Our Adels experience comes to an end…..
Despite the occasional anxieties of the cooking role, I was really enjoying our stay at Adels, and hoping they would want us for weeks more to come. But my hoped-for longer stay was not to be.
During the Qld school holidays, in July, a traveller who stopped in for fuel and a tyre repair, turned out to be the Principal of the Doomadgee School. He and John, who was serving the fuel that day, got chatting, and next thing, he had convinced John to go and teach at his school! I initially thought this was because John had been a specialist in literacy/Special Education, but eventually realized it was probably more due to a general teacher shortage there – any body would do! But he promised work for both of us, and a house to live in.
So, John was fired up about moving to Doomadgee, and “making a difference” in aboriginal education. And earning better money! He was never reconciled to what he regarded as our low wages. I could never convince him that – allowing for keep and the superannuation contribution – it was not that bad.
I was categorically against the idea of moving to Doomadgee. I had spent time exposed to the realities of aboriginal education – and community life – via the links of my previous school to one in Darwin, and the annual student visits I had led to the Top End and the Tiwi Milikapiti community on Melville Island. I did not share John’s naive idealism. At Adels, we heard quite a bit on the local grapevine about the nature of the Doomadgee community – none of it positive! The whole idea was distinctly unattractive.
I suggested that I remain working at Adels, John go teach at Doomadgee, and come back here for weekends. He wouldn’t agree to that, of course.
However, before we could be employed by the Qld Education Department, we had to be registered. That was automatic for me, because of my existing independent schools registration, but John had to go through the process. I had hopes that it would not happen – or would take so long that he would give up the idea.
There were phone calls to our house sitter to find and forward John’s necessary documentation from home. It took a few more weeks, but of course the man from Doomadgee was pushing for all the processes to be hurried up, and eventually we were both so employed.
John used one of his days off to drive up to Doomadgee, some 125kms away, by the station tracks – firstly, to check out the route, mindful that we would be taking the van that way. Secondly, to check out the place and ensure we really would have somewhere to live. The Principal was away, but John met the Senior Master who assured him that, although there was not much furniture in the house, he had some on order to come on the supply truck from Mt Isa.
The Adels people did not want us to go. I had already heard much about the Doomadgee community – one could not live in these parts and avoid hearing how bad it was there. We knew the community was prone to violent riots. We had seen some of the residents come through, on their way to and from the National Park, where they went to fish, and hunt the wild life – including endangered species! White people were not allowed to use guns, spear fishing gear, or light fires indiscriminately in the Park, but no such rules applied to the natives, in “their” Park. We had heard of the main self-appointed activist community leader – and not in a favourable way; he did not even have a great deal of aboriginal blood in him, and was widely regarded through the Gulf country as a ratbag, out to benefit himself.
So, I had to accept the fact of our move.
I spent any free times during our last few days at Adels, wandering around the grove area and along the creek, feeling so sad, and yearning to stay in this beautiful place.
When I phoned daughter to tell her of our impending relocation, she informed me that her first baby was due in February – another grandchild! Great news.
Our last night at Adels was one of some ceremony. The dining deck of the new building was able to be used, for the first time, for that night’s meal. After dinner, we were given a little send-off presentation by the bosses, with gifts of caps, badges and stubby holders. Nice things were said. Everyone on staff knew of my great reluctance to go.
At least, from the viewpoint of the management, the main part of the tourist season was tailing down, by the time we left in early August, so there was not so much pressure on the kitchen.