KJ held its second wantikaja (women's) camp at Yulpu claypan. Martu elders invited women from the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council, the Njamal People’s Trust, the Wirlu-murra Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and the Murujuga Land and Sea Unit. Over eighty women from Martu communities and townships, Warakurna, Hedland, Roebourne and Dampier arrived on Monday, some flying from Alice Springs, others driving for two days from Dampier!
During the trip, the women had important discussions about what women used to do in the past and what they would like to do in the future. A number of important sites were visited in the vicinity of Yulpu, where the elders told stories about these places and also life during pujiman (bushman) days. There was a lot of learning by the younger women from the elders and the camp went exceptionally well.
Thank you to Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service for all your pre-trip help and for providing a nurse to accompany us on the trip, East Pilbara Independence Support in Newman for providing specialised equipment, MAC for providing vehicles and four MAC wanti (women) rangers, and the Njamal, Yindjibarndi and NYC for their involvement and support. Thank you to the Department of Culture and the Arts, the Martu Future Fund and the Newman Women's Shelter for your financial support.
Thank you also to Anne Saw who donated over 50 beanies, some of which were hand knitted, for Martu. The beanies were handed out on the camp and were a real hit.
Anne sent in a short story of her time working with the Martu. It is a wonderful read:
I first went to Jigalong community in 1977 when I was working for the WA government Dental program.
One dentist, Dr David Friend, and me as dental nurse, had the extraordinary job of visiting country towns and isolated communities to provide dental work in remote areas. We travelled in a kitted out land cruiser from Perth to Kununurra and would set up in hospitals or community health centres, firstly along the coastal and then the inland route.
David Friend was a New Zealander; capable, down to earth, well travelled and he had to wear more than his dental hat at many times, he would have made a good doctor and he was an excellent dentist. I was really just a kid on a bit of a working adventure. I quietly and happily celebrated my 21st birthday that July at Halls Creek.
I was actually in my element, I loved driving those long distances, seeing how the vegetation, landscape and colours of the earth changed as we ventured further north. Meeting different people from all walks of life, seemingly appearing out of nowhere in these remote places for treatment and to tell their personal stories really made me wonder at life and people's ability to endure harsh conditions with tenacity and humour.
At the outback communities we were welcomed by the local First Nations People. Amongst the many places we visited, Yandeyarra and Jigalong stood out and meant the most to both David and I.
We stayed at Jigalong for a few weeks treating the community.
Not long after we arrived at Jigalong we were asked to assist with the arrival of the flying doctor as someone had been injured, which involved lining the edge of the runway with tin cans containing candles, which we lit to guide the plane that was coming in after dark. Exciting stuff!
I liked the place, the colour of the earth, I especially enjoyed the little children and struck up a friendship with a couple of young girls who were about 19. (I had kept a journal which I lost when I was travelling in New Zealand the following year, so I have unfortunately forgotten many names, events and places, but I never forgot their sweet faces.)
Everyone came and watched an outdoor movie one night, I sat with little kids in my lap.
We were taken out on country to the east, a long way to a magnificent water hole with huge red rocks jutting out to the pure blue sky.
While I was at Jigalong I decided that I would leave the dental van at the end of that trip. I hadn't told anyone of my plans to finish up. The elders called a meeting to which I was invited and amazingly, they asked me to come back and mind the store while the usual storekeeper went on a months break!
How did the elders know I could or would do that? It was their magic, wisdom and connection, I supposed.
So of course I agreed to return to Jigalong to work in the store. I wasn't great at the job to be honest! I did ok but I'm not much of a shopkeeper type, and the best thing really was just being there, seeing and chatting with the community members coming and going each day.
This was a very special time in my life. I felt incredibly honoured to have the opportunity to experience an outback world for a brief period of time.
To breathe in the expanse of earth and sky and to meet so many beautiful people was a gift I have always remembered and treasured.
The other week I was cold in the night and I thought about those who do not have the urban comforts that I have and I thought I must do something to help someone. I thought about the Jigalong community having those cold nights and mornings and I thought providing beanies was personally doable and would hopefully bring a little warmth this season.
Shame I haven't thought of doing this long before - but with age comes wisdom!
I'm sure the women's camp will be a good get together; kindly send the women my love, respect and gratitude.
Anne Saw (Unsworth)