BROKEN HILL, NSW
Born: Wilcannia, NSW, 1947
Several kilometres from the mining town of Broken Hill, rising from the arid red plain, a circle of 12 sandstone sculptures crown the peak of Sundown Hill. Together they are known as the Living Desert Sculptures. Carved by artists from Georgia, Mexico, Syria, Bathurst Island and Australia in 1993, these sculptures have become a new cultural icon in a town already well recognised for its art, particularly painting.
Badger Bates, a Sites Officer with National Parks and Wildlife, is the only Broken Hill local to have carved one of these sculptures. His piece, entitled Nhatji, or Rainbow Serpent, depicts two rainbow serpents travelling north with a pool of water between them. The hand stencils on the sculpture represent three generations of his family.
Born: Gunnedah, NSW, 1973
The rhythmical thudding of horses hooves is the only sound as Sally Torrens and her father pace around the track for their early morning practice session. The purpose built track is a stone’s throw away from the farmhouse and stables on the 1,500 acre property where Sally grew up.
Unless it’s a race day, Sally goes through the same routine most mornings, with her father acting as her training partner and mentor as often as he can.
Sally first got up on a horse at the age of five. Growing up, she “mucked around” with her father’s harness racers, and from the day she turned 17 - the legal age for racing - she was ready to compete. Her father, a farmer who had dabbled in trotting part time, tried to talk her out of it.
SANDY & SASH WHITEHEAD
CATTLE STATION OWNERS
Good morning Mentone, are you there Sandy?? a crackly voice comes over the UHF radio in the kitchen of the Mentone Station house. Sandy Whitehead gets up from his breakfast and grabs the mouthpiece to respond.
“G’day Alec, how are you?” he says to his nearest neighbour, who lives 14 kilometres away. “Are you heading into town today? Let me know if you are, I may need a few things.”
Mentone is a 33,000 acre cattle station, situated 125 kilometres northeast of Winton - what Sandy refers to as “town” - and 130 kilometres south of Hughenden. From the tiny outpost of Corfield itself - population six - it is a 30 minute drive along dirt road to reach the homestead. When it rains, and the dirt becomes mud, there is no getting in or out of the property for days, sometimes weeks.
BORN: Adelaide, 1957.
The Prairie Hotel is located on a dusty plain with the Flinders Ranges as its stunning backdrop. The population of Parachilna is five. Driving towards it, you could easily assume there wouldn’t be much more available at this pub than a cold beer, a meat pie and a dowdy old room. Jane Fargher, The Prairie Hotel’s publican, will prove your assumptions wildly wrong.
Jane is in the pub’s kitchen, preparing the “feral mixed grill”, which includes kangaroo chop, emu sausage, camel steak, wallaby shaslick, bacon and egg, with a bush tomato relish and salad. For the vegetarian diner, there’s a spinach, feta and roasted pumpkin triangle with salad, or for the pie lovers, there’s a choice of roo and red wine; goat and rosemary; or emu, bacon and mushroom.
GREENKEEPER/GARDENER, PARLIAMENT HOUSE
Born: Sheffield, England 1964
It is 7am on an autumn Monday morning, and the expansive, immaculate lawns surrounding and covering Parliament House are being mown in precise stripes. There are 10 hectares of turf at this house on Capital Hill, most of it visible as four grass ramps ascending to the massive steel flagpole, a readily recognised symbol of Australia’s capital.
Paul Janssens, his team of greenkeepers and horticultural colleagues have just begun work for the day. On this 33 hectare site occupied by Parliament House, there are 23 hectares of garden to maintain.
Opened in 1988 as a replacement for the old Parliament House, a white building which sits in vast contrast directly below it, the new house sees millions of visitors tramp across its turf each year.
SNAKE HANDLER, TARANNA, TASMANIA
Born: Campbelltown, TAS, 1963
A thick black snake slithering around his forearm, Smiley stands firm but relaxed in the centre of the circular snake pit, surrounded by hundreds of the creatures. One of the snakes has just given birth, and he grabs a 10 centimetre long newborn from the grass, looking around for the other 20 or so that were born with it. The babies must be separated from the adults before most of them get eaten.
“These babies are like caviar to us, they’re absolutely beautiful,” Smiley tells his small but fascinated audience. “They shed their skins when they’re 10 minutes old and it’s in their nature to attack from the moment they’re born.” An earthy, good natured bloke, Smiley has been the snake handler and manager of the World Tiger Snake Centre at Taranna, on the Tasman Peninsula, since it first opened at the end of 1996. Tiger snakes are being bred at the centre for medical research by a syndicate of scientists in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Open to the public, part of the entry fee goes towards this research.
