aboriginal history

The eccentric, quirky, iconic Daly Waters Pub

The Barkly Highway that we have followed across the outback, ends abruptly at Three Ways. It joins into the main north south Stuart Highway. We turn right to head north. To the west of this Highway is largely impenetrable desert. The landscape changes and the volume of traffic increases. This is the route that the explorer John McDouall Stuart discovered in 1860’s and then the telegraph line was put through from Adelaide to Darwin which eventually connected Australia to the world. It is still the only route through the centre of Australia.

The distances between camp grounds dwindles, only approx 150 kilometres. We start to dawdle again, getting up later, stopping for more photo opportunities, taking longer to have lunch.

Lubras Lookout

This amazing rocky outcrop stopped us in our tracks when we came round a bend and it dominated the country side. It had been so flat for days now, so this was quite startling, and I wonder about the geology of this land and how and why this outcrop survived the erosion around it. I made enquiries and was told it has significance in the Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime and the women of the tribe would use it to watch for the men coming back from a hunting expedition.

Now we are approaching the turn off to Daly Waters Pub. It has a solid reputation as the must stay place. It is an Icon in these parts. In the droving days it was a stop off as it had reliable water source. During WW2 an air port was built here and service men would spend leave here. It’s reputation now is built on its hospitality. First is “happy hour”, a tradition in the camping grounds. Then every night they put on a “Barra n Steak” BBQ and the Barramundi is wild caught and fresh from the gulf and the steak is rib-eye from the local cattle station. The salad bar is help yourself and is fresh and delicious. To top the evening off they have “Chillie” to entertain us. Well by 7-30 when Chillie arrives we are all watered and fed and feeling very mellow. Chillie puts on a great show. He is a stand-up comedian and he knows his audience. Each state plus the Asians plus the Americans are given the once over and we all love it. He sings some Country and Western songs and ends with the patriotic Australian song “We are one, but we are many”. The show is so good that Jack buys his CD. We have sat with another 3 couples and made instant friends and all agree it was a great night.

The weather is warmer and we didn’t need a thick jacket on…

Daly Waters Pub

Oops some one missed the air port

Spare thong and shoe post…

Inside the pub the walls and posts and all surfaces are covered with collections of hats, t-shirts, bras, money of all nationalities, memorabilia of all sorts. It is an entertainment just looking around.

Famous Barra and Steak BBQ

Help your self to all you can eat salad

Stand-up comedian, Chillie

Categories: aboriginal history, Australia, australian travel, Northern Territory, outback, photos, Pubs | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

River gum drive

Gum tree at Surprise creek

This area of the outback is steeped in history. The river gum drive takes you on a 50 kilometre round journey back through time and across different landscapes as it takes you through Bladensberg National Park. It is via a dirt track which in the wet would be impassable for Matilda, but it has been dry for 6 weeks now and recently been graded and the road was good.

Just before the park entry is an old dam with collapsed walls, this was where chinese gardeners grew fruit and vegetables for the district. Looking at the hard unforgiving soil and the dry climate it is hard to believe that any thing could grow here. The chinese in early pioneering days were immigrants that kept to themselves. Used to hard work they quietly got on with creating their gardens.

Memorial cairn to the striking shearers 1894

In the 1800’s this was sheep grazing country and wool was king. The shearing gangs would move from shed to shed working in appalling conditions for very low pay. In the mid 1890’s they decided to strike for better pay and conditions. The area around Winton was one of the main strike districts. A number of shearing sheds were set on fire and troopers were sent in to maintain martial law. The shearers moved out-of-town and 500 of them set up camp in the area around this cairn. It is bleak and desolate country, I can only imagine the hardships that must’ve been suffered. This was the start of the labour movement and I read an information board in a pub that eventually the shearers and squatters (landowners) decided that they didn’t want to start a civil war and shoot fellow country men, so they got together over a drink in the pub and sorted out their differences. Eventually conditions did improve.

Spinifex country

Another 10 kilometres along the track and the landscape changes dramatically. Gone is the Mitchell grass plains and the ground becomes hard and stony, and is covered in the tough, spiky spinifex grass.

