Hard and soft lessons of remote community school teacher

p2334-Linda-WellsKultitja: Memoir of an outback schoolteacher

Linda Wells

Ginninderra Press

 

REVIEW by ANN DAVIS

 

A series of launches in Mount Allan, Alice Springs, Darwin and Melbourne are being held to release Kultitja, Memoir of an outback schoolteacher by Linda Wells.

 

This is the second book by long term Alice Springs resident Linda Wells, following Still a Town Like Alice, a history of the town between 1986 and 2008, commissioned by the Alice Springs Town Council and published in 2011.

 

At right: Linda at the Alice book launch, and below, Ann Davis. Photos by MIKE WOLKE.

 

Kultitja is the story of Linda’s time as a remote area teacher in Yuelamu (Mount Allan), from November 1989. Her strength and flair as a writer engages the reader from page one as she brings to life the joys and fears, the hard and soft lessons of her time in Central Australia.

 

As a high school student, Linda missed the opportunity to visit Central Australia which continued to hold a sense of wonder and intrigue for her. She was drawn to the idea of ‘off the beaten track’, so when her friend Yacca invited her to visit Alice many years later, she seized the opportunity: “Gypsy by nature and curious beyond cure, I jumped at the chance.”

 

Linda’s meeting in Alice with Kevin Buzzacott’s Arabunna/Arrernte family raised the possibility of teaching in a remote Aboriginal community.

 

“If you wanna get involved, get yourself a job out bush,” he told her. “Them mob out bush, poor bastards, they’re crying out for teachers.”

 

She left early on a hot November morning with a feeling of awe and anticipation but mostly a feeling of strangeness. She passed by Tilmouth Well and Napperby Creek, along the red corrugated road to her destination three hundred kilometers from Alice.

 

Linda spent her teaching time between the Anmatjerre / Warlpiri community of Mount Allan and the Pulardi outstation, home of Teddy Briscoe and family.

 

p2334-Linda-Wells-Ann-Davis“My life took on a regular rhythm. There was the penetrating heat, the radiant light, the vast open space of each new day dawning in the desert …

 

“There were dogs slinking around as usual, skinny, naked things …

 

“I adored all the kids I worked with out there but at that moment it was embodied in Alvin …

 

“…sick of being tired, tired of being sick.”

 

The author feeds the reader’s curiosity with the vitality and passion of her writing. Her authentic, warm, humorous style keep the pages turning as she faces the challenges and joys of living, teaching and building relationships. With time and trust, understanding deepened and after her return to the community in 1990 Linda was asked to attend a young men’s initiation ceremony with the women.

 

Later in the book and true to her lived experience, Linda doesn’t recoil from describing the complexities of her cross-cultural relationship with Scotty, complete with the fun, the stories, grog, violence, co-dependency and fear.

 

After over 20 years living in Alice Springs, and looking back on her experience in a remote community in her twenties, Linda is able to present a genuine and nuanced perspective on life in Central Australia. Unlike the often selective, narrow focus of an outsider, inclined to over generalize, demonise or glorify, what Linda Wells’ memoir offers is a rich and diverse lived experience and an insider’s view.

 

As Kultitja is launched, the opportunity exists for it to travel widely, and with its detail and honesty, add depth and dimension to how this vast and complex place we call remote Australia is understood.

 

 

Ann Davis is an educator with decades of experience in remote communities and Indigenous education. She also worked for the international aid and development agency, Save the Children, in China.

 

 

 

Be Sociable, Share!

4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Chris Loorham
    Posted May 19, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Kultitja is authentic and touching. If you have an interest in contempory Aboriginal society and want to penetrate the veil of politicaly correct middle class platitudes you will find that Linda’s book illuminates.

    View Comment
  2. Ian Sharp
    Posted May 17, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Great review Ann Davis, can’t wait to read Linda’s new book.

    View Comment
  3. Jane Scotcher
    Posted May 17, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Lovely article, rich life. All the best with your book, Linda.

    View Comment
  4. Ralph
    Posted May 17, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Great read and just $9.78 on Kindle.

    View Comment

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*