Today, Yalti Napangati is a qualified, well-educated Teacher’s Aide at one of the most remote schools in the world, but in 1984 she was a scared 13 year old, walking with her mother from their desert home into the settlement of Kiwirrkurra where she was about to encounter white people for the first time. This was not 1784, not 1884, but 1984 and there were people in Australia who had not ever seen a white person.
Imagine the insight for this young girl, making a place for herself in this foreign world, on the same land she and her ancestors have called home for more than 40,000 years. Yalti’s is one of the many remarkable stories about black and white Australia I’ve learned about during many years as a journalist with the national broadcaster.
Debra was an eager young woman when she accompanied her former high school boyfriend (now husband and local policeman) to Oenpelli. Knowing that male elders don’t usually concern themselves with women’s business, she was a surprised when the men asked her to teach their girls about European food. They were the first generation not to have access to bush tucker and they didn’t have a clue what to do with the meat, fruit, and vegetables in the newly-opened Oenpelli Council store.
Like Yalti’s story, this was a matter of tribe survival and Debra set out to share her knowledge, as so many have done, before and since.
Black and White tells you these stories and those of other Australians bridging the gap between the traditional owners and the rest of us who find ourselves here.
Image Credit: Clontarf Foundation, and Philippa O’Donnell