OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1970 (7)

Beyond the school day, life at Warburton in 1970 had a good deal to offer. There was always something going on in the community an d the dynamics between staff could be interesting. There was a strong mission element, with some non mission staff connected with education and some aspects of welfare. I used top attend some of the religious functions organised by mission staff, for this was the only way of really keeping abreast of trends about what was happening within the community.

The Warburton Store was basic in terms of the goods available for sale. Our diet was strictly limited, with tinned food (including meat, fruit and vegetables) providing a staple diet. PMU Braised Steak and Onions was my absolute favourite. Forest fruit and vegetables were rare. Flour, sugar and tea were staples. The store had a bakehouse connected, with bread being a significant element of the local diet.

The locals would buy bread and put it up on posts or other structures out of the reach of dogs. When it dried to quite bone hard proportions, they would break it into pieces, dip it in billy tea and eat it in moistened state.

Tea and sugar were purchased in made up lots. It was customary to place the whole amount of tea and sugar into a billy can of boiling water and drink it (or use it to soak bread) until the container was close to empty. The billy can was then filled with water and reboiled. This process was repeated until the tea and sugar flavour was totally depleted.

Fresh meat was a rarity and management somewhat unusual and possibly bizarre. Periodically, mission management would organise a group who would go into the Warburton hinterland, select a cow from among what was a semi-wild collection, kill it, dress it and bring it back to the store on the tray of a utility. The beast was then taken into the store and hung in a section that was semi dark and serviced by a hanging hook attached to a stout beam. Beneath the beasts was a wooden floor, made somewhat slippery by congealed blood that had dripped onto it over time.

People wanting meat were given a sharp knife and invited to cut off portions they wanted. This method of self service had limited appeal. Although the area was secluded and not as hot as general surrounds, the meat went off quickly. This butchery method became less practised with the passing of time.

Locals paid for goods from the proceeds of welfare checks cashed at the store. Staff ran accounts on credit, paying them down when pay cheques arrived.

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