Island In The Shade

The rain has stopped, though an extensive cloud cover blocked the sun all day. The radio reported Darwinites shivering in minimums as low as eighteen degrees, and the maximum as a paltry twenty six. I managed for the first time in days to get online in the community office, and to launch my recent blog. I was told that a couple of burly major crime investigators would be bedding down alongside me in my one room premises, but fortunately they finished their investigations and flew off.
I hitched a ride to the airport when Adrian, a white administrator, ran the coppers out to the airport, as it gave me a chance to cross the wetlands again, and to take a few pics, though the light was poor because of the cloud cover. I chatted with the coppers for an hour or so, as the police plane, a Polatis, was delayed. We shared tales of interest in remote communities, with varying degrees of sophistication between the two of them. Though both outwardly friendly, one was decidedly more sympathetic than the other in his general views, while the other floated some decidedly weird ideas on how to solve the ‘Aboriginal problems’ – one being to issue all the blackfellows with smart cards which showed how much alcohol they had purchased on a given day. We let that one go through to the keeper! They were investigating the death of a 73 year old man who had died more than a month ago, though he had been ill for some time. Apparently all deaths in remote regions like this are investigated as a matter of course. 

Adrian showed me around a bit on our return, giving me a clearer idea of the layout of the island, and as we returned to the community we drove past an impromptu game of Aussie rules being played on an oval with a decided advantage to the team kicking downhill, while a few of the goal-posts, while not shifted to advantage, were certainly bent at some alarming angles. When Adrian dropped me off I immediately wandered over to watch the game in the fading light. The exuberance, skill and speed with which these youngsters played the game was sheer joy to behold, and I itched to video some of it, but the light was poor, and I came to regret leaving some of my video equipment in Darwin. I chatted with some of the players, as they paused for drinks, and with some little tackers playing with equal enthusiasm on the sidelines. Every time I meet some-one, I write their names down in a note book I am carrying to assist me in in getting to know the community. 

Earlier in the day I also had a long chat about my project with an Iwaidja man called Simon, whose father was buried the day previous. I told him all about the Barker project, and gave him the graphic details of a massacre which had occurred on the nearby mainland one hundred and eighty years ago. Three soldiers and two convicts, all armed, and a Macassan interpreter carrying a spear had gone out to capture a native for ‘interrogation’ and after attacking a peaceful group by a fire at night, had succeeded in bayoneting to death a woman attempting to rescue her two wounded children by swimming into the ocean with them. One of the children also died, and a man on his hands and knees with his entrails hanging out, was summary despatched to ‘put him out of his misery.’ The six year old survivor, a girl called Riveral, was taken back to Fort Wellington as the prize catch. This was the disastrous situation Collet Barker had to deal with when he took command at Raffles Bay some nine months later. Next week I will be walking the same ground. I have phoned my sister in Darwin, who is arranging to send my extra equipment out. It will be important sooner or later, though the sun will need to start shining again if the photography situation is to improve. Tomorrow? Who knows – but it won’t be dull. Neither will the weather I hope.


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