Closed Aboriginal Communities

Submitted: Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 12:51
ThreadID: 135887 Views:3613 Replies:11 FollowUps:4
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This year I led a 10 vehicle ,14 people group from the Idlers Four Wheel Drive Club in Melbourne on a near two month trip through the outback deserts of NT, WA, and SA. This was a very long and remote trip. There was a Woolworths at the start, Alice Springs, one at Newman in WA, and one at the end in Ceduna SA and nothing in the middle.
In planning this trip very careful consideration was given to our safety. Our youngest participant was 63 and our oldest was 85, I am 73. In planning the trip there were two legs with fuel stops of over 800 kilometres apart which is starting to stretch the safety margin. I ascertained that on these two legs that there was a closed Aboriginal Community that it would be handy to access to if required. They were Tjirrkarli near Warburton in WA and Oak Valley near Maralinga in SA.
So before the trip I made telephone contact with both these Communities and in both cases they were very welcoming and said we were more than welcome whether we where low on fuel or not. I then changed the itinerary to include visits to both these Communities. When we arrived at these Communities we were indeed made most welcome. We inquired about the possibility of showers, and in both places they found showers for us, one in a unoccupied house, and one they opened up the ablution block at the oval. They both had no facilities to charge us for the showers, but we insisted on making a $5 donation per person anyway.
I am posting this because they both said they want to encourage visitors. This very friendly attitude will only last if visitors are respectful. If you want to visit these Communities (or any other Community, for that matter) I believe it essential to make telephone contact before you leave home, tell them who you are and why you would like to be able to visit them. Then as you get closer the last place you have mobile coverage before you get to a particular community, again make contact and double check that you are indeed welcome. Its a bit like going to a friends house, make sure you are expected and welcomed, you just don't lob unexpected.
The Communities we visited on this trip were Kiwirrkurra, Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawaritji, Tjirrkarli, Warburton, Ilkurlka Roadhouse (no cultural tours as they were away on "business"), and Oak Valley. All these Communities were very welcoming and Parnngurr (was Cotton Creek) also went out of their way to provide us with showers. They all had stores which we were welcomed to purchase any supplies from. They were all well stocked and a boon to those with small fridges. The only caveat is that if rain has delayed the supply truck, supplies could be low. We never found one without a good supply of ice creams.
I have noticed a trend in Communities this year. They seem friendlier, the roads leading to them are cleaner, and while not pristine, the Communities themselves seem tidier. This is a very pleasing trend to see and I hope it continues.
We are a group of old farts interested in all things aboriginal and we show respect for their lands and their culture. I would think this would have a lot to do with the very friendly receptions we always receive.
I do not know if others are seeing similar trends, lets hope so.
What other people think of me is none of my business.
Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

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Reply By: colanjen - Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 15:49

Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 15:49
What a lovely positive post,

Thanks for taking the effort to alert us to what you found, so much negativity these days.

Well done Chris.

Regards Col.
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Reply By: Tony F8 - Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 17:20

Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 17:20
The above poster has said it all, and well done on your part.
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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 19:34

Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 19:34
Chris you need to be congratulated on so many fronts

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Reply By: Gronk - Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 19:57

Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 19:57
Did you stay overnight at these places ?

Your post seems at odds with all the negative things people say about remote communities and it's great to see.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 20:12

Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 20:12
In all races and ethnic groups there are bad people and good people and our aboriginal cousins are not different Show respect and it is usually returned.
No we did not stay at any of these Communities as they have no facilities for campers. Staying in a Community that is not setup for visiting campers could present security issues. Besides you go 20 k's down the road you are bound to find a great bush camp with plenty of wood and you have it all to yourselves. There is one exception and that is Kunawarritji which has a number of dongas with showers and a laundry, but the mining companies have them booked out most of the time. You can still get a shower there but it maybe hard to get a donga. Camping is done just outside of town at well 33 on the CSR.
What other people think of me is none of my business.
Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

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Follow Up By: 9900Eagle - Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 at 10:25

Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 at 10:25
Yes Chris, respect. Burke and Wills showed no respect and paid with their lives. King showed respect and didn't treat them like he was a master and they helped him stay alive.

Congrats at showing the other side of the coin.
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Reply By: pop2jocem - Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 21:53

Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 21:53
Congratulations to you Chris on so many levels I find it hard to even name them all.

It appears that you bypassed the many layers of bureaucracy that for many reasons best known to themselves have interposed between the average citizen and those who really count, namely the members of the various communities you visited.
About 20 years ago during our trip down the CSR we had the very good fortune to visit the community of Kunawarritji. I think they were in the fairly early stages of opening up to the public. What beautiful people.

Well done mate.

