Paruku, Desert Lake

Blog 2

Paruku trip April 4-9, 2011 Guy Fitzhardinge and I flew into a cloudy, cool Alice Springs on Sunday and met in the afternoon with Steve Morton, Faye Alexander and Kim Mahood. We met also with Maggie Kavanagh that evening who will be an important contributor to issues surrounding communities and governance in our project.

We set out early the following morning and hit rain about half way up the Tanami track and fearful we would get rained in further hesitated to cross the first big creek near the now closed Rabbit Flat roadhouse. We had a dripping wet but happy camp and then headed off in rain again the following morning as it looked like it would clear. The road was not closed but no traffic had made it through to Balgo or Mulan for a few weeks it seemed, so they were surprised to see us and happy with the fruit and veges and so on that we brought. The Tanami track was closed further up at Sturt Creek which is in fact 5. 5 kms wide at present so no-one can get through to Hall’s Creek. We are excited because this huge body of water has already started filling Paruku again and will create a huge bird breeding cycle by August. Everything is very lush and green at present and all the spinifex has flags. The water lying in the verges of the road was teeming with water boatmen and apus.

Image Steve with apus

Near Tanami Gold mines I saw the first of two subsequent road kill bilbies, a healthy sign of sorts, although the one I saw was rather sodden! This second one in better shape, was on the road between Mulan and Balgo the day we left.

Image dead bilby

We stopped in Balgo to visit Sister Alice and Brother Lou at the Boystown compound and then met with the Balgo art centre coordinators, Annette Cock and Sally Clifford. We toured the newly renovated centre and met the women artists at work in the studios, many of whom were well known to Faye and Kim, particularly Shirley Yoomarrie who we are hoping will be one of our senior artists in this project. The new recording and film studios were a hive of activity and the gallery space looked terrific also. Annette and Sally were pleased to be filled in on our project and offered to help in any way possible. They will be pleased to see the isolated and under-resourced art centres at Mulan and Billiluna benefitting from this project.

On arrival at Mulan we did a tour around town, meeting and greeting people including Bill and Bessie Doonday and family. We then met with Gary Wise the community CEO and he suggested we stay in the IPA compound dongas rather than camping in the rain again and risking driving on wet tracks. This turned out to be convenient as we were easily able to schedule meetings with everyone over the next few days and invite people around to visit and talk with us also.

The Wednesday morning we visited the Warruyunta Art Center and checked out the neatly maintained but sparse facilities, with Veronica and Jacinta Lulu. Faye managed to connect the PC to the existing internet account and gave Jacinta a quick computer lesson in using the net and sending emails. Subsequently Faye helped her download information on a few programs she may be able to apply for to get some help in computer training skills for her in the actual community.

We then met with a number of artists and discussed the upcoming project. May Stundi, a linguist and speaker of 7 languages including English was there and most helpful. They were all excited to reconnect with Kim of course and to locate me within the context of the work I have done at Mangkaja the past 4 years, I had in fact met a few of the artists in Fitzroy Crossing previously. They are very happy to know we are coming back with materials and time to work with them and especially pleased about the book and exhibition in Alice Springs.

Artist meeting Mulan Store

Late afternoon we climbed the most obvious peaks near the community, Two Hills, so I could make a drawing and Guy took shots in the late afternoon sun and encountered this Stimson’s python.

After work, that evening, Patrick Kopp visited us for a cup of tea. He has held various positions within the community, including chairperson, and is the current rep for the Commonwealth Employment Agency. He was very open and communicative and he really helped us to understand the complexity of the grazing/ environmental issues at Paruku. He was interested and keen to be involved in the project and his involvement will bring a few other young men along as well to work on the scientific aspects of the project. We also discussed the WA Dept of Water Waterways project, and were able to peruse the current IPA management plans.