In 1994 I lived with the Aboriginal Goolarabooloo or "salt-water" people north of Broome. Many of the "salt-water" people live a transient life, often disappearing into the bush for months at a time. The heat and lifestyle combine to slow everything down to "Broome time". Nothing happens fast.
Goolarabooloo and Lurujarri Heritage Trail
Each year the Goolarabooloo people organise a nine-day heritage trail walk from Broome to Manari, south of Beagle Bay. The money raised from visitors joining the walk is used to fund their claim for native title. If they like you, you are invited to live with them for longer after the walk is finished.
On the first day of this tour, we walked out along Cable Beach heading north. There were about 10 visitors participating and we each carried a small back pack with water, snacks, and a towel. Lunch was arranged for us when we arrived at the first stop.
I teamed up with a member of the tribe called Richard. He was a real bushman and very shy. He only spoke Pidgin English and even with my hearing aids I never understood a word he said. But we hit it off straight away. We didn't communicate with words. He led me away from the main group to show me stuff you can't learn from a book.
Richard showed me how to track and then hunt animals. I learned how to follow bush bees to their honey and how to dig for water. I discovered dirt from a termite mound is sterile and is used to pack wounds, among other things.
Richard showed me how to make a spear with a barbed tip, and we speared fish in the rock pools. I learned that, traditionally, the Goolarabooloo people only took one thing from the land each day.
The trail walk culminated on the ninth day with a corroboree or ceremony. I was invited to live with the group afterwards, which was great as I was living in Broome at the time.
In return for four hours work a day I was allocated a beach shanty and a share of food. The beach shanty had a raised pallet floor with a palm frond roof, and was walking distance to Broome down Cable Beach. I had a small cooking fire out the front of the hut, no walls, and I could listen to the surf while drifting off to sleep each night.
The young kids of the community often gathered at the main access point to Cable Beach at the end of the day. They watched the tourists hobbling off the beach, burnt bright red from too much sun. The kids would fall over laughing, pointing at the city people looking like lobsters.
The best word to describe these children is uncluttered. They had an amazing amount of freedom, often only turning up at home during mealtimes. The older kids looked after the younger ones.
When I needed a sugar fix I would wander down the beach to Broome and hit the milk bar for a lolly feast. I was surprised how often I needed this. We ate a lot of rice and bush tucker such as turtle eggs, dugong, fish and goannas. It made me sad to eat the beautiful old blue turtles and the dugong but I found I could eat just about anything when hungry enough.
The next Goolarabooloo and Lurujarri Heritage Trail is taking place in June this year and I thoroughly recommend it. The walk provides a unique insight into Aboriginal culture and the Broome region is magnificent at that time of year.