Towards the gaping Minefields and vast Stations of Western Australia
Towards the gaping Minefields and vast Stations of Western Australia
In the evening before we set out again we watched a docu film partly narrated by a bright, charismatic young aborigine boy about 10 years old. I may not have quite caught the spelling of his name but it was like Dujiani and he came from a mob living 112 km north-west of Alice Springs. His nanas and aunties all wanted him and his siblings to have a good white education so he could get along well in both worlds. He was keen to learn and clearly a very bright lad, with more potential than he was likely to use under the education he was getting.
He asked one teacher how to spell ‘the’ and the reply was ‘if you don’t know don’t bother’.
He had a natural healing skill that he used on his family and gave us viewers a conducted tour around the plants of his country that are used for medicine.
One white teacher was reading his class a dreamtime story about the Rainbow Serpent and she concluded by saying to the young children ‘I neither believe nor understand these stories.’ These are their stories for the telling by voice and in pictures, and a wonderful source of material for the purpose of education. What a wasted opportunity.
Dujiani watched programmes about police brutality towards indigenous people the world over including his people and how, when they have fallen short of the white education system, through no fault of their own, they end up on drugs and alcohol living a day to day existence on benefits.
It is not only a race issue though as young lads in the UK fall out of the narrow education system especially if they have learning difficulties or are not academically minded, and many are naturally not, leading them down a path of prison, drugs and hopelessness, far too many to suicide.
A news report mentioned that 100% of youth detainees in the Northern Territories are aborigine.
On the morning after our motel night we wandered into town to seek breakfast. The ‘Nosh and Nod’ aspect of our motel is clearly for Nosh at the Settlers Inn next door, which was delicious, or a purchase at one of the cafes to take back to our room, in my case a yummy baklava and coffee to go.
We headed out on Highway 120, The Great Southern Highway past Goldfields Road past vast green arable plains, their young crops on the rise; there were lightly wooded hills in the distance and black faced sheep with their lambs fenced from the long level stretches of road with just the occasional bends. We passed through green valleys, alongside a railway with two different widths of track and with the Avon River on the other side. Filled up at Northam, said goodbye to Toodyay with its cared for colonial architecture and moved on toward Yerecoin where we started to note the pattern of these small towns with their railway passing through and the grain silos standing close by. They are the hubs where farmers get their supplies and deliver their crops.
Small service industries survive on the demands of the tiny population, a school, a hospital and a shop or two. For leisure there may be a golf course, tennis, kart track but all these looked as if they were once used much more. They reminded me of the eerily quiet prairie towns of the mid-west US.
At 11.10am we turned onto Highway 95, the Great Northern Highway, our smooth, easy rider road from now on right to Broome. So easy the poor roos trying to cross over were often killed, their corpses in all stages of decay lying at too frequent intervals along the roadside. Our white Falcon has come into contact with one ages ago and has the cracked front scoop and associated cable ties to show for it.
Dalwallini, a place of wheat and wattle sped by and there were wheat fields to the horizon on both sides until gradually low bushes and shrubs started to dot the miles and red soil became the norm. Mts Gibson and Singleton, so recently given white man names despite their ancient origins and indigenous importance and side tracks to mines and more mines. This is why the road is so good, it has to withstand mining lorries on route to and from Port Hedland; these road trains are up to four carriages and 60 metres long and present an overtaking challenge.
There isn’t much traffic, mostly oversize loads, pick-up trucks, the road trains, hardy four wheel drive vehicles towing rugged eight wheel caravans or boats and a few, a very few saloon cars like us. We would be travelling alone along miles of open straight road when a dark dot appeared on the road in front, on our side. When near enough we come off CRUISE control and prepare to overtake. I kid you not, every time we did there would be a bend, hill summit or dip ahead so our continued progress past the vehicle was ill defined, uncertain and could lead us into uncertainty, and potential harm, even at the worst – death: I named it Trump’s Law!
After 468kms we arrived at Kirkalocka Station where owner Blair told us how she and her policeman husband, Jarred bought the 190,000 acre plot two and a half years ago and still haven’t seen half of it. “Ours is small compared to those up there,’ she said nodding her head northward. The previous owners, who moved to Perth and bought a yacht (!), had the farm over three generations and their sheep farming over grazed the grass which is now all gone leaving just bushes and dry, red earth. The wild dogs also became a problem which is why strychnine and 1080 was spread everywhere to kill them and goodness knows what else. Jarred had researched bringing cattle back, either shorthorns (which would colour match the ground perfectly!!) or a breed I have not heard of before just called Droughtmaster.
Blair directed us to behind the Shearers Accommodation and suggested a little corner next to the pet pen and between two old euclips. The tent pegs went in more easily than we thought they would and we provided a distraction for the sheep, goats and resident ducks next door. A sign in their little paddock said they were expressly for Cuddles and not Casseroles and the camping kids carefully shut the gate before communing with these gentle and friendly creatures.
Down by the creek was a tinnie with a net attached and campers could lob the net into the water, go for a wander and return to find supper of yabbies’, like our freshwater crayfish all ready for the cooking.
There are three homesteads on the property, the second and finest is rented out to passing visitors, the newest is where Blair and Jarred live with their young children and the oldest is the original where you see Rob exploring the tiny one roomed dwelling with its covered lean-to. I know which I’d live in.
So that was the first night at camp and delightful it was too. We sat in our chairs beside the car
With our ‘made up before we left Kojonup’, gin and tonic and lemon drinks we sat in our unfolded chairs watching the sun set through the bushes on the plains, and turned in, the noise of the lorries rumbling past just a little too distant to disturb our sleep.