My guest today is British writer Miriam Wakerly. She has just returned from a trip to Australia and will share some of her experiences with us.
Before Christmas my husband and I went Down Under on a fast-paced holiday. There are a couple of posts around about the places we visited (links), but I thought for a change people might like to hear about a special day we spent in Alice Springs close to Uluru or Ayers Rock, the sun-scorched Red Centre of the Australian desert.
This was what some might accurately call an “educational” trip, but I was among many who enjoyed this particular aspect of our tour just as much as some of the truly sensational, spectacular events laid on for us – maybe even more.
The theme of what we saw was very much to do with communication in the arid outback, where people are remote both from each other and the mainly coastal towns and cities of Australia. How do people keep in touch with the rest of the country – especially before the days of the Internet? How can children get any education or interaction with their peers? What if someone falls seriously ill?
Why did this town “spring” up in the first place? The Arrernte Aboriginal people have made their home in this area of the desert for more than 50,000 years; its Aboriginal name is Mparntwe. The River Todd that flows through Alice Springs is usually dry – certainly there was no sign of water when we saw it, although we were told that when it flows – it flows!
It was not until 1861 that “white man” arrived in the form of John McDouall Stuart, a Scottish explorer, who led an expedition through Central Australia to the west of what later became Alice Springs. A route was then enabled from Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north. About ten years later an Overland Telegraph Line (OTL) surveyor, William Mills, discovered a waterhole and named it Alice Springs after the wife of Charles Todd, the Superintendent of Telegraphs for South Australia, and a repeater station was set up. As our Visitors’ History Guide tells us, “the line suddenly reduced the isolation of Australians from the rest of the world.”
We were able to wander around the station buildings and learned more about the people who lived there, the role they played, lives they led, and how they relayed and received messages by Morse code. Little touches brought it to life: “The Station Master’s kitchen was originally divided in two. To your right was a children’s bedroom and sewing room where the Station Master’s wife made clothes for Aborigines who worked at the Station.”
A humble building belies its importance. Lively painting at the entrance.
The School of the Air was even more fascinating, if that is possible. Providing distance learning of the highest standard, following the national curriculum, it likes to be described as the “largest classroom in the world”; an average of 120 children over an area 10 times the size of England! Teachers visit their pupils just once a year! In their Fact Sheet, they state, “Our students reside on cattle stations, aboriginal communities, tourist facilities, national parks and military bases ….” It is good to know that extra support is now given to indigenous children whose English may not be fluent.
Watching the teacher “on air” with her pupil.
Our tour showed us how this was done and … well, you’ll just have to go there. It’s an amazing concept, expertly executed, that’s all I can say. The experience left me filled with admiration. http://www.assoa.nt.edu.au/_SNAPSHOT/snapshot.html
Lastly the Flying Doctor, probably best known from the once popular TV series, more formally known as Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia where we saw a presentation, display, and film about the fantastic service this provides – again, to isolated people. It operates 24/7 from 21 bases and relies on donations for most of its funding. Some of the case studies we were told about really did bring a tear or two to my eyes; the work they do is truly “uplifting” in every sense of the word!
Yes, we saw Uluru at sunrise and we got up close and personal, yet if I am honest I was even more impressed with these three wonderful examples of human endeavour and achievement. In the afternoon we went walkabout in the baking sun, just long enough to make us realise how the early pale-skinned pioneers must’ve struggled to bear the heat.
You can read more about this and other sights in my blog, Miriam’s Ramblings and on the LoveaHappyEnding Lifestyle magazine. Thank you so much, Anneli, for letting me drop by to share with your fans this memorable morning in Alice Springs!
I am fascinated by different sorts of people and how we all live and interact with each other. I was particularly interested in anything I could find out about the indigenous Aboriginal peoples and I may write more on that topic at some future date.
You may like to take a look at my village novels – the first two, Gypsies Stop tHere and No Gypsies Served, touch on the fraught relationship that can exist between Gypsies and non-Gypsies. The third one, Shades of Appley Green, explores how we relate to elderly folk in our communities. Take a look at the many 5* reviews on Amazon – on the whole, people seem to have enjoyed reading them!
My books on Amazon http://ow.ly/sNp9F