BORN: Geelong, VIC, 1948
The long, steep and bumpy driveway to Barbara Pritchard’s home winds its way up a mountainside overlooking the Murray River. At the top, her simple stone bungalow, its frame built from gum tree branches, is tucked away in the lush green grass. The outdoor, doorless dunny gives you a lovely view over the creek that flows beside the house. There is privacy, simplicity, natural beauty and a sense of serenity here.
When Barbara first arrived on this land in 1984, she lived in a caravan, without power or running water, with her three sons, then aged two, four and six.
“Life was really hard. I did my washing in the creek, and used gas and candles for lights. Once a storm came and blew the dunny away!” she recalls.
Barbara first came to Walwa in 1978 with her husband, a doctor, who set up a joint practice in the town. They broke up in 1982 and Barbara bought the mountain top land two years later.
Barbara’s one room bathroom and laundry is filled with brightly coloured pieces of silk in the process of being dyed. They will be used later for colour therapy, an alternative practice of healing people, emotionally and physically, through the use of colour.
RED BLUFF, W.A.
Born: Sydney, NSW. 1970
Red Bluff is an isolated stretch of Western Australia’s coast with a bushy green headland that overlooks a white sandy beach and a turquoise blue ocean. To reach it, you drive 70km along an isolated stretch of sandy road which can get very boggy, especially after rain. In a two wheel drive, you feel lucky to get through, but when you arrive, you’re suprised to see two wheel drives parked everywhere. The foreshore is dotted with panel vans, tents, station wagons, and caravans, all flagged by towels and wetsuits, flapping in the breeze. They belong to the full time surfers, who spend the winter months here surfing the world class waves.
On the southern end of the beach is a cave, a rocky hideaway beneath the headland, which this winter, is home to Taras Mulik.
“It’s first in, best dressed. I got here in June and there was no-one in the cave, so I jumped in,” Taras explains, as he buffs his board in front of the cave, repairing a crease.
NATIONAL PARK RANGER
BORN: DARWIN, N.T. 1976
Dwarfed by the rich red rock above her, Teresa Atie is sharing a legend with the large group of tourists doing a base walk of Uluru(Ayers Rock).
“This walk is about the story of Mala, the hare-wallaby people,” she begins. “Everything on this northern face of Uluru is connected to the Mala.”
Her simple delivery and fresh sense of humour make her easy to listen to, and the tourists are absorbed in her stories.
This group has chosen to walk around the base rather than climb the rock, at the request of the traditional Aboriginal owners, the Anangu People, who believe that the path of the climb is of great spiritual significance. The climb follows the traditional route taken by the ancestral Mala men. “From what I’ve observed and been told, I feel it’s sad that people still climb, disrespecting the wishes of the traditional owners. You see a lot of silly things - people going to the edge, for example, so you tell them not to chase after their hats if they blow away and so on,” Teresa explains.
“Sometimes you’re walking round the bottom and the climb is closed and the one question people will ask is: when is the climb going to be open? That’s all they want to know. It makes you feel angry.
DOCTOR and HOTEL MANAGER
BORN: OKARA, INDIA (NOW IN PAKISTAN), 1942 .
The sign on the wall behind the bar in The Standpipe Hotel, Port Augusta, says: “There are no strangers here, only friends we haven’t met”. The hotel’s owner, Doctor Devinder Grewal, is chatting with a few guests over a pre-dinner drink at the bar. Shortly, they will sample some Indian cuisine from the Tandoori kitchen at the adjoining restaurant. By the end of the night, Devinder will be living proof that his sign is true.
Devinder is the maitre’d here almost every evening, ensuring the guests at his family owned, family managed hotel are comfortable. During the day, he works as a general practitioner in a surgery just down the road from the hotel.
“It’s not a strange combination of professions at all - you’re always in contact with people and they’re both service industries,” Devinder explains, of his two seemingly incongruous careers.
A third generation doctor, Devinder was schooled in both India and Singapore then returned to India to train in the city of Amritsar, the mecca for Sikhs. With race riots occurring in Penang and Malaysia, Devinder decided he wanted to get away and come to Australia.
COOBER PEDY, S.A.
Born: Berri, SA 1950
The white minibus is making its way around the brown dirt, treeless streets of Coober Pedy. Di Enders, or “Lady Di” as she likes to be known, is at the wheel, giving the personal, cheerful spiel she gives at the start of every tour.
