I was once disoriented in thick mulga. I called out …

Comment on Did Wilfred and Gisela Thor have to die? by Dave Price.

I was once disoriented in thick mulga. I called out to my wife and told her I was lost. She called back: “Look at the ground and tell me what you see.”
“I see tracks” I answered.
“Whose are they?” came back to me.
“Mine of course.”
“Then follow them back to the car!”
And blow me down it worked. I learnt a lot that day. What was obvious common sense to a Warlpiri woman didn’t come naturally to a naive whitefella. I felt pretty stupid but I’ve never been lost since.
I once followed my nephew’s car into Ruby Gap reserve in winter.
He stopped to talk to the driver of an interstate vehicle. I kept going.
When we reached the end of the track he told me that they had a young boy in the car. They were taking him to the ranger station at Arltunga. They’d picked him up on the way in.
He told them he was lost and didn’t know the direction he’d come from or where his parents were.
There was one track along a gorge and one set of foot prints in the soft sand. It was very obvious where he’d come from to anybody who knows to look at the ground.
At the camping area we came across some kids and a very distraught grandmother.
It was around 4pm and the boy had been missing since just before lunch.
I asked the obvious question: “Where are the boy’s parents?”
She told us that they’d gone off to look for him in different directions. We followed one set of, once again, very obvious, tracks in the soft sand.
This brought us to his father coming back to the camp. He was extremely relieved to know that his son was safe and immediately started to head for his car.
Another obvious question: “Where is your wife?”
He roughly indicated the direction and kept going. We came across her very red faced, exhausted and close to hysterical, hoarsely shouting out her son’s name.
When I gave her the good news she hugged me, almost did a double back flip when she realised what she was doing and also headed for the car park.
We heard the vehicle leaving. Then the sky filled with aircraft. Dad had set off his EPIRB.
A helicopter landed about a kilometre from us but took off again before we could get to it.
We kept walking and enjoyed the rest of our visit. This family was from Sydney, not Europe.
They did all of the wrong things. Nobody thought to look at the very obvious tracks.
I’m no tracker but I have been taught to look at the ground for the information I need if I’m disoriented.
The next edition of the Advocate mentioned the episode and told us that everybody had acted in an exemplary fashion and no one was hurt.
They should have told the truth and given some basic advice to Australian, let alone international, visitors.
This country can be dangerous but the most basic of common sense can save your life.
But as my old Mum used to say: “The trouble with common sense is that it ain’t all that common.”
And what is common sense to a long term desert dweller isn’t going to be to a city dweller. Even when that common sense advice is given, or an EPIRB is carried, you can still get it wrong if you are not prepared to act on the advice given to you because you can’t see the sense in it.
Checking soft sand for tracks can help you find those lost, or find your own way back to camp, water and the vehicle.
I had to be explicitly taught that common sense by a patient wife. And that nonsense about men being better navigators than women is definitely culturally specific not biologically determined.

Recent Comments by Dave Price

Jimmy Cocking: Council not an ideological pedestal
I agree completely with you Jimmy on almost everything you’ve said.
But drawing attention to past politically inspired actions and their consequences and asking questions relating to significant issues is not smearing, it is asking for honest responses.
The divisions are already there and the campaigning for allies make those divisions worse.
A supporter [of a party] abused a young woman today bringing her to the point of tears. Now that’s divisive.


Politely passionate: council candidates front invited guests
You are right Evelyne I don’t know for certain who is behind this disgraceful action but my experience of the behaviour of Labor supporters in the last NT election makes me pretty confident that I’m on the right track. I have been told by another candidate that she has had the same happen to her posters but doesn’t want to talk about it. I condemn whoever is doing it to anybody’s posters.


Politely passionate: council candidates front invited guests
Somebody has started stealing or vandalising Damien Ryan’s, Jamie de Brenni’s and Jacinta Price’s posters around town.
Worse was done out bush during Jacinta Price’s mother’s campaign last year. Her property was also vandalised, vicious graffiti appeared, her life was directly threatened.
She was advised not to do anything about it by the stalwarts on her side of politics and so the perpetrators got away with it.
We are urging our supporters not to react by vandalising and stealing the posters of the opposition. We condemn criminal behaviour and we are almost as tired of seeing our loved ones locked up as we are of burying them.
Respect for the rule of law is the only way we can heal our community and allow it to thrive.


