Ten questions for Robbo aka @BiteTheDust

I drove off the lands on Boxing Day 2015 and stayed a couple of nights with Bob Gosford. For my sins he forced me to answer his 10 question quiz. The original post is here.

My pet hate listed in the quiz has certainly come to prominence following the 4 Corners investigation into the running of Indigenous Corporations. Please watch the show “Ripped Off” if you have not already seen it.

Ten questions for Robbo aka @BiteTheDust

In July 2015, Robbo was named the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year for 2015. Robbo has worked for the last ten years as a remote pharmacist in the vast Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia adjoining the NT and South Australian borders and is a tireless advocate for improvements in Aboriginal health.

Robbo, George and Girl outside Wanarn Clinic
Robbo, George and Girl outside Wanarn Clinic

I had a yarn with my good mate Andrew “Robbo” Roberts aka @BiteTheDust over the Christmas break just before he flew out of the country for a few months.

In July 2015, Robbo was named the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s Pharmacist of the Year for 2015. Robbo has worked for the last ten years as a remote pharmacist in the vast Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia adjoining the NT and South Australian borders and is a tireless advocate for improvements in Aboriginal health.

At the time of his induction he said that his:
”… biggest thanks go to the people of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands for welcoming me on to their lands and into their lives for over 10 years. I hope this award increases the recognition of the need for pharmacists to be working as part of the health care team for our remote Indigenous Australians.”

The Northern Myth: Tell readers about yourself in ten words.

Robbo: A ten word biography? Desert, bush, medication, literacy, best-practice, education … Dingo, four-wheel drive.

TNM: What makes you happy?

R: Coming out of the bush and having someone make me a fresh coffee that I haven’t had to make myself.

TNM: What makes you angry?

R: The sheer waste you see and the blame-shifting by whitefellas buggering up indigenous organisations.

TNM: Cats, dogs, both or neither?

R: Dogs. The less said about cats the better.

TNM: Sunday morning music?

R: I don’t really listen to music much but out bush where I am you get the church going or some locals playing music somewhere in the community. There is always music in the bush.

TNM: Your Desert Island disc?

R: There are a few bits of music that I always associate with certain things that happen in the past, so some of the old seventies songs, a bit of old Skyhooks or pretty much anything by Madness …

TNM: Where do we go when we are dead?

R: In the ground.

TNM: What do you sing in the shower?

R: Nothing. I’m not a singing person.

TNM: When did you last break the law?

R: Yesterday when I did a u-bolt outside your place without putting the indicators on (laughs) and usually every time I come into town because out bush you don’t worry about white lines or indicators.

TNM: Top-loader or front-loader?

R: Top-loader – out bush that’s all there is!

TNM: Most treasured possession?

R: Well I couldn’t count Girl (my Dingo dog) as a possession. Can’t really answer that one …

TNM: Pen or pencil?

R: Pen! I love a fountain pen. I’m left-handed and I’m a shocking writer so at least it makes me try and have hand-writing that is legible.

TNM: What are you reading in non-fiction?

R: Not much at the moment, all my stuff is packed up. The last book I was caught reading was just released about the life and works of the artists from Wanarn Aged Care called The Wanarn Painters of Place and Time: Old Age Travels in the Tjukurrpa made with the assistance of the arts centre from Warakuna. Some great old artists from the lands have ended up at the aged care centre, including Dr. Mary McLean who is now a West Australian Living Treasure. She doesn’t paint anymore but she is a renowned artist who lived in Kalgoorlie for a number of years and moved back out to country to stop at the Wanarn Aged Care facility.

TNM: What about fiction?

R: Yeah, I’ve been churning through a lot of books. I didn’t read much for ages but I’ve been reading some nasty and forgettable crime fiction recently. Not much of any substance for a while.

Yuwawu, pitja-ya Ngaanyatjarra ngurrakutu. Kulila-ya

A new website at http://www.ngurra.org/ has a brief outline of the Ngaanyatjarra communities (and a few close by) along with a story or two about the community and a traditional story of the country.


Take a look around.

Miru Sculpture – Warakurna Arts

For my Pleasant Sunday Afternoon post Edwina has kindly allowed me to repost this post from her Warakurna Arts blog “Thriving in the Desert“.

To mark Warakurna Artists fifth year of operation it will be facilitating a powerful intergenerational men’s weaponry craft project. This project will have significant artistic outcomes including the creation of a series of major bronze sculptures.

A key aim of the men’s project is to support a reinvigoration of traditional wooden weaponry production and to immortalise the pieces in bronze. The project will also help celebrate the vibrancy and power of Ngaanyatjarra culture.

Sculptor Brendan Hackett of Blueprint Sculpture Foundry of Melbourne will help to facilitate this important project. Brendan has already collaborated with Ernest Bennett, senior painter and Master carver, to create a bronze miru (spearthrower).

The Bronze Miru is available only as a limited edition of six sculputures. Please contact Warakurna Artists + 61 (0)8 8955 8099 to enquire about the price of this sculpture and to place your order.


Ernest Bennett was born near Warbuton and now lives in Warakurna with his family. His country is Karrku not far from Warakurna.

A miru is extracted with economy as a vertical segment from a living mulga tree, its craftsman then working with the grain to reduce the portion to the thin even leaf, its minimal form following the demands each of its multiple functions.

The miru is the essence of western desert minimalism. As the extension of a man’s arm it will amplify the power and distance that a spear can be hurled. Its leaf-shaped-core doubles as a container for mixing pituri and can carry ochre. Its burnished edge, when rubbed on a softer wood makes fire. Tipped with a freshly napped blade, the same implement is used as a perfectly balanced adze to butcher fresh-cooked kangaroo or to hone an identical weapon, created on its own perfect template.

Ernest Bennett’s Miru has been cast and is poised, as if on the suspension of a rolled-over-motorcar, a vehicles leaf-spring-suspension adapted for a new use. All is kinetic energy – waiting for the target to come within the range of this lethal propellent.

Text courtesy of John Kean, Museum Victoria 2008
Photograph: Alexander Lyne

Note: pituri is more a central Australian term for native tobacco. Out west it is called mingkurlpa. Have a Pleasant Sunday Afternoon.

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