This is the site of another very sad part of Australian history. An aboriginal man murdered a teamster. The police, with the help of black trackers, followed the man through this area. Eventually they followed him to Skull Hole. They then ordered the black trackers to massacre the tribe, men, women and children. This is not the only massacre of whole tribes in the early days of European settlement, but until recently it was a part of history that had been covered up and denied.

Skull Hole Bladensberg National Park

Among these rocks are caves and the aboriginals would’ve been hunted down and shot like animals as they cowered in these caves. The aboriginal people had been in Australia for over 40,000 years, they lived with the land and with-out their help the explorers could never survive in this harsh and unforgiving country, but seldom was reference made to the help they received from the native people. The settlers and pioneers also relied on them for labour and their knowledge of the land.

Ghost gum on the banks of Surprise Creek

Finally we stopped on the banks of Surprise Creek, under a beautiful ghost gum, at a popular place for swimming and picnics and had a sandwich and cuppa and reflected on a very interesting drive.

Categories: aboriginal history, australian travel, Bladensberg NP, National Parks, out back, travel | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Growth has come from disaster in Childers

Palace Memorial building now the art gallery and tourist information centre

Two days on the road and we are settling into our routine of travel. Leisurely start with breakfast, pack up van and take off with no set plans for the day, just see what turns up. With thermos for cuppa and supplies on board we stop and eat when we are hungry and start looking for some where to camp for the night about 4pm. Because the weather is slightly cold and have had intermittent showers we are going into caravan parks with power so we can put on the little oil-fired heater. Last night was a van park behind “The Golden nugget” road house and truck stop just south of Gympie. The road house had a shepherd’s pie special on the board at $9 so couldn’t go past that. What we forgot was that this is a truck stop and the serving was tasty but HUGE.

Today we arrived in Childers at mid-day. In 2000 they had a terrible disaster when the Palace backpackers, that was in the building above, was deliberately torched and burnt to the ground with the loss of life of 15 young international backpackers trapped in their dormitories. We have passed through Childers several times in our travels and seen it slowly transformed from a rather scruffy small town with not much to stop for, to a vibrant community, proud of its heritage and the centre and heart of the town is the beautifully restored Palace Memorial Centre, the downstairs area is a tourist information centre and is staffed by very helpful and friendly local volunteers. We went upstairs to see the memorial painting of the 15 young people, and the story of the tragic fire. But what we also found was the most amazing works of art by a young 15-year-old aboriginal girl. Chern’ee Sutton has taken aboriginal dot painting and stories of her ancestors dream-time to a vibrant and modern interpretation. When looked at they are fresh, the colours glow. Then we were given 3D glasses to go round again and look at them. WOW!!! they just jumped out and vibrated with life, we could hardly tear ourselves away from them. Butterflies floated in front of deep indigo pits with the dream-time dots flowing in and around them, just amazing. Do go on the link to see some of her work, and read her story, but of course you need to see them in reality to get the full impact, not just photos.

Childers street art, not sure what it is…

Bronze sculpture in memory of the Kanakas from the Pacific islands were forcibly shipped to Australia to work in the cane fields

Dogs waiting and playing while the boss is in the pub

Delicious $10 pub lunch, crumbed Barra, 2 pieces each,, beer battered chips and salad

Categories: aboriginal history, art, camping, caravan park, Childers, travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Travel Themes : Parks

Ailsa of <Where’s my backpack> blog has produced a stunning post about a park in New York. Now I had been to Central Park but the description and amazing photos of this High Line park have totally changed my image of New York. Go to her blog and drool over the beautiful photos.

Ailsa has also set the challenge this week for us to “show and tell” of Parks that inspire us…

Australia has many amazing National Parks. The diversity and range of climates, from desert to tropical rainforest create a country with National Parks, large and small to be enjoyed, walked in, camped in and all are well-managed by the Parks and wild life association.

I visited many of them on our trip around Australia, Kalbarri National Park during wild flower season, Katherine Gorge with the towering red ochre cliffs, the Daintree River winding through the lush rainforest, so many, and all so different. Still many more on my “to see” list.

Of them all the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest was the Bungle Bungle range in the Kimberley region of Western Australia…

Striking banded sandstone domes

I have had two very different experiences of these spectacular gorges and surreal landscape. The first was in 2005.

