When I Touched The Ground
A woman tells the story of her own birth.
By Mrs Kaika Burton and Caddie Brain (2019)

Mrs Kaika Burton was born deep in the desert of Central Australia. Her mother travelled hundreds of miles barefoot before giving birth alone at a massive desert mesa called Atila – a place which became her spiritual country.

Mrs Kaika Burton was a respected and revered senior artist, educator, storyteller and cultural leader. She was also one of the few remaining poetic speakers of Pitjantjatjara, a traditional Indigenous language of Central Australia’s remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. There were once more than 400 traditional languages spoken across the Australian continent, but only around 13 are still spoken by children – all threatened by policies restricting Aboriginal people from speaking their languages and the ongoing forces of colonisation.

At the age of 70, she decided to share this deeply personal story of her birth, revealing, for the first time, the traditional birthing methods that helped define her cultural life. Telling this story was part of her continuous work to protect her ancient culture, and to ensure that future generations can speak the language it lives in.

Mrs Kaika Burton passed away in 2023. While use of her full name has been restricted since this feature first appeared on Radio Atlas, she made this piece in order to share her story and language, to ensure her voice can still be heard. It continues to be, with the support of her family.

The soundscape is binaural, specifically recorded on the country of Mrs Kaika Burton’s birth, in one of the most remote parts of Australia. Therefore the piece is best experienced through headphones.

Produced by Mrs Kaika Burton

Sound, editing and co-production by Caddie Brain

Translation: Linda Rive

Producing organisation: Tjala Arts

Supported by the Australia Council for the Arts and Ara Irititja.

With thanks also to Third Coast International Audio Festival where it was presented in 2019.