The last desert wanderers were seen by members of the Kiwirrkurra community. Well, not seen as you and I would see them, but their tracks were seen and destination determined. Members of the community waited for them near a water supply and gave them clothes to wear before bringing them into the community so they would not be shamed by white fella remarks as the community members remembered receiving in years past when they stopped their nomadic way of life.
This was 1984.
Sixteen years later in late 2000 and early 2001 massive rains flooded out the community of Kiwirrkurra. 170 people had to be evacuated initially to Alice Springs, and after a month back into Western Australia, 2000kms SSW of Kiwirrkurra to Moropoi Station. Kiwirrkurra was (and is) alcohol free but during their time at Alice Springs and at Moropoi alcohol was freely available. This dislocation of a desert people caused severe disruption to their community social fabric. It would be eighteen months before they could go home to their country. the land that sustains them.
The current edition of The Australian Journal of Emergency Management produced by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department contains an article an article about the flooding of 2000 and what can be improved in the planning.
A project recently completely by Emergency Management Australia, in consultation with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of WA, (FESA) has documented the communities stories from the Kiwirrkurra flood to identify the lessons learned, so that other communities and emergency managers can benefit.
The article can be downloaded here (192Kb). It is a good read looking at the difficulties with remote life. My only concern with the article is their is no mention of the role of the health service in any emergency.
Disclaimer: Kiwirrkurra is one of the communities I look after
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