OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1970 (11)

In 1970, housing in and around Warburton was somewhat creative but without structure or substance. Indigenous Australians, for whom the settlement had been provided, did not actually live in the township. They lived in camps, to the north, east, south and west of the community. They roughly divided on the basis of family and clan boundaries, this taking account of compatabilities and incompatibilities. Avoidance requirements were taken into account but as the settlement was central to all, it followed that tensions manifest themselves from time to time.

Sometimes conflicts were fairly minor, confined to an exchange of language. On other occasions, conflict was more intense involving physical exchange. Traditional weapons were sometimes used, and spearing, usually for payback purposes, were not altogether uncommon. Some of these were ritualised. Generally, anyone suffering injury was attending to and looked after medically by the health clinic.

There were no houses, the camps being a construction of wiltjas, constructed of tin, hessian and other scrap materials. They provided shade, but very l;title else. There’s structures were blisteringly hot during summer and frigidly cold during winter months, when campfires became all important to offer warmth. Many of these structures had corrugated iron sheets used to builds light a barrier around the structure. These sheets of metal afforded some shelter from the wind.

Blankets were used to help create warmth and people also slept next to their dogs for added warmth. Locally, cold nights were referred to as ‘two dog nights’, ‘three dog nights’ and so on, these expressions being to indicate just how cold and shivering were these nights.

Some people lived in old cars and other vehicles which were no longer running. There was no housing for indigenous people, other than three units on the west side of the settlement. As people had become deceased either in or nearby, these houses had been effectively abandoned.

Community homes for staff were a mixed collection. There were some houses constructed of local rock, walls held in place by locally made mud matrix. Education houses were of aluminium with some metal lining. There were one or two places quite decently constructed, but most buildings for occupational purposes or for living were very basic.

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