Politely passionate: council candidates front invited guests
Two Greens dominated local councils in Melbourne have abolished Australia Day at the request of a tiny minority of radicals who want to tear us apart and destroy our culture.
Jimmy Cocking is not a member of the Greens but his list of preferences will show you how close he is to them.
The Greens have put up Barb Shaw, our resident loud, cranky protestor, as a candidate in the past.
She and her friends have gone out of their way to close down those with views different from their own.
It is totally reasonable for the voters in this town to know the views of each of the candidates on whether we should celebrate Australia Day or not.
As one commentator has already said it would make sense to sort this issue out in the NT rather than in inner urban Melbourne.
We are already hearing protests from Aboriginal leaders in Melbourne and Sydney that they haven’t been consulted and are happy to celebrate Australia Day.
If it comes up in a meeting of an Alice Springs council dominated by the Greens and their close friends I would like to know how the candidates would vote.


Surprising conservative on council: Jacinta Price
All of this kerfuffle over a few words. You are spot on John. The terms left and right, usually interpreted by the lazy media as really nice and very nasty came from the beginning of the French Revolution.
We could probably come up with some better terms all these years later. I would have called myself progressive for most of my life, now I am happy to call myself conservative because I want to preserve the planet but I don’t want to destroy our economy in the process. I want Aboriginal people’s lives to vastly improve but I don’t think they are going to do that without changing some of their worldview to make it work better. I am keen to preserve the bits of my own culture, and theirs, that still work well. And I don’t think that getting rid of Australia Day is going to help.
When I was a ratbag, overconfident youngfella, I called Noel Fullerton a racist in public and had a stand up argument with him because I was a newly arrived ignorant idealist.
If he were still around I’d apologise to him and tell him that I now agree with what he was saying at the time. I was wrong.
My conservatism, like that of my mate Jamie de Brenni and his wonderful hard working wife Alice, is of the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” kind.
And I believe that if you’re going to make big changes do it carefully so that you don’t cause more problems than you fix – like the 1968 equal pay law.
You can’t argue against the principle of equal pay but did they have to do it in such a way that it took away the jobs of around a third of the Aboriginal workforce across Northern Australia?
I think they should have been more careful.
To me conservatism is about common sense, which, as my Mum used to say, ain’t all that common.
People very quickly forget that it was conservative coalition governments that gave Aboriginal Australians the right to vote in 1962, repealed the Aboriginal Ordinance in 1964, that made my parents in law and their family, including my wife, citizens for the first time.
It also gave them the legal right to destroy themselves with alcohol, the world’s most damaging drug – put the much lauded, constitution changing referendum to the people in 1967, gave Aboriginal people equal pay in 1968 and passed the NT Land Rights Act in 1976.
And during that period they thoroughly dismantled the White Australia policy. Not a bad record for a bunch of predominantly middle aged, white, male conservatives that Labor would rather we forgot.
The ALP was the last political party in Australia to formally give up the White Australia Party.
When I was a young Lefty I underwent union training as the Teacher’s Federation Rep at Yuendumu. One of the old union stalwarts told a group of us assembled faithful that we should have shot all the blackfellas when we had the chance.
At the Worker’s Club in Darwin I was told by another old union stalwart that they sent Bob Collins off to the Senate because the NT wasn’t ready for a Chief Minister with a gin for a wife.
That was in the seventies and that’s when I started to think about changing my political loyalties; it took a while after that though.
I would see Martin Luther King as a Christian conservative.
He insisted on ridding the US of the hideous perversion of racism and wanted to bring back the essentially conservative Christian value of the equality of all of our species despite the fact that many Christians ignored that value at the time.
My proudly multicultural family take him very seriously when he taught that we should judge people by the content of their character rather than by the colour of their skin.
Some of my best friends are white males and my daughter actually lives with one – a left inclined Margaret Thatcher hating Scotsman who puts his family first in everything.
We don’t mind conservatives of any colour and agree passionately with many progressives in relation to some issues.
What we don’t like is being called names and threatened by those who call themselves progressives but who would deny us the right to disagree with them.
I have disagreed with many things that Steve Brown has said and agreed with others.
We have managed to have conversations without resorting to name calling and threats, I can’t say that about many who position themselves on the extreme left who act as if they speak for all Aboriginal people and any don’t hesitate to call anybody who disagree with them racist.
My wife’s and daughter’s lives have been directly threatened many times. Those doing that think of themselves as indigenous activists, and anti-racism warriors. They have never been threatened by genuine racists, who tend to be a mentally ill and cowardly lot rather than a real threat to anyone.
Oh, