Its been quite a while since we added a post to this Kimberley Blog. We’ve been liberated from the house by the relative cool of the season and have been out there exploring this incredible environment. As much as I love the landscape, I have also been captivated by the mix of the people here in the Kimberley. The faces are an historical mix of race and colour with the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley being the heart and centre of the communities. After 10 months in Kununurra I have started to become familiar with faces, the Aboriginal families, the accents, the stories.
The biggest event here in the East Kimberley is the Ord Valley Muster held in Kununurra each May. The Muster is a series of events over two weeks which draws the locals out of their Wet Season stupor and attracts tourist from afar. My favourite event of the muster was the Kununurra Rodeo. It is a celebration and demonstration of the pastoral roots and lives spread across the vast sprawling cattle stations of the Kimberley. As a townie I don’t get to see much of this life; a glimpse of an akubra hat in town stepping out of a ute en route to pick up supplies. Aboriginal people have long been involved in the cattle industry in the Kimberley ( since the hooves and long horns soiled their waterholes and displaced their native food sources). In the last few decades many fewer Aboriginal people are living on the stations. It was great to see so many Kimberley Aboriginal cowboys at the rodeo.
There was a broad cross section of people at the rodeo; big family groups, lots of kids who loved the spectacle and the freedom to explore. It was very cinematic with the charging bulls and pursuing horses kicking dust up into the light of the fading orange sun and the arena lights coming on.
While the spectacle of the Rodeo played in the arena, I was captivated watching the hard work and skills of the blokes in hats the behind the scenes. Men who looked to have spent their lives working with horses, cattle, fences and dust.
There are so many kids in the community that this small population is sure to burgeon in the next decades.
We ran into our next door neighbour Nicola and her two infants; 8 month old Lachlan and his older sister Amelia. Lachlan is a bruiser of a baby which a great disposition and constant smile. (Andre and he didn’t coordinate their outfits before the event I have been assured).
Francois came up from a chilly Perth to visit during the Muster….he also has a great disposition and had a constant smile the night of the Rodeo. He had as much interest in the social exchanges of the drinking area as he did of the main event in the arena.
Kununurra is a transient place. People come and go, staying months to years. They often come on contracts with Government or with the many organisations that operate here. It has a feel of an expat community, at least to us in our first year. We mostly associate with people I know from work and many of them are outsiders with a small history in the town. We pass on social tips and report on places we have been taken to or ‘discovered’ on a weekend. The photo above was taken on a recent trip to waterhole called Thompson’s Spring. Neil (L)was the only local in our group trek out to Thompsons Springs ( and even he is a West Kimberley man). Souxsie (centre) came to town in December with her partner Brett. Dawn (R) has been here two years with husband Paul and two adult sons.
One of the privileges of working with Wunan is that I do get out and involved in Community from time to time. Last year I was asked to Caroline Pools, outside of Halls Creek, to witness a baby smoking ceremony. It was amazing. I felt as if I had been transported back centuries. A large group of women and kids had gathered on the dry river bed to perform a ritual that has probably taken place for millennia. The eldest women of the four generations of women present conducted the ceremony giving instructions in language (Gidga, I think)
Peter arrived at Wunan earlier this year. His French wife Ophillie was heavily pregnant with their first born. We met them on the walk into the spectacular Emma Gorge. Ophille’s mum, Chrystal, was visiting from France to see her first grandchild. The introduction of the Gaul to the Kimberley.
In May we travelled across to Broome. It was a work trip and Andre came with me to once again smell the ocean. Our Broome office had organised a Job Expo for local high schools. Kids came from Broome, Derby and all the small communities in the area. The faces in the West include those with Aboriginal and Asian heritage. It is very exotic and distinctive. Nathalie works in the Office in Broome and seemed to be related to half those at the Expo…..except those two below!
We have been enticed to a number of community events, such as this St Patricks Day Trivia Night fund raiser for St Josephs school. We sat at the Wunan table with Dawn from England, Alena from Wyndham, Deb from Moree, Alex from Malaysia ( and not pictured Blessings from Zimbabwe and Musonda from Zambia). You get the mix idea now!
In January we held a camp for all our scholarship students who study in Melbourne and Sydney . This all Indigenous, good looking mob are from Halls creek, Kununurra and Wyndham.
One of the events of the Ord Valley Muster is the Corroboree. This was a great community night where the young and old danced and moved among the dust and the dogs and the playing kids. Elders on the sidelines shouted instructions to performers so that the performance could be remembered for this night and not forgotten in the future.