I booked on a tour with a local guide. Scott had been born in the area and he took small groups of 9 people in his 4 WD on a 2 day safari into the heart of the Bungles. Not many tours drove into this wilderness area. The track in, it could not be called a road, was rugged. The 4WD ploughed through bulldust, bounced and swerved along the deep, corrugated, rutted track as it twists and turns for approx 50 kilometres.Scott drove fast as he said that is the best way to even out the corrugations, sort of skim over the top of them. Twice we had to stop to let Teresa out to be sick and once we stopped to change a blown tyre. It was a 5 hour drive from Kununurra.

As we came in site of the spectacular orange and grey banded domes Scott let us out to walk the last hour toward them as he drove ahead to prepare lunch. The experience of walking toward these structures as they slowly fill our vision and then overwhelm us as we stand next to them is an unforgettable encounter.

This is the last true wilderness in Australia. It is amazing that this incredible range was only revealed to the world by a TV team that did a documentary of the Kimberleys in 1983, that is not a typing error, it was only 29 years ago. Of course the Aboriginals had known the area for thousands of years. It was entrenched in their Dreamtime and was a sacred site. The pastoralist had been aware of it but were too busy just surviving in this harsh land to wonder about the uniqueness of it. By 1987 it was a world heritage site.

People look like ants walking along the track

We spent the rest of the day walking along tracks among these beehive shaped domes and into deep gorges. That night after a superb BBQ dinner of steak and chicken with salad and a glass of wine Scott lit a fire and we sat around exchanging stories and Scott told us of many of the Aboriginal legends and other characters that had, and some still do, live in the area. Then we rolled out our swags and slept under a blanket of a million stars.

Next day it was more walking through this surreal landscape the azure blue of the sky accentuating the shape and colour of the domes. The final gorge Scott took us to was Cathedral Gorge.

This was to be a moment that will live with me forever and was the highlight of my trip around Australia.

Scott had carried a didgeridoo with him and when we reached the end of the gorge it was just our small group. We sat in the sand around a small crystal clear pool and Scott climbed up to an over-hanging rock and placed the end of the old Aboriginal instrument into a hollow. The haunting sound echoed and hung around us in the still air, time also seemed to stand still. The walls of the gorge towered above us and the top was a blaze of fiery red were the sun touched it. I sat entranced and awed by the majesty of the moment.

Next trip in 2010 I was anticipating taking Jack on the tour with Scott. I searched around Kununurra to find him but was told he no longer did the trips and was now a DJ at one of the night clubs. The larger tourist operations now had taken over. I was determined to go back to visit the Bungles so I booked a flight in.

Bungle Bungle from the air

It was a spectacular flight over Lake Argyll and the famous Argyll diamond mine. We landed at a small air-strip near the Bungle formations and trekked in to them. The landscape had not changed it was still amazing with the orange and grey domes, so photogenic. Again the highlight was the walk into Cathedral Gorge. The difference was the number of people we shared the experience with. Bus tours, air flights and many more independent 4WD travellers have found this majestic place. I think it has been well marketed and has become a must-see on tourist bucket lists. Approx 70-80 people were at the end of Cathedral Gorge gazing around in awe at the splendour of nature.

Then magic happened again. Suddenly a group started to sing. Beautiful voices soared with that iconic Australian song “Waltzing Matilda” followed by “I still call Australia home”. All those people went silent and stood entranced as the words echoed and swirled around the rock walls. I shut my eyes and felt the magic. Spontaneous applause broke out when the song ended. I learnt that it was a Welsh choir group touring together.

The sun was setting as we flew back to Kununurra and lit the Kimberleys in a blaze of fire.

Categories: aboriginal history, australian travel, Bungle Bungle, National Parks, photos, travel | Tags: , , | 16 Comments

We stumble into a part of the history of “The Stolen Generation”

Sometimes when you are travelling you stumble across or into a part of history that stuns you, images that stay in your mind long after you come home. Today was to be one of those times…

We saw a small sign on the side of the road announcing “Mogumber farm tours” so we went to investigate. Approx2 kilometres along a dirt road we came to another sign”Mogumber Farm (A Stolen Generation Site) A place in the Heart since 1917″Then on the open gate a notice requested that you report to the care taker.We drove slowly towards the houses looking for the caretaker, but the place was deserted.

Where have all the children gone?

