Ronda Ross was a little girl of about six when she arrived at St Mary's
Children's Home in Alice Springs. She remembers getting out of a taxi
with her older brother and sister, Clive and Fay, and being immediately
surrounded by a swarm of other children. Then she heard a voice saying,
"Stand back, children, let her breathe!"
It was a "beautiful, gentle voice – always". It belonged to Sister Eileen Heath, who has passed away just short of her 106th birthday at the end of November. Ronda last saw her in Perth when she was celebrating her 104th. Mrs Ross tells KIERAN FINNANE how she remembers a great Central Australian.
Pictured: 'Belles' of St Mary's (married names in brackets, if known) from left, Sister Eileen Heath, Ronda's sister Fay Andrew (Hampton), Shirley Dixon (Stuart), Ruth Forrester (Swan), Rosalie Kunoth (Kunoth-Monks). Next to Rosalie in the back row are Wendy Bourke (Espie), Doris Branson (Campbell), Eileen, or possibly Ivy Foster peeping from behind the garland, and Mona Bathern. There are three little girls in shadow next to Rosalie and then in front, Marie Liddle (Palmer), Peggy Foster and Patsy Clements (McDonald). Standing in Front of the Dodge is Mrs Lillian Schroder, who travelled with Sister Eileen and helped her in her work. Photograph courtesy St Mary's Children Home.
Above right: Peggy Jones and Ronda Ross (right) with Sister Eileen at her 100th birthday celebration.
Jobs galore and not many takers: The town's biggest construction project right now is Lasseters' $35 million development. The new resort style pool is part of it, due to open at the end of this month. Claire Ryan Photography.
"A lot of people have two jobs to keep this town going.
"Many businesses have scaled down, passed up bidding for big jobs, closed their premises and are working from home. They can't get staff," says Kay Eade, Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce.
Yet there are 543 "job seekers receiving Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance" in The Alice, according to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
The department's "Central Australian Remote Servicing Team" lists 1649 job seekers and Yuendumu, 85.
That adds up to 2277 for the region. ERWIN CHLANDA reports from the jobs front where a lot of things just don't make sense.
Tall Tales but True: Brought to you by the National Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.
Christopher (Chris) Kuhn started work for the Commonwealth Railways in 1928 and went on to work for them on the Marree to Alice Springs section until 1953.
His job was to use a horse and scoop to clear the ever-shifting sand drift and debris from flash floods and windstorms off the track so the Ghan train could get through. The Old Ghan train was notorious for literally being stopped in its tracks and it was Kuhn’s job to ensure the train could get through gaps in the sand dunes. Sometimes the track collapsed because termites had gnawed through wooden sleepers.
If the train got stuck a goat, or other game, would be shot so the passengers could be fed. Those were the days too when all litter from the train (ablutions, kitchen waste and tins) were dropped through chutes to the track. It was a harsh and thankless environment: working in freezing cold or searing heat and open to the elements.
Chris Kuhn and his wife Mary lived at Irripitana just south of William Creek for many years. Following the line as it progressed towards Stuart (now Alice Springs) it was a harsh and nomadic life and yet they managed to raise 12 children. The family were known by all Commonwealth Railway staff and regulars who used the line to be friendly and welcoming and willing to lend a hand to anyone in need. Following the tragic loss of a daughter the family moved into Alice Springs.
Mary worked as cook at the old Alice Springs hospital where she cared for sick Aboriginal children. The Kuhn children grew up to be pioneers in their own right. Their eldest daughter Jean married Les Poole who was one of the town's first electricians. Their son Chas was instrumental in starting the Old Ghan Preservation Society in Alice Springs and works today on maintaining the modern locomotive fleet on the Adelaide to Darwin run. Chris retired in 1953 and was drowned in 1955 when a flash flood in the Todd River washed his car downstream. Kuhn Court in Alice Springs is named in his memory.