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An Anmatyerre girl on Lord Howe


We think we live in a remote community out here on Lord Howe Island, and our guests from the ‘big smoke’ often reinforce our perception of remoteness. But we speak the same language, wear the same clothes, eat the same food, use the same bank, and hate the same shock jocks on the radio (well mostly). So what happens when we meet someone who also comes from a remote community? I mean a really remote community. Well, it makes us reflect on a few things.

A bit philosophical, yes, but there’s a reason. One of the guests, Samantha, on our first Wilderness Week, is a 13 year old girl from the Anmatyerre region of the Northern Territory, about 200km north of Alice Springs. English is her third language. Until a few months ago, she only knew her traditional lands and small community of a few hundred people. Samatha’s home is very different from ours. We live in a similar sized community and have three modest churches of different denominations. Samantha’s local church is in the remains of a tin shack which blew down in a willy willy (these aren’t words I use often). Just about every other part of her life is different from ours, and I suspect we have more in common with people from Singapore, Beijing, Moscow and Cairo.

Samantha’s journey started when she travelled from Anmatyerre to Coffs Harbour to live with her ‘expat’ school teachers, Sue and Kathryn, for the foreseeable future. Her mum was keen for her to finish school away from Anmatyerre, so Sue and Kathryn took Samantha under their collective wing. In a short time, Samantha has flown to Sydney, visited the Aquarium, started school near Coffs Harbour and travelled to Lord Howe Island. Not a bad educational experience!

Samantha, as you may expect, is shy and a bit perplexed. She may as well have travelled to Mars. Everything about her life experience is now different. But do you know what we have in common? A childish slapstick sense of humour. I was trying to talk to her today, as we stood in a dark Kentia forest peering into a deep limestone cave, when she accidently flicked a palm frond onto my knees. It hurt. And she laughed her head off, and kept chuckling for another 5 minutes. Don’t worry – I’ll get her back.

Since meeting Samantha, Sue and Kathryn this morning, I’ve been in a great mood. In our dreary world of the 24 hour news cycle, economic doom and gloom, robotic politicians, and small minded bureaucrats, it’s hard to find stories that make us feel good about being us. But even here, on this tiny little island in the northern Tasman Sea, a young Anmatyerre girl and two Australian women have reminded me how people can do great things without too much effort.

Can you imagine what Samantha was thinking today as we stood on Kims Lookout and watched the passing showers, clouds and rainbows?

A special vista - Lord Howe Island

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