Our time at Doomadgee
Friday 23 August – Thursday 29 August
We had Truck packed, and ready to leave straight after school. Set off to go camping at the Wollogorang coast, for the weekend.
Drove the 140kms to Wollogorang Roadhouse, over the road that was sometimes corrugated and rough, especially after Hells Gate.
When we reached the Roadhouse, they said that they did not allow travellers on the track to the coast after 4pm, (and it was now about 4.30pm) because it took 4 hours to do the 80km drive to the coast. We managed to persuade them to relent, after describing our circumstances.
Paid $50, on top of the camp fee of $12 a night. We would get the $50 back, when we returned the rubbish bag they gave us, containing our rubbish from the weekend. Good idea, that.
We received a mud map. of sorts. It had a lot of creek crossings, marked by straight lines across the track. Some distances were given: 28.5kms to turn off to the right; 16kms to Sandy Crossing (but there were a few of those!); 30kms to Well; 5.5kms to beach.
They were not wrong about the 4 hours! The sun went down and the moon rose above the trees. The track twisted about – and assorted station side tracks left it. We began to have very serious doubts about whether we were going the right way, as the moon moved around all points of the compass.
But just when we were considering stopping by the track for the night, and sorting it out in the morning, we came to the Beach House – an old tin station house – and knew we were ok.
We came out onto the beach just beyond that, through a stand of she-oaks. By then, we just wanted to get camped, as it was after 9pm, so drove only a short distance to the west, along the sand, then went up into the trees and set up camp.
We put up the dome tent. The rustling of the breeze in the she-oaks was lovely.
By the time camp was established enough for the night, it was nearly 10pm. We had a quick, light tea, of biscuits, and went to bed. It was just wonderful to go to sleep to the sound of the sea and the trees – and no community noises!
On Saturday morning, we could see where we were. Couldn’t have done better if we’d chosen the camp in broad daylight! The beach stretched each way. The section we were on was 20kms long. From the entrance to the beach, it was 12kms west to Tully Inlet, and 8kms east to Massacre Inlet.
We knew that Tully Inlet was the place to try fishing – and we really wanted to catch some edible protein! So we drove along the beach in that direction, on fairly firm sand, even with the tide a fair way in. Did have to let down the tyres part way along.
Tully Inlet was a broad opening, with bright aqua water and fringing mangroves, in places.
We set up and fished. I caught a fair sized threadfin salmon – it would be lovely eating. John got some too.
After cleaning – a Brahminy Kite and a white breasted sea eagle benefitted from the innards – the fish went into the Chescold fridge to take back to Doom. There were several meals worth.
Late in the afternoon, back at camp, we saw kangaroos come down to the water – apparently to drink. I didn’t know they drank sea water.
The dusk and sunset were beautiful. The place was so relaxing. We had another peaceful, unbroken, full night of sleep.
On Sunday morning we did a little exploring after John topped up the fuel tank with the 25 litre container of diesel. We had a look around the old Beach House. It would have been a great place for the station people to come for a break from the heat further inland – but, of course, not accessible in the wet.
We followed a track to the east, towards Massacre Inlet, but it petered out.
We had to pack up and be on the track back, by late morning, in order to be back at Doom before dark. We really did not want to be driving after dark again!
The return trip along the track to the Roadhouse was much improved by being able to see the scenery that we’d missed in the dark, before. It was interesting.
Back at the Roadhouse, on Friday, we’d been told of a group that was going to try to follow the old, original Gulf Track, to the west, to the Calvert River. Basically this had been the route of Leichardt’s Expedition in the 1840’s. That track was not maintained, nor much marked. The current road to the west goes much further inland, where there are fewer nasty stream crossings and swamps.
We turned in our bag of rubbish – there wasn’t much – and got our $50 back.
We bought 10 litres of fuel at Hells Gate Roadhouse, and some more beer.
Got back to Doomadgee in reasonable time. I was quite relieved to see that our van had survived our absence unscathed – that had been the only concern of the weekend.
I put a couple of packs of fish in the freezer of the fridge – had to spread out our protein treats over the next few weeks!
It had been a wonderful, too brief, weekend. Coming back to Doom was not easy. It would have been so good to be able to have stayed camped at the coast for a week or more.
The rest of the week was what passed now for routine, here. I filled in for S, with the secondary girls, one morning. I had the usual run-in with the not-so-charming F who was determined to do what she wanted – which was wandering around the classroom annoying the others.
John and I usually walked to and from school together. It was only a couple of blocks, through a fairly quiet area. One morning this week, John went earlier than me, to set something up. As he walked up the street, there were two teenage girls, fighting in the middle of the road. Their mothers were leaning over their fences, opposite each other, urging the protagonists on. As John drew near, they stopped fighting, and it was “Good mornin’ mister” from all, as he passed, whereupon they resumed the fight. There were the occasional funny moments in this place!
Two women from Mt Isa TAFE were visiting for a couple of days this week, to check out the VET courses. Like so many visitors, they would not stay overnight in the community, but drove in from Burketown each day, almost 100kms each way on the rather rough-ish road. And back in the afternoon. Such is the reputation of Doom.
They were not much help to me. I’d hoped for some clues on methods of delivery of the modules of work, especially the practical work, but they basically just indicated I should keep on with what I was doing. Which I’d only really just started doing! It didn’t seem to worry them that none of the course had been delivered in the first half of the year, or that it obviously wasn’t going to get finished in the time left for the year. All very casual. I wondered if anyone had even checked the VET work that my predecessor had supposedly been doing?
The school had, this week, to do the annual LAP tests, for Grades 1,3 and 5. John had been quite horrified, back when he was hunting furniture, to find last year’s results of same still packed away and not ever opened! So much for their possible use as a diagnostic tool. They showed that Doom had been the worst performing school in Qld, even amongst the other comparable aboriginal schools. No surprise there.
It was decided, when he talked with DP about this, that the students should be prepared for this year’s tests with a little practice first. Likewise the teachers, in the administration of the tests. The maths tests required some to use calculators – which were totally foreign to the students. But the school had a set of calculators locked away, so the grade in question was given some training in the use of calculators.
The tests were duly sat, with both John and I doing some supervision of same. John followed up to ensure that all the students who should have sat, did so when next they came to school. It was a thankless task.
Obviously, the preparation of students, and taking the tests seriously, had an effect. We heard, the following year, that the literacy results had jumped up from the abysmal results of 2001 – so much so that the DP got an award for services to literacy teaching!
I was established by now with the one-on-one literacy work that I’d been assigned to do with the one girl. She was nominally a Year 9 student, but her reading age was about what I would see as Prep level. But she was a nice lass, and co-operative about coming to our sessions – held in the staff room area where my desk was – with the door open, even if it risked interruption by marauding males! I had been given some flash cards with simple words on, and prepared more as I saw they were needed. Our short sessions every morning were divided between work with the flash cards, on word identification, and work on actually reading from simple readers. I really didn’t think that just 20 minutes a day was going to make a great deal of difference – she really needed to take readers home to practice with, but of course that does not happen here.