Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Life in East Arnhem

'The spaciousness and unhurried peace of the land they lived in had claimed both of us'
Geraldine MacKenzie missionary (1925-65)

The land claimed us as well! 

We bought a 4wd after Marg was offered a position in a local community organisation and set off on the track to Darwin, camping overnight and having an exhilarating time exploring the area. Just beautiful. 

'The track' is a 700km stretch of dirt road which crosses East Arnhem Land and joins the Stuart Highway just south of Katherine. Multiple Homelands are along the track and one Homeland, Beswick has set up an art gallery and coffee shop which seems to do well in dry season.

Once in Darwin, we were glad that we had made the decision to stay in Gove (Melville Bay) as Darwin felt extremely industrial, not the Darwin we had both previously visited.

We are anchored in 'Gove Harbour' whose landscape in blighted by the dominance of Rio Tinto's bauxite processing plant and the number of abandoned and wrecked boats. We make sure we always enjoy the other view! Yolgnu who own the land (Melville Bay was their prime hunting ground and mining commenced without their permission) are making their views heard about the environmental vandalism caused by boat owners leaving their boats. Apparently during the time of Bauxite production and smelting, boaties arrived in Gove, got jobs with high pay at the mine which came with housing, so abandoned their boats-hell they could just buy a new one!

Smelting no longer occurs and the mine is in partial shutdown; community services and health organisations are now the major employers in the 'white town' Nhulunbuy. Nhulunbuy is 12km from the harbour and was built and is run by the mine owners. Yolgnu who choose to live near 'town' live in the communities of Yirrkala, Ski Beach and Wallaby. Most East Arnhem Yolgnu choose to remain/return to their Homeland- the 'isolated communities' the Gov wants to shut down in WA. The energy of Homeland Yolgnu is so different from the townies, and conversations I have had with folk living in their Homeland supports the need- no alcohol, no drugs, living on their land, feeling confident.

Yirrkala supports an art gallery, Buku-Larrngay Mulka, where Yolgnu art is purchased and then re-sold- a lot of it overseas. They run workshops for youth, have free internet access for Yolgnu, provide space and materials for Yolgnu to create art and support pop-up gigs for bands. They also have a huge collection of Aboriginal film, which Marg and I love viewing whenever we get the chance!   And the art collection is extraordinary - I often walk the gallery crying, this stuff is so powerful.

We get good use of our vehicle- the beaches are magnificent.

Middle Beach

We had hoped to do lots of camping, but it has been far too hot over the (rainless) wet season. Instead, we've done a bit of sailing around the bay, taking friends out to explore.

Fatima helming for the first time-a natural!

Sara and Fatima

Liz feeling happy!

Judy feeling happier!

Sara feeling confident on her second sail! 

We have managed to get a few swims/paddles in despite the stingers (I have been whipped twice by a box jelly-it feels like an attack by a hot poker!). There are a few crocs around also so we are very careful- water must be very clear and over sand. We spent a fantastic day at Ngumuy (Turtle Beach), all enjoying a good paddle. 
While Marg has been busy at work and building the bank balance, I've toiled away on Manatee. Our inbuilt freezer was inefficient and extreme yoga was required to clean it, so out it came- we now have a 12v fridge/freeze that looks like a domestic number. We have unlimited ice-yay! I've also painted and sanded endlessly! We now have new wheelhouse windows-tinted which relieves some of the heat. And they look beautiful!
         Manatee is looking and feeling fine, almost ready for our next adventure.