Former Hervey Bay police officer James Hunter with some of the books and toys for the children.
Former Hervey Bay police officer James Hunter with some of the books and toys for the children.

Aurukun kids love classic Little Golden Books

LADY and The Tramp and dear Bambi accompanied us when we travelled up Cape York Peninsula.

We had heard via the grapevine and former Hervey Bay police officer James Hunter, that the Aboriginal Resource Development Centre library at Aurukun was a bit short of the type of books children seemed to enjoy.

James has been stationed at Kowanyama and Aurukun for a couple of years and loves the life there.

He had noticed the types of books that were popular with young children and youths at the community were Little Golden Books so I sent out the word on Facebook.

Mavis Ngallametta is a revered artist and also takes a guiding role within her community.
Mavis Ngallametta is a revered artist and also takes a guiding role within her community. Nancy Bates

Former Chronicle colleague Kate Lincoln-Marks-Yates in Sydney wanted to contribute a heap of books, puzzles and other items.

"How can I get them to you?"

Alan Wetton was on Facebook and said VIP Realty would help out.

He generously forked out for the courier.

A few Little Golden Books materialised.

I hoped my old favourites, Lady and the Tramp and lovely Bambi, would show up and luck blew in via friend Rhonda Morrison.

She had given away all her kids' books but had gone online to search for LGBs for her grandchildren and had several duplications.

She had more than 60 LGBs including - hallelujah - Lady and The Tramp and Bambi.

James arranged for our visit to the closed community.

We unloaded the books to be put through proper channels with the council and set out to meet some of the locals.

Our meetings were enlightening and inspirational.

Famed artist Mavis Ngallametta, nearing 70, is a figure of quiet dignity with a penetrating gaze.

She has long been noted for her skilled art and craft.

In 2008, she decided to paint using traditional indigenous ochres and mixes of charcoal and powdered rock.

Instant international claim resulted in her being whisked to New York a year later.

Now her paintings sell for around $50,000 and hang in auspicious galleries here and overseas.

Mavis also takes a strong role in guiding community affairs other than art in Aurukun.

She is concerned for a young mother and is planning a fishing trip for a young group.

Seventy-eight-year-old Russka is one of the meorable faces of Aurukun.

Russka enjoys his quiet life and is a talent on the didgeridoo.
Russka enjoys his quiet life and is a talent on the didgeridoo.

The gentle old man is found in his usual spot under a tree in the corner of his yard.

He came to the community in 1975 from Groote Eylandt in Arnhem Land, bringing some "young blokes" who had been sent away from their home as punishment.

After penance the young blokes didn't want to go back and neither did Russka.

He has a reputation as a didgeridoo player and has made a fine instrument for James.

Granny Bertha Yankaporta, 81, whose neat home has a sign announcing a community award for the tidiest yard, is a serene and gentle lady.

In 1988, she and her husband were selected to represent Aurukun when Princess Diana met a group of leaders from indigenous communities.

"She was so beautiful," she sighs.

"So beautiful and so tall."

She shakes her head. "So sad."

Her face is inscrutable as she says without comment: "Camilla Parker Bowles."

The day we met Granny Bertha on the porch, the big news is the arrival of William and Kate's baby.

Guess what that means? Had she lived, Diana would have been a grandmother.

James Hunter and Granny Bertha Yankaporta.
James Hunter and Granny Bertha Yankaporta.

"She was so beautiful."

We hoped Diana had taken away memories of a beautiful, gentle lady from Aurukun.

Beautiful too was the fishing near Aurukun.

James and the boys spot some activity in the water near the shore.

Lines are rustled up and, within half-an-hour, two decent barramundi have been landed.

That was flukey.

The barra season up north was still a couple of months away.

Nancy Bates, who is travelling with husband Tony in Isabel the Global Warrior, reports from the trail of the grey nomads. For more travel yarns, visit http://nancybates.weebly.com/off-with-isabel.html.