Saturday 24 March 2007

The Kimberley

The Kimberley, one of the most desolate places on the planet, a population density similar to northern Alaska, where remote family groups are classified as communities. People here live much the same as their ancestors did 40 thousand years ago, except now if they need medical treatment, the charity funded Royal Flying Doctors Service will airlift them to the nearest appropriate facility, several hundred kilometres away or to the state capitol, which is well over two thousand kilometres away. All they need to do is get to the nearest airstrip, which in itself can be several hours drive depending on how much rain fell and how bad the roads are. Often the gravel airstrips are damaged in the wet season and the small planes can only land on the government funded tar airstrip, which is obviously, a further drive on terrible tracks.

This is the mythically beautiful land that we now call home, albeit we’re in the relatively crowded town of Broome on the extreme edge of the Kimberley, on a flat spit of land stretching out into the Indian Ocean, a peninsular reaching west towards Africa, recognising the relationship between the idiosyncratic Boab and Boabab trees of the two ancient lands. Legends in Black Africa and Aboriginal Australia both speak of a tree being planted upside down.

This is the land we had to see, Buccaneer archipelago shatters into thousands of uninhabited islands, many hidden by the rising 10 metre tides, some have remnants of dwellings, hinting to a time when people lived purely off the land and sea, whose descendants now walk the streets of towns, looking at the wares for sale, listening to the spirit of Jack Daniels more than the spirit of the land. Some island have remnants of more recent visitors, footprints and tackle, from the adventurous big game fisherman who stopped to camp between hunting these waters for that elusive sailfish. Occasionally these waters give up a sailfish, the biggest ever landed was landed here.

This is picture perfect paradise, white beaches and sunshine, where you can discover another secluded beach every day, where the sun is statistically more carcinogenic than any other country, where the water harbours sharks and even several species of stinging jellyfish which swarm and envenomate their prey with deadly cardio toxins. The most notorious of which is the Irukanji, which is practically invisible in water but deadly to humans. The land, rivers, estuaries and sea is home the Salt Water Crocodile, the planets biggest reptile. Some the planets deadliest snakes also live here. Perhaps it’s obvious why this is the second most sparsely populated place on Earth.

Perhaps it’s also obvious why we went to look by means of a light plane, well out of striking range of the Western Brown Snake, where our only worry was the weather, and a third cyclone in as many weeks was pretty unlikely.

Come to the Kimberley and Good Luck

Friday 9 March 2007


We took a dawn walk the other day.
It was extreme low tide and the sea had retreated some kilometres.
The sun was just rising as we walked out to sea not knowing what we would find.
We'd heard about Flying boat wrecks from WWII. In 1942 Japan had taken control of South East Asia and the invasion of the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia) was imminent. Dutch and other Allied civilians from Java were airlifted to the safety of Western Australia's shores to escape the Japanese invasion. Broome was the obvious landing point being only 900 kilometres away from Java.
Tragedy struck one early morning in March. Japanese Zero Fighters attacked the Flying boats, Allied transporters and bombers. The attack was completely unexpected and devastating. 25 aircraft were destroyed. Those that survived the attack had to contend with the burning fuel and oil on the water and sharks. Few survived.

Puppy scampered on ahead chasing the tide. We struggled on battling the deceptively wet sand, sometimes sinking ankle deep. Occasionally we came upon a starfish that had been abandoned by the sea. I felt like we'd walked ten kilometres already.

And then we saw it.
The first ravaged skeleton of a flying boat. Its body rusted by decades of salt water, exposed to the elements for a few hours before being sealed again in its ocean tomb.

Thursday 8 March 2007


I suppose the biggest change is that we moved to Australia.
We're living in rural Western Australia in the region known as the Kimberley.
It is a beautiful little town called Broome. Check it out on Google Earth or at
We're working in a little District Hospital about 40 hours a week (which is a big change from the 100 hour work week in SA and the 168hour work week in England!!) We're actually getting a chance to spend time with each other :)
Can you believe that I had to move half-way around the world to get to spend time with my husband!

Broome is quite a seasonal transient town - they have the major tourist season from April to October when the town's population swells from 11000 to 60000. Most people come to Broome and work for a year or two before moving on, so the question we get asked the most is "How long will you be staying?"
Our standard answer now is "Until we're locals" to which the response is a sardonically raised eyebrow're only considered a Broome local if you've lived there more than 20 years!

Amazingly enough - the two biggest problems in Broome are Unemployment and lack of staff!!!

There is a quite a big Aboriginal population here (as compared to the cities) but they're pretty transient too. Our patients are often just on a stop over in Broome whilst on their way elsewhere. The sad thing is we're seeing a lot of 3rd World diseases which we never expected to see in a First world environment. Also drug abuse and alcoholism is rife amongst all he races in this town - a common presentation is PFD (Pissed, fell down), however the incidents of assaults are really not that high... I suppose we expected more due to the alcoholism, but it seems the people prefer to drink themselves into a stupor rather than turning on each other with fists, knives, bottles, bones etc like in SA........
But.... the domestic violence is sad,
the high incidence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is heartbreaking
and rape statistics just deplorable!

There has been a lot of talk about solving the 'Aboriginal Problem' but as yet no solutions exist. The first strategy that the Australians tried was attempting to exterminate them, then they tried assimilating them into the White Australian it seems they're attempting to just throw money at them in the hope that that will solve the problems.... Well Centrelink is pretty busy at the end of the month dishing out the dole - and the liquor store is pretty busy receiving the dole and the hospital and the cops are pretty busy with the end effects.... and the people are lying around in a drunken stupor on the oval whilst their kids sit around, dirty, uneducated and neglected.

When we first came to Aus, we thought that it was pretty sterile and felt that we would have to join 'Aus Doctors for Africa' to make any difference in the world, but it appears that there's plenty work to do right here.