OUTBACK EDUCATION IN THE ‘NOT TOO DISTANT’ PAST Warburton Ranges (WA) in 1970 (12)

There was a building constructed of rock walls with a galvanised roof that stood as a church in Warburton. We never witnessed it being fully utilised as a place of worship, but in earlier years indications are that church attendance was very regular. Indeed, in the early mission days, the story was that unless people attended worship, they might not be given the supplies they needed.

My understanding of worship in 1970, was that spiritual matters were faithfully attended by a small group of dedicated Indigenous people, most of them women. Some within this group worked closely with the two mission linguists who were working on translating the Bible into Ngaanyatjarra. This was an extensive and detailed task, made more so because of the complexities of translation.

I recall on one occasion that the linguists tried for months to equate the dimensions of Noah’s Ark into some understandable form for the sale of recognition. None of the hills were suitable to allowing the accuracy of measurement. There was an open depression in the nearby country named ‘Biel’. The difficulty was one of conceptual challenge. How could a three dimensional object (Noah’s Ark) be equated to an elongated hole in the ground (Biel). In concept terms, slipping the ark into a hole did not really work.

At Easter time in 1970, a band of Salvation Army musicians came to Warburton to share their music. An evangelist, the Reverend Jack Goodluck came with them. The Reverend set up a HUGE painted screen in the middle of the large cleared area in the settlement centre. The screen depicted a man with a load of sin on his back. He stood at a crossroads situated not all that far from the top right corner of the painting. Right up in that corner at the end of a short ‘road’ was Heaven.

The great majority of the painting was devoted to the highway south to hell and damnation. The painted scenes of hell, fire, brimstone and oblivion were quite horrific. Goodluck preached to the large painted screen. Young people particularly, were terrified by what was going to happen if they did not get good. On the following school day (Tuesday after Easter), many children came to school declaring they were not sinners but rather amongst the saved. They had each been given pledge cards attesting to their determination to make it to Heaven, cards which they had signed as affirmation of their future direction in life.

There are ways and ways of encouraging change in people. This method had a fairly short life when it came to long lasting influence

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