Saturday, September 30, 2006


September 29th

Day 1 of the holidays is almost over - very quietly, without fireworks. Mark has gone off to a new job at Mount Lofty Summit Restaurant and Don and I have spent a quiet and peaceful Saturday at home together.

I thought I would tell you a bit about the trip to Mintabie I mentioned earlier in the blog.

Our school is involved in an interschool partnership called "Bushband SA". The history of Bushband is long and involved, but briefly it is the brainchild of a previous principal of mine and it involves children from different schools going on trips together and performing in a variety of places in Australia. Since I have been involved we have travelled to Tasmania (twice), Broken Hill, Frances Folk Festival in the south-east of SA and to Fleurieu Peninsula in SA. This year, because our founder has moved to Port Augusta in the far north of South Australia, we had an outback adventure and we took out choir and dance group to Mintabie. Mintabie is a very small opal mining community in the very far north of the state - real outback country, where the rainfall for the year has been 25mm.

I'm not sure of the population of Mintabie - I don't think anyone knows the population - but it is a fascinating outback town. Opal mining here is done in open cut mines using heavy machinery. The country is generally very flat and covered in low scrub - lots of red sand. The higher land where the opals are found seem to be white rocky stuff- I knew I should have listened more carefully. None of the miners let on how well or how poorly they are doing from their mines, but they seem to stay on for quite a while and the ones we spoke to also admitted that they had land and property elsewhere - for their retirement.

Our kids performed in the local pub(hotel) to a very appreciative audience, some of whom remembered a previous Bushband trip 10 years before. Our drummer in fact was so popular that he was given $10 by an admirer for his efforts. Heady stuff for a 12 year old. Some of our girls did a Maori dance and one of the highlights of the evening occurred when a member of the audience, herself a Maori, joined the kids in one of the dances.

To backtrack a little, I should tell you a bit about the whole concept. Bushband SA gets together children from different schools - in this case my school, a conservative relatively middle class country school, a school from the northern suburbs of Adelaide (Elizabeth), definitely a disadvantaged area, and kids from a school in Whyalla, a country/industrial city in the north of the state - kids from a very low socoi-economic area. We travelled allin all 3600kms north through the outback of South Australia, performing at schools and seeing a different world.

Many of the children had never seen the outback of our state so it was a huge learning experience for them, particularly having to go without showers because of the drought conditions, seeing very little green, just bare dirt and low shrubs and travelling huge distances without seeing anything except more of the same.

Saturday September 30th

We visited Port Augusta and then moved on to Woomera. This town was built by the Australian government and the Americans in the 1950s as a rocket testing area and it is still kept in excellent condition, though the population is minimal. Rumour has it that the rocket range is to be re-opened and the town re-populated. While we were there we were tasken on a tour of what was a spy establishment for the US. From the road you can see what looks like a huge white golf ball alongside a very large salt lake. As you get closer - and drive through 6 security gates and several high fences with barbed wire rolls in between, you see a number of huge buildings - all deserted. The spy station was disbanded in 1996 (I think). Inside the 'golf ball' is a huge satellite dish which was used to 'spy' on other countries. The golf ball was built around it purportedly so that stray spy planes could not see which way the satellite dish was pointing. Tue? I don't know, but fascinating.

We also spent time at Coober Pedy which is another opal mining town - this time underground mining and indeed living. We visited a number of underground shops and a very luxurious underground house. Sadly the mining industry there is winding down and tourism seems to be the only thing keeping the town going.

The trip was a huge success and the kids voted it as the best Bushband trip yet. Below is a photo of the state floral emblem Sturt's Desert Pea which we found growing in a garden at Mintabie.



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