Day 24, Australia; returning to the start of the second residency

Zane Douglas with his painting for My Earth Calls

Zane Douglas with his painting for My Earth Calls

12 August 2013

I am in Longreach, Central West Queensland, Australia. It is only a couple of weeks since I was in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, but already I am on the other side of the world; Stage Two of the residencies.

It is winter but the daytime temperatures are reaching 33 degrees, in stark contrast to the Outer Hebrides. And though at night it drops to 5 or 6 degrees my bedsit room in the top of the old wooden Arts and Crafts Heritage Centre remains sultry and hot under a thin tin roof. Heather is seeking out a portable air conditioner, for which I am intensely grateful.

I am sitting at a little square table covered with a yellow gingham cloth; out on the wrap-around verandah in the cooling evening, my verandah doors open to the night and the moths and mosquitoes that seek out my light. There is a beeping of reversing trucks slicing through the black night air, a rumble of road trains along the nearby highway that stretches north to Darwin; the softer sound of cicadas chirping lightly in the middle distance. A smell of smoke is hanging like dust and the inevitable dog barks somewhere in the night.

I have cooked a simple tea downstairs in the kitchenette attached to the crafts workshop space; a walk around the verandah that overlooks the sprawling, country-town streets, and down the wooden steps with my head torch, to the kitchenette.

On my first night here I was taken for dinner to meet Zane and Lyndall, two Australian Aboriginal artists and friends of Kristy from Vast Arts, part-sponsors of my residency. Zane and Lyndall are painting for an exhibition entitled My Earth Calls, to be presented by Red Ridge at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame.

In the way of synchronicity, it seems we are already strangely connected. I learn that Zane is from Tagalaka country, Croydon, near Normanton, hundreds of miles away to the north in the Gulf Country. Normanton is where I met Sidney, who I introduced you to in my blog home page and introduction to this project. And Sidney is Zane’s father’s cousin, Zane’s Uncle.

I tell Zane the story of my meeting with Sidney 2 years ago in the empty Normanton street; of our ambling conversation and its impact on my motivation to finally get this project off the ground. Zane is the first person I have met on this Australian leg of the project. And throughout the evening we shake our heads and laugh again at the connection that is already there, hovering in the wings. I ask Zane to give my best wishes to Sidney. Zane agrees saying we must complete the circle.

Even so, the connections do not end here. Because Lyndall, the only other person I have so far been introduced to here, is from Wangkangurru country around Birdsville where I am heading from here. It is meant to be, she says.

In the late afternoon, Heather pops by to see how my wonderful air conditioner is working and invites me round to meet her husband and his fossil collection. He is a true man of the west, with his beaten up hat and long relaxed beard. Their yard evokes a sense of both order and chaos, with the hundred upon hundreds of sea fossils he has collected from this unlikely place: crabs, sharks teeth, spiral shells, all stacked and displayed amidst old glass bottles, bits of engine, rocks of agate, opal, iron; and two kangaroos lazing sleepily under the hot interior sun.

(A link to a map of Aboriginal Australian languages is available in the Australia Digital Resources page of the blog, and a list of Australian Aboriginal languages)

4 thoughts on “Day 24, Australia; returning to the start of the second residency

    • Thank you Geoffrey. He is a wonderful artist. So much talent. I do hope Zane and all the artists from the My Earth Calls project continue to paint. Some had never painted before and all their works were really beautiful.


  1. Judith I feel sick, the tears momentarily well and I am very touched. I sit at my table in my Dept of Education house on Bickerton Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. On Friday one of “my” community died in “the long grass” in Darwin. The community is in shock and very sad. I did not understand until reading your blog how his life might have been. He was only 34 and had lived his life here and had ended up drinking in Darwin. I do know how the policing system works for Indigenous people but your graphic description put me there. The vulnerable children I teach and the beautiful community I am allowed to be part of and their land I am allowed to walk on is so different to what you describe. This is a dry community and a peaceful one but only because of its isolation and “traditional” life style. It does infrequently have its dramas and the police flew in two weeks ago in response to a community member requesting some help to separate her people who were fighting. It ended when the police arrived and from what I saw they were very restrained and helpful. I do not know the answer. I educate in hope but know it is not enough to prepare these people for what their life will be.


    • Hello Sarah. Thank you for sharing this sad story and your very touching comment. My thoughts go to this young man’s family and friends. The community where you work sounds quite beautiful. Wishing you all there many happy years together. Judy


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