Wednesday, June 26, 2024

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HomeIssue 3Jagamara Nelson, a wise friend to discuss issues with

Jagamara Nelson, a wise friend to discuss issues with

I was Superintendent at Yuendumu from 1957 to 1963.
In 1959, an outstanding group of children finished their primary education at Yuendumu. One of them was Jagamara Nelson, aged about 15.
They were all full of energy and we slotted them into “apprenticeships”.
Jagamara (pictured) trained as a mechanic under a lovely chap named Max Trenowden and they remained friends for life. He was a competent mechanic and a superb welder, oxy and arc.
We were just embarking on the development of Yuendumu Cattle Company and Jagamara made all the stockyard gates, among many other things.
I started Yuendumu Football Club (Aussie Rules) in 1958 and Jagamara was undoubtedly the best footballer to emerge, from absolute scratch. He was a tenacious rover. In later life he was an inspirational worker for “Community Footy”.
He left Yuendumu around 1960 to attend Kormilda College, Darwin, as a trainee teacher.
He was an outstanding student at Kormilda and returned to Yuendumu briefly thereafter.
Jagamara was in much demand for the many “land rights” gatherings convened around Australia in those turbulent years.
In the late 1960s Professor Colin Tatz began a course of “Aboriginal Studies” at all Teachers Colleges throughout Australia and for two years Jagamara and I were on Colin’s team.
Jagamara was very popular, particularly as he painstakingly took trainee teachers through the intricacies of the Warlpiri kinship system.
Over recent years as we grew old together. Jagamara and I did not see all that much of one another, but I always knew I had a wise, knowledgeable friend to discuss issues with.
Valé Jagamara.
Photo courtesy of theCentral Land Council, with permission of Mr Nelson’s family.

Related reading:

Please be advised that these articles from 2015, about the Yuendumu Men’s Museum which was dear to Mr Nelson’s heart, include his full name and image.

Yuendumu writes new chapter on the beginnings of contemporary Western Desert art

Grand final vs grand culture



  1. Thanks Ted. “A wise friend” alright, and a formidable opponent. But he was always ready to share a laugh.
    On one occasion he used the untranslatable word “key”, which allowed me to work out the rest, and he then worried about what else I might have heard.
    Education was the key to him walking in both worlds, and I’m sorry that few are following.
    He was a force of nature.

  2. So very sorry to hear of Jagamara Nelson’s passing. I first met him in 1968 when he was on the very first fortnightly Aboriginal Training Allowance payroll at Yuendumu as a supervisor.

    Then later when Mr Nelson was a mainstay of the Yuendumu Sports Weekend.

    On one memorable occasion in 1984, hey was up in the rickety wooden commentary box calling the Aussie Rules Lightning Carnival GF when underdogs Ntaria, kicking with a howling tailwind, got up in the dying seconds with a long bomb goal against raging hot favourite Yuendumu, who, overconfident, had wasted their first half wind advantage.

    There was a stunned silence from the crowd and commentary box then an altercation blew up with the hometown goal ump and it took five minutes to sort. Then there was another long stunned silence in the commentary box as the Ntaria boys started their victory lap.

    As they whooped past the commentary box, Mr Nelson found voice and announced forlornly on the megaphone “Yuendumu very unlucky. Anyway, that other mob won!”

    I last talked to him in 2011 on a visit to Alice, when Dicky Kimber, Terry Gadsby and I bumped into him at Yeperenye centre.

    Still the same old Mr Nelson. A happy positive brilliant lad. Ted and Bob pay tribute to a wise and knowledgeable man who was able to walk in both worlds.

    A great Centralian who will be sadly missed.

  3. What a wonderful man Mr Nelson was and will remain. He brought so much intelligence to the ground. Didn’t have to say to much, just the presence of him was all that was necessary to make good choices.

  4. I as a traditional Arunta Man have known my friend Jagamara from the time he first played with Amoonguna back in the early sixties.
    This man should be remembered as the man that was a man of two worlds: The white side as a school teacher and the other as a traditional law man.
    After his playing days with Amoonguna he then concentrated on bringing his people to play football in the Alice to which he succeeded.
    I as a Arunta Man would like to recognise this man as one of the great Aboriginal men and would like the rest of the Aboriginal people to fly our flag at half mast on this day of remembrance.
    A great man. Rest in peace, Brother.

  5. As Russell says, a remarkable lawman and teacher. He triumphed in both worlds, due in no small part to education. Both he and his wife have contributed greatly as community leaders and peace makers, an inspiring example for all Centralians. Sincere condolences to Lynette and family.


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