“You give us Western Education. We give you Cultural Education” said Daisy Ward to the kids and I as we stood absorbing the words of Aborigines today in a remote roadhouse in Outback Australia. The kids were still buzzing from discovering a whole roo tail in the roadhouse freezer whilst scanning for icypoles. This had been after spotting signs saying that children won’t be served during school hours. The implications were dire – “Does this mean NO lollies for the next car trip?” asked my youngest, contemplating a 4-hour sugar-free drive across the Gibson Desert.
We had come across Daisy during a unique road trip across the middle of Australia. Whilst everyone else seems to explore this continent via the coast route, or by bitumen south to north, we went on the road less travelled – straight across the centre of Australia (east to west) on a ‘shortcut’ called the Outback Way. Travellers here are few and far between, that’s why Daisy had made the effort to swing by and say “Hello”.
Daisy had been showing us around the Warrakurna Art Community shop, a small extension of the roadhouse that had their range of wares on display. A purchase here meant that dollars would feed directly back into Daisy’s community, without any commission taken. There was even a personal invite back to their workshop to see where the art was created.
As we drove behind her beaten up Landrover, the kids caught a glimpse of what it can be like to live in one of these townships. You could visibly see their eyes widen as we drove further into the community and they spotted kids wandering the streets during school hours and cars laying abandoned on the side of the road. It was a far cry from the leafy suburb they have grown up in the foothills of Cairns, Tropical Queensland, but they needed to see this.
Inside the Art Shed we saw the difference ‘cultural education’ can make to a community. The women showed us how they shared stories and often work on one painting together, applying their colours from each corner of the canvas.
Just by sitting and working collaboratively, they told their stories as one and recreated the village atmosphere on the floor of their workshop.
In the shed the kids seemed to use their ‘voice’ in a different way. Street art helped aid the kids need for self expression and they had created a stack of t-shirts with various logos and designs, all straight from the heart.
Daisy showcased the new media being incorporated into their work – corrugated iron was replacing many traditional tools and used as a new material to paint on. She was their spokesperson and some of the younger, more shyer ladies watched on – one day they might ‘step up’ and teach urbanites like us where their art comes from and what it means to them and their country.
Art centre’s like this one in Warrakurna, provide an opportunity for the kids and adults to be proactive, to have a voice, to share their stories of the land and to give us ‘urbanites’ a cultural education as well as a means of directly supplementing their income. Just by taking a journey like The Outback Way, you too can provide hope to the communities and businesses along the way by creating direct interaction and an infusion of monies from your travels.
Not until I arrived back home and returned back to the hurdy-gurdy world of extra-curricular activities, school days, work days, end-of-year commitments, shopping and life in general did Daisy’s impact dawn on me. She had an opportunity to showcase their stories and provide hope to her community and she had let my family glimpse another way of life for those that lived in the bush. Ultimately, it may have felt like nothing had changed but I know now that the seed has been planted because I saw the hope in Daisy’s eyes.
Click play to watch the short video
Good Things to Know:
Start/Finish: You can either begin or end your Outback Way journey in Winton or Laverton.
Time required: 11 days to do it comfortably.
Recommended vehicle: High clearance 4WD – but you will see 2WD’s on this journey in dry weather.
Fuel: Unleaded fuel is not available in some of areas on this journey. Opal fuel is available instead and can be safely used in unleaded vehicles. Diesel is readily available.
Make sure you carry enough fuel to allow for whatever may happen. It’s amazing how much more you use driving along the soft dirt, or when you check out that side track up to that hill or out to the waterhole someone mentioned…or you may encounter a problem at one of the remote roadhouses, like a broken pump (it happened to us!). It never hurts to have extra.
Caravan/Camper Trailer friendly: Yes, but recommended for OFF-ROAD models only (there’s lots of corrugations).
Accommodation options: Hotel/motel/budget rooms at main towns and tourist destinations, roadhouses, and outback stations. Full facilities and remote camping options throughout the journey.
Permits: Aboriginal Land Permits are required to travel parts of the Outback Way – call or visit the Great Beyond Visitor Centre for more information, or visit the Outback Way website for more information on planning your trip, www.outbackway.org.au.
About Warakurna Artists
In March 2005 Warakurna Artists Art Centre studio opened amid much enthusiasm and excitement. The Art Centre is a not for profit organisation, fully owned and governed by Ngaanyatjarra people.
Warakurna Artists is an energetic, creative and happy place, where men and women, young and old paint and share Tjukurrpa (traditional law and culture) and contemporary stories.
Art Centres are on of the most positive and powerful examples of Aboriginal businesses in Australia.
Would you like to learn more about Aborigines today? Does the opportunity to visit an Indigenous Community with your children appeal to you? Have you travelled Outback Australia?
We travelled on The Outback Way as guests of the Outback Way Development Board but all opinions, photos and videos are 100% our own.