In December 1982 our family moved from Melbourne, Victoria to Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The photos you see are from around that time. It is situated about 400 km east of Broome and is about 2,524 km from the state capital of Perth. The population was predominantly Indigenous and we came there to work in the community store. My former husband was there to help the manager as storeman. In 2006 the population of the Fitzroy Crossing town-site had grown to around 1,500, with a further 2,000 or so people living in up to 50 Aboriginal communities and out-stations in the region. The main industries in the area are tourism, cattle stations and mining.
Prior to European occupation Fitzroy Crossing and the lands and valleys around it were the home for a number of Aboriginal language groups including the main group, the Bunuba People. Other groups include the Gooniyandi people, the Nyigina and the Walmakarri people.
I discovered I was pregnant not long after arriving from the long car journey from Perth. It was good news and we settled into the community fairly quickly. I assisted the adult Indigenous women with some classes in reading and writing. I had no earlier experience in teaching however I learnt on the job.
The lack of resources tends to make us more creative. We did activities together and then wrote stories about them in their own words. The women already spoke 3-4 different languages and were very capable of taking on one more. They were very keen to learn. Some of the ‘students’ had suffered leprosy in the past and as a result, some of their fingers were missing or disabled. This created a challenge in learning how to use a pen or pencil for the first time however they showed great determination.
This experience started me on my journey of writing and involvement in adult education for many years following. The countryside is stunning with its vast contrasts in colour and extremes in temperature and tropical downpours in the rainy season (October to April).
Living in the region was a really memorable experience. I am sure I will still be telling stories about it when I am in my rocking chair 🙂 Some life experiences are like that, aren’t they?
Sources: Photos are my own and some of the information I gleaned from Wikipedia.