulations, traditional people have succeeded in imparting the majesty of the Australian environment into the unconscious of all Australian people. Great warriors and statesmen and women Peumulwuy, Windrayne, Bennelong, Truganini, Yagan, Jandamurra, Kangushot, Wonggu, Arimi, Broger, Broughton, Mr. Yunupingu, Mr. Tigan, and countless others who we are only now discovering, fought for their law, their land to be understood and respected. Only in 2014 is the special detail and quality of traditional law being understood. Far from being archaic or lost, the law, the song lines are a dynamic salvation – a cause of hope for the new millennium.

In the precious coastline around Broome in the North West of Australia we owe a great debt to the great mountains of men, we may call in customary and respectful terms, grandfather and grandson. It was the special genius of the old man, grandfather, to record in mainstream terms the significance of the coastline from Minuyarr to Minarriny and to place it into the European consciousness in a way that even scientists from another world could appreciate. It was the courage and strength of grandson to build and grow this knowledge and to stand up to the corruption of morals and law and to mindless greed and to uphold the song lines in the face of a proposed $40 billion industrial development. Few have faced greater challenges of life, intellect and cross-societal justice and won.

This paper and photograph are released with the permission of the Roe Family. For more please download the file below. This paper is a free download until 11am 10 March 2014. It will be discussed on the Sandy Dann Radio Show, Goolarri Radio, Broome at 11am WST on Monday 10 March 2014.

Funeral Notice
For the late
Joseph Edward Roe
Will be laid to rest on
Friday 21st March 2014 at 3pm
At Goolarabooloo Hostel
Under the tamarind tree
Traditional Black & White
Will be held at Goolari Media
Blackman St, Broome
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