Caretakers house

There was a very eerie feeling about the place. The childrens swings were moving slightly in the wind. The houses were run down and sad looking but not unlivable. Brooms and mops were leaning against the walls, waiting for some one to come along and clean the place up. Further along a large corrugated barn had plastic chairs laid around, trestle tables and fridges all empty. Outside was parked an old school bus with the windows shattered. At the end of the road was a church. The pews waiting for the congregation and an old organ covered in cobwebs waiting to be played.

Across the paddocks we could see sheds and what looked like a piggery or some sort of animal shelter. We felt we were intruding into a place of sad memories and it certainly stayed in my mind for a long time. The way the aboriginals were treated was a bad part of Australian history and until recently has mainly been covered up. It is slowly being acknowledged. This place brought it home to me.

Waiting to be used

School bus

Mugumber church

Inside the church

We carried on to New Norcia. (This is a very interesting town that deserves a post of its own later) To carry on with the story….

At New Norcia I made enquiries about Mugumber and the receptionist at the New Norcia monastry was horrified that we had wandered in to the farm. That is aboriginal land and the owners are very aggresive if they see people on the land. It is a defiled place for the aboriginal people. It holds very bad memories of the stolen generation.

I found the following history from Wikipedia…Early history

The settlement was opened by the Government of Western Australia in 1918. It was originally intended to be a small, self-supporting farming settlement for 200 Aborigines, with schooling and health facilities available for the children and employment opportunities for the adults. The settlement was supposed to accommodate Aborigines mainly drawn from the Murchison, Midlands and south-west regions of Western Australia.

The ambition to turn the settlement into a farming community failed because the land was unsuitable for cultivation.[1] During the 1920s its purpose shifted: Residents were usually brought there against their will as the camp attempted to fulfil the broader functions of orphanage, creche, relief depot and home for old persons, unmarried mothers, and the unwell. It also housed many “half-caste” (mixed-race) children. Many of the Aboriginal and mixed-race children were sent to Moore River, usually against their will, as part of the Stolen Generations.

The Moore River Native Settlement was opened under the auspices of the Chief Protector of Aborigines A. O. Neville. Neville came to this position completely inexperienced in Aboriginal affairs or any dealings with Aboriginal people. He was strongly guided by Rufus H Underwood. Neville adopted Underwood’s anti-mission stance and between them developed the ‘native settlement scheme’, devised to meet the varying demands of non-Aboriginal people, for their segregation from the wider community and the continuing need for Aboriginal labour. It was also meant to fulfill Neville and Underwood’s determination to devise a solution involving an absolute minimum of expenditure.[2]

[edit] Poor conditions

The camp population became increasingly mixed as Aborigines came in from various parts of the state, with some coming from as far away as the Kimberley and Pilbara. By the mid-1920s conditions in the institution had declined significantly as overcrowding and poor sanitation were the norm, with many health problems being reported amongst its inmates. From 1924, the settlement had an average population of 300 and its buildings were becoming dilapidated. By 1933 the Aboriginal population at the institution had risen to over 500, leading to greater deterioration in the conditions experienced by the inmates. Between 1918 and 1952, 346 deaths were recorded at Moore River Native Settlement, 42% of which were children age 1–5.

Socially, Moore River Native Settlement practiced strict segregation of the sexes and separated children from their parents under the dormitory system. Compound inmates were not allowed to leave without written permission. Absconding was a common problem as many tried to re-unite with family members living outside the settlement. To counter this practice, a small number of Aboriginal men were employed as trackers to apprehend absconders.

[edit] Name change

In 1951 the government handed control of the settlement to the Mogumber Methodist Mission, which renamed it Mogumber Native Mission.[3] A greater emphasis was placed by the new owners on Christian guidance and on the vocational training of youths than had existed when it was a government institution. The facility remained running until 1974, when it was taken over by the Aboriginal Land Trust. Currently the land is leased to the Wheatbelt Aboriginal Corporation, and is known as Budjarra.

[edit] Cultural and journalistic coverage

Several plays, films and books have been produced which tell harrowing tales of life in the settlement:

  • Aboriginal poet and playwright Jack Davis‘ play Kullark where an Aboriginal man named Thomas Yorlah is forcibly moved to the settlement and makes numerous attempts to escape. Davis lived in the settlement in the 1920s.
Categories: aboriginal history, travel, Western Australia | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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