Tribute to a Great Waanyi Woman

Last week I attended the funeral of a friend and mentor in the Outback town of Camooweal.

Not much happens in this NT/QLD border town, founded beside the Georgina River, but on this day the population of 150 easily doubled as those from far and wide gathered to farewell a great Waanyi woman.

My friend had lived a remarkable life, being born in the 1940’s she lived part of her life under “The Act” a piece of oppressive legislation that relegated all Aboriginal people to be subjects of the government. She’d been allocated an identification number that was permanently etched in memory, because for much of her life, it had been her only means of being formally recognised and permitted access to services. If this experience had left my friend bitter or hateful of white oppressive law makers, I never knew, because her words were few and the ones she chose reflected hope and change.

A number of people spoke at the funeral. Even those who thought they knew her well were surprised that one person’s life could have such a broad and lasting impact. I knew of her substantial contribution to the health sector but listening to the tributes one could be mistaken for believing she had somehow cloned herself to have made equally stunning contributions to education, housing, justice groups and environmental causes. Not to mention being beloved mother to six, grandmother and great grandmother to many more.

Of all the many significant and enduring contributions shared on the day about this gentle Waanyi warrior …with influence from Canberra to The Gulf of Carpentaria and across the gamut of human rights and Indigenous affairs, one really stood out for me. It was conveyed by a local Caucasian mother who spoke of her appreciation for the influence of our friend toward safety in the community. In her view, it was thanks to our friend that Camooweal was “a safe place to bring up children”.
I thought of all the terrible images portrayed by our media of gloom and dysfunction in isolated communities and could not help thinking that this tribute was a stand-out. After all, if we are to have any hope in the future of Indigenous health and well-being, we have to start with keeping our kids safe. How magnificent, to be remembered as the person in the community who could do this!
Before leaving Camooweal a colleague and I took the time to drive down to the riverbank to enjoy the unique peace and solitude an outback waterhole can offer. The shady, twisted river gums and the intense, azure blue of the sky did not disappoint.

As we returned to the car and my colleague closed her door a small, yellow bird appeared, pecked at her window and hovered momentarily before perching itself on a nearby branch, singing. It stayed just long enough for us to get over our surprise and grab our cameras. My colleague wondered, ‘Could that be our friend coming to say “goodbye” … or maybe even, “hello”?’

Incredibly, despite the grief incumbent in attending a funeral and a long, two day journey home, I returned inspired and energised. Some say it is the landscapes of the Outback that invigorate. For me, it is the people. I respect and admire their enduring qualities, evident in fellow mourners, and quintessentially revealed in my friend: determined, tenacious, grounded and good humoured. The vision my friend shared is not yet realised but you have to believe, she has left it in safe hands.


A reminder of the difficulties of working in Remote

The plan for the week was to train 11 Health Centre staff in advanced First Aid training.

A local 33 year old man suffering from late stages of lung cancer required round the clock palliative care which put additional pressure on staffing at the local health centre. He wanted to stay 'On Country' to pass.

A common problem in remote areas is that there is no local mortuary therefore the health centre needed to hold body in an air conditioned room for 12 hours until the community were ready to fly the deceased to Darwin. The town and staff were grieving the loss of such a young man, but the Nauiyu Health staff worked hard to complete their mandatory training under difficult circumstances and are proud of the result.

Janet Fletcher
Nauiyu Health Centre

Mustering fun

We recently mustered our properties "Janbar Springs" and "Shalom" with enthusiastic help from the grandchildren! Loving the family connection of living on the land.

Janbar Springs

Excerpt taken from a travel blog

Had a lovely breakfast with one of my midwifery graduates who works in Alice. It was so good to catch up with her and see what she has been doing.

I am so proud of her and it is wonderful to see how confident she is in her rural surrounding. Fabulous midwives who have had a great grounding through the Flinders course. We produce the best!
Back to pack the car and on the road and out of Alice. Red ranges and through the Gap, long fat roads, colours that defy description, road trains, caravans, motor homes and the road ahead. Morning tea at Erldunda and lunch and fuel at Marla. An amazing trip in an amazing country.

Pauline Glover
Alice Springs