We were introduced to the oldest member of the Nepabunna Community - Ron Coulthard, or Uncle Ron as he asked to be called. Uncle Ron was born in 1931 and has vivid memories of the early days of Nepabunna. He is a story teller and has an incredible knowledge of the Dreaming stories of his people. Ron, as a lad, worked as a stockman with RM Williams who went on to fame as a producer of leather goods. He is a proud man, worried that the traditional culture of the Yura is slowly disappearing as the young people leave to take up lives away from their traditional lands.
Our group spent several days with Ron and his cousin Aunty Shirley (the old chick) and learnt so much from them about the Adnyamathanha history and beliefs. We came away from out trip enriched by meeting to this wonderful old man and listening to his stories. Mt Serle Station was the property on which most of the local Yura lived and worked until the 1920s when they were forced to move on. Most of them moved to Ram Paddock Gate on the Burr Well Station. They were eventually forced to move from their homes here as the station owners wanted the water for their stock. Mt Serle was leased to an aboriginal group in about 1986. It is currently unoccupied and not being worked and the Nepabunna community is keen to obtain the lease themselves. Uncle Ron told us that he visited the station a while back and met the CEO - an Old Man Kangaroo and then the manager - a large billy goat both of whom seem to have taken over the premises.
The Ram Paddock Gate Yura were moved to Nepabunna in 1931 where a mission was set up for them. There seem to be mixed feelings written about this mission. Ram Paddock Gate is now a heritage site and the ruins and artefacts can still be found on the site, though many would have been taken away before the area was handed back to the Nepabunna community.
Ruins of the cottages at Ram Paddock Gate. We were curious to know where the slate would have come from.
Our next stop was at Damper Hill where we heard a fascinating story from Uncle Ron. This site has been fenced off to protect the area. Several weeks ago there was a handover here and numerous people of importance were flown in for the ceremony. Uncle Ron built a traditional hut for the occasion.
This hut took Uncle Ron about 20 minutes to build - a quick job to show the pollies!
From Damper Hill we drove to a site which is probably one of the most important for the Nepabunna people as it is the site for the Dreaming story about the magpie (urrakurli), crow (wakarla) and eagle (wildu). This story teaches about respecting your elders and has been passed on among the Adnyamathanha for many generations. The story tells how the magpie and the crow who were originally white were very disrespectful to the old eagle and he paid them back by inviting them to a party in the cave, then building a huge fire in front of the cave so that the magpie and crow were trapped and had to fly out through the fire. Consequently the magpie who left first was partly burnt, but the crow was singed so badly that he was black all over except for his eyes which are still white. The rocks at the cave site are very black from this fire many years ago.
Looking at Eagle hill from the cave
The cave in the story
Looking out from the cave
We finished the day with a quick visit to Iga Wata just down the road. Iga Wata is a tourist area, run by a local Yura family. It includes accommodation and an interpretive museum and they conduct tours of the local area.
That night most of the kids slept out under the stars and I actually had the dormitory to myself - no rowdy kids and midnight giggles and whispers!!!