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Reply By: Member - Robyn R4 - Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 22:25

Monday, Nov 20, 2017 at 22:25
...and applause from me too.
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Reply By: Malcom M - Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 at 06:27

Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 at 06:27
Great post!
How did you initiate contact with the communities. Do they publish a contact phone number or what?
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Reply By: AlanTH - Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 at 10:16

Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 at 10:16
I agree entirely with this post. We visited both Kunawaritji and Parngurr after contacting previously and found the same thing.
Parnngurr especially was very clean and tidy, plenty of choice in the store and fuel at a reasonable price.
As it was dry community we kept our beer supplies covered and found all the store and community people we met very friendly.
Camped not far away overnight and nearly got blown away by the desert wind.
Will be up that way again mid next year.
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Reply By: Member - Odog - Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 at 16:33

Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 at 16:33
Thanks for a great read Chris, it's lovely to see communities like this, go that bit extra, to make you feel welcome, it helps to encourage others to visit, and adds to business turn around, it all has a flow on affect.. thank you for sharing this with us.. Cheers Odog
Some people want it to happen, some people wish it could happen, others make it happen!

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Reply By: Member - eighty matey - Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 00:53

Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 00:53
G'day Chris.

It sounds like you all had a good trip out there.

My wife and I have passed through many communities on our travels. There are often signs leading into communities that seem like warning signs but, more often than not, they are information signs.

Since June this year we've been living and working at Ampilatwatja, about 350 kms north east of Alice Springs and just off the Sandover Highway. Just the same as communities in the cities and suburbs are different, every Aboriginal community is often different to another. I think it would be pretty rare to find an Aboriginal Community that isn't welcoming to travellers, especially remote communities.

A lot of people seem to judge a community by the amount of rubbish they see. We used to but now that we have been living in a community for a number of months we've learnt they have a different way of looking at rubbish. I won't judge a community by the amount of rubbish or abandoned cars lying around.

Don't expect to get a big welcome from the people either. They are generally very shy people. The kids are inquisitive (as are the dogs) but most of the people will respectably ignore you. You'll always be welcome at an art centre if it's open.

I urge anyone travelling through the Centre to consider dropping into a community to top up or get an ice cream. It wouldn't hurt to give them a call if you can but don't be afraid.

Keep on travelling.

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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 10:26

Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 10:26
G'day Steve,

It looks like your experiences are the same as mine. Your advice to others is spot on.

You are right about them being shy. My approach is to walk up to them, stick my hand out, and say "g'day mate, my name is Chris". This works most of the time. Just as many white fella's have preconceived ideas about aboriginals, many aboriginals have preconceived ideas about white people. Unfortunately there are a lot of white fella ar***oles out there.
Like you, I would encourage people to visit Communities, show the respect that you yourself expect, and I am sure you will enjoy the experience.
You mentioned that the dogs are very friendly, well they are friendly because they see you as a meal ticket. Walk around with a pie in your hand and you will be like the Pied Piper. This is one of the reasons that when you drive into a Community, wind all windows up, regardless of how hot it maybe, never leave a door open, and always lock your vehicle when you leave it.
The kids are usually great and are not usually afraid to ask you for things, or even taking it if left around. The kids are the future, so I always have chat with them and show an interest in what their doing.

I see attitudes, both black and white changing, and it people like you Steve, and your wife, getting in their and working with them as a great help in breaking down the barriers.

Well done both of you.

What other people think of me is none of my business.
Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

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Follow Up By: Member - eighty matey - Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 15:08

Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 15:08

we found it took about three weeks before most people spoke to us. We kept saying g'day and learning their names. Now they want us to come back, which is good.

For many people in communities English is their second language and some can only speak broken English. This is the reason many are shy. Shaking hands might not be the best way to get to know them. Many men here only shake hands when there has been a death and it's part of sorry business.

You're right about securing your vehicle from dogs. I've seen a dog get into a car that had the window down about six inches. They'll look for a feed anywhere. We have donkeys here that'll stick their head looking for a feed too.

Don't expect any please or thank yous either. They aren't being rude but it just doesn't seem to be part of the culture of many.
At the end of the day, they are all different. Just like you and me.

Living and working here has been a great experience for a number of reasons.
The store is usually very busy. We work hard but the rewards are worth it.

I urge any travellers to use the services offered by communities that they pass through. Dry communities are often quieter than communities near alcohol outlets but I feel as safe in any aboriginal community as I do in any urban centre.

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Reply By: Sigmund - Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 13:36

Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017 at 13:36
My experience was the same Chris when I visited some of the same places this year (and Papunya and Yuendumu).

I will add that it's worth ringing the community store a day or two before you get there to see if they have fuel and will be open. Eg. at end of the financial year there can be closure for a day for stocktaking or as you mentioned a supply truck can be delayed. Also note that some have restrictions on what you can buy for public health reasons (eg. no lollies before 2pm!).

Time runs at a different pace out there. Allow plenty to find the person with the bowser key, for shopping, refreshments and a chat about road conditions. Some communities have art galleries and you may get a chance to see painters at work.
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