Text and painting by ROD MOSS
Edward Neil points an accusatory finger at the viewer. At the base of the ridge a group of dogs feast on a kangaroo carcass. The row of camp housing sits further back.
Forty years have passed and no substantial housing has replaced the “chicken sheds” and humpies. Three kilometres from the GPO, and still no connection to town power and water. A litany of promises by various shades of government remain unfulfilled.
From my perspective two changes at Whitegate stand apart from the constant dynamics. First, the rollover that killed Alphonse Hayes and ended the Johnsons’ residency. Only Arrenye and his sister, Eva, married to Patrick Hayes, remained. The Hayes moved in.
Demographics remained much as they had been, if slightly more. Forty or so with occasional increase from family visiting from afar.
Initiation ceremonies, footy carnivals, hospitalisation, diabetic treatment, court orders, the Show, and tellingly, funerals added stress to resources and were exacerbated when water piped from Hidden Valley was cut in 2014.
Then the momentous Intervention. Many of the younger mums who were my kids’ playmates in the early 1990s, reluctantly opted for commission housing in town or at the nefarious Hidden Valley camp, Ewyenper-Atwatye, serviced by Tangentyere.
Raising kids without essential services and getting them to school were a tough ask at Whitegate. If the many promises had been kept those mums would be back on their country in a flash.
Bypassing Council permission and regulations in April 2023, a company installed solar panels that draw fresh water from the air, storing it beneath the panels.