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Every Day an Adventure

Hi everyone,
Nothing spectacular from Kalumburu today. We have a weekend off as new heavy duty security grilles are being fitted to the front of the shop and there is no barge coming in this weekend.
The  weather here is no worse than we have experienced in Melbourne despite reports of storms and cyclones in the area.
Many thanks to those who responded to our previous emails. Don’t feel you have to respond and please don’t feel rejected if we do not respond to your responses. We do appreciate them but cannot respond to everyone individually as the internet facilities are not all that brilliant. Although we can now receive quite well by sitting in Marg’s bedroom with a pair of rabbits ears hanging in front of the window to increase the signal. At least now we don’t get eaten alive by mozzies and midges while trying to connect outside.Cartoon
Gradually the locals appear to be accepting us so we can be a bit more familiar in interacting with them.
One of the differences of their culture is that it is regarded as rude to look someone in the eye. It is quite a bit of fun, in the shop, to try to find out what they are wanting without looking at them, particularly as they won’t look at the item they are wanting to buy but frequently are looking in the opposite direction. It’s all great fun, particularly as they have a distinct accent, as English is their second language; P’ela is their first.
This morning I had to chuck three young boys out of the shop for pinching stuff. That too is part of the game. They’ll be back next week. Often, kids like that have no home but live with whoever will take them in. If that’s nobody then they have to fend for themselves and resort to stealing to eat. However, there are other ways of getting food from the Mission than stealing it.
Every day is an adventure here.
Best regards and God’s blessings
Dave and Marg


The biggest challenge and the biggest adventure is to comprehend the aboriginal community here.

About 400 mixed caste aboriginals live in extended family groups which appear to change continually and cover all ages from babies to white haired elders. Although apparently all are baptised Catholics only about twenty attend Mass on Sundays.

The kinship laws of their former culture are still very strong and shape their actions and behaviour. It appears that no one ‘owns’ anything of their own and everything is available to everyone. So even small children arrive at the shop with their parents’ credit cards and know the pin numbers too – as does everyone else it seems. Kids’ bikes float around the community so that the child who got one for Christmas may finally get hold of it again after it has circulated among the community kids for a few weeks. They seem to accept this. Of course no one takes any care of the thing so it has a very short life but no one seems to worry.

Sounds like a great system with everyone sharing, however, the down side is that it acts as a disincentive to anyone who wants to work and earn extra money because they must give to anyone else in the family who asks for it. So every day anyone who gets a food voucher, by working for the Mission or because they are in need, rushes into the shop and spends it all, presumably before anyone else can get their hands on it.

The cost of maintaining this community must be enormous. Virtually everyone is on a government benefit of one kind or another and the place is bristling with government welfare departments of all sorts who fly personnel in and out, providing for everyone’s every need – all free. The place has just been provided with a brand new power station (diesel) and an elaborate, new women’s refuge is currently under construction. In a remote place like this, construction costs are enormous, not only because of the cost of shipping in building materials and equipment but because construction crews must be accommodated and paid isolation and other allowances. Our Mission provides accommodation for such workers which helps balance our budget. Good basic houses have been provided for the community and are maintained at public expense.

As most people have plenty of time on their hands, a thriving gambling industry has developed, based on playing cards, which drives people from riches to rags every day. This is the main reason the Mission needs to provide food vouchers and an op-shop. Beyond Gambling has at least two full time employees in this community. We can tell when there is a card game on in the town by the rush of people at 7 am to use the ATM in the shop

We don’t know how, but a steady stream of drugs and alcohol seem to find their way into the community, despite the road being closed for months. Also smoking is very widespread.

Family feuds are quite commonplace with their vehicles being the main scapegoats. Consequently almost all vehicles are in various stages of disrepair, frequently with broken or absent windscreens. Who cares, it’s always warm up here and not having a windscreen makes it easier for the kids to hop in and out. Almost no vehicles are registered and seem to squeeze in at least 12 people of all ages, which helps a lot when push starting them. Teenage drivers are common.

It’s sad to see their culture slipping away with the death of each elder, as the younger people are readily adapting to western culture, particularly its worst bits. They spend lots of time in front of the TV and every time they buy fishing tackle or hamburgers steadily they become more like us. Nothing is going to stop it. Eventually, like us, they too will have to visit a museum to see how their ancestors lived. I think that is a great pity, as we westerners could benefit very much from aspects of their culture such as their capacity to share, live in community and not ceaselessly chase material possessions, as we do.

However, once future governments become unwilling or unable to continue pouring funds into Kalumburu, what will be its future? How long do you continue to fund one dying culture from another one? I suspect a future government will one day be forced to progressively reduce funding so that the locals will be faced with two alternatives: become financially self supporting or move out. Either way, the rationale of the original Benedictine Mission will be affirmed.

So What Are We Actually Doing?

I rise before 5 am each day and mum about 6 am and we are on the job at 6.30am. We serve to-do-listcustomers until 11.30 am, have a rest until 1.30 pm when we return to the shop and serve until 4.30 pm. We then rest until Mass at 5.30 pm, combined dinner at 6.30 pm, home at 7.30 pm and go to bed at 8.30pm ready for the next day. Most of Saturday is spent cleaning the house and church and helping with odd jobs round the Mission. Every second Sunday the barge comes in so we are involved in moving produce into the stores and freezers. The other Sundays we are free for the day and there is ‘endless’ four wheel driving to be done but there is always competition for the Mission vehilcles. You would not wnat to try the locals’ vehicles as most of them are wrecks.


Kalumburu – What’s it Like?

A World Apart…

Hi everyone,
Just a note to let you know we are still thinking of you, but wouldn’t swap places for one minute.
This is a fantastic adventure. We have had more fun in the past five days than in so many years.
It’s a world apart, with frogs and lizards running round the bathroom (at least we’ve got one) to
dishing up fish and chips to the ‘locals’ (aborigines), there hasn’t been a dull moment.
Marg and I are (very quickly) learning how to run the shop where the locals come for fast food and groceries. We have reached an understanding: they laugh at us and we scratch our heads at them. No cars are registered here (they couldn’t be, they’re so battered). They all spend their cash as soon as they get it, as the rellies will grab it if they don’t. Food prices are double those in Melbourne. But they are lovely, simple people; as the police say, it’s like handling children. The down side is they just steal something if they can’t get it legally, so all our buildings have to be locked and barred to keep anything.
The heat hasn’t been a problem but it’s shorts and thongs all the time and the regular lightning show happens at least once each night with its torrential downpours. At least, getting drenched up here is refreshing so nobody cares.
This is just a trial message to test out the internet link. I will try to send some pics at the weekend.
Best wishes and God’s blessings,
Dave and Marg

Dear Family,

How often have I said, “Just when you think you know your children, they go and do something that makes you say: ‘Well, I didn’t think that they would do that’ ” ?  Well now it’s time for us to turn the tables. As from about January 12 next year Dad and I will be relocating to Kalumburu for all of next year. Where?  Kalumburu is on the northern coast of WA, and  about 300 kms west of the Northern Territory border.  We are going up to work as volunteers for the diocese of Broome.  At this stage it appears that our main job will be working in the shop that the mission runs, and which provides for both the local community and for tourists.  The main reason for giving us this job is apparently that it is air-conditioned and they like to look after their ‘older’ volunteers. *:) happy I guess as time goes on our job description may be expanded.  We are looking forward to the change with both excitement and trepidation.  I would imagine that we will return to Melbourne mid-December-ish.  However time will tell.  Please keep us in your prayers.
Looking forward to the Christmas gathering.

Love and God bless,