“I’ll guarantee you that by the time you’ve finished my tour, you’ll have changed your attitude about Coober Pedy. Whether you end up loving it or hating it, at the very least you’ll remember it,” she tells the group of tourists on board.
“People who come back here for a second look will say the place hasn’t changed, and when I ask them why they’ve come back, they’ll say because they couldn’t believe it the first time!”
Located 600km north of Adelaide and 600km south of Alice Springs, Coober Pedy is, arguably, a town in the middle of nowhere. Its name, from Aboriginal, means “white man in hole”, a reference to the opal miners who have dug hundreds of holes in search of, as Di calls them, “the queen of the gems”.
ACACIA HILLS, N.T.
Born: Subotica, Yugoslavia (Serbia). 1940
Between the mango trees on a 40 acre property south of Darwin sits a large workshop, where Simeon Jurkijevic fashions extraordinary knives from pieces of old metal. He learned the skill as a teenager in Serbia, from a third generation Hungarian craftsman.
Simeon remembers a childhood during the war in which he always felt hungry. He grew up in the town of Subotica and got a job in a slaughterhouse at the age of 13. His monthly wage was enough to buy one kilogram of pork. After learning the knifemaking, he worked on restoration in castles, repairing knives, swords, battleaxes and restoring intricate wrought iron work.
By the time he was 25, Simeon had saved the 3,000 shillings he needed for a ticket to Australia.
“I wanted to go anywhere as long as it wasn’t Yugoslavia,” Simeon explains. “I worked in Austria for a year, then I wanted to go away as far as I could. I had an aunty in Mildura, so I went there.”
Born: Melbourne, 1955
“On this Great Ocean Road
This country’s in our bones
Walk with me, talk with me, tell me your story
I’ll do my very best to understand you...”
(From Flesh and Blood )
The audience is crammed into the Apollo Bay pub, waiting to hear Shane Howard, one of the first acts of the Apollo Bay Music Festival.
Looking relaxed, but at the same time a little shy, Shane makes a few friendly exchanges with the distinctly older crowd as he waits for the houselights to dim.
“Sing Flesh and Blood!” a woman calls out.
“There’s always one isn’t there,” he quickly retorts with a grin.
It’s clear he won’t be singing that old favourite tonight - he has some newer songs, with a more important message, he wants to share instead.
Shane is a songwriter, guitarist, solo artist and the lead singer of Goanna, a band that found instant fame in 1982 with the song Solid Rock. The band split in 1985, but reformed in 1998 with the release of a new album, Spirit Returns, in 1999. In between times, Shane has continued to write and record songs, but both his life and music have changed considerably.
Shane grew up in a musical household in the town of Warrnambool, on Victoria’s southern coast. His three elder siblings and mother all played piano and they would sing together as a family at weddings, church services and CWA gatherings.
KINGS CREEK, N.T.
Born: Alice Springs, N.T. 1949
It is 7.15am and Ian Conway, spatula in hand, is cooking bacon and eggs for the tour group who have stopped at his station for breakfast before visiting nearby King’s Canyon. Later today, he’ll be rounding up camels and loading them onto a truck to send to market. Like hundreds of outback station owners around Australia, Ian chose to diversify his business to attract the rapidly growing tourist market. For people like Ian, these tourists are generating the income necessary to survive in such remote locations, and he is grateful for their presence.
"We're very fortunate we’re on the main tourist route here. Only people on the tourist trail will make ends meet in this country," he says.
Ian’s camel station is 1,800 square kilometres - made up of 108 square kilometres of freehold land and 1,700 square kilometres of leasehold from the local Aboriginal people.
“I don’t like the term ‘land owner’, because I don’t think anyone owns land. I’m only here for a short time to look after it, so I’ll try and look after it, and when I’m dead and gone, someone else will come and look after it,” he says, matter of factly.
Born: Box Hill, VIC, 1968
The almost full church empties out with a steady trickle as each member of the congregation stops to greet the two pastors standing either side of the doors. There is an assortment of people filing past the two robed men: quaint elderly ladies in their Sunday frocks; young couples with new babies; laughing, energetic teenagers; serious middle-aged men.
Basil Schild, the younger pastor, speaks kindly with each person as he shakes their hand. His face is youthful, yet his eyes seem to carry all the depth of worldly experience, of a man who has not been sheltered by religious rules. Without his white robes, or the large bronze cross he wears around his neck, it would be difficult to pick him as a priest.
Basil was posted to the Alice Springs Lutheran church in January 1997, his first appointment after completing a theology degree in Adelaide. It was his study of third world politics for a previous arts degree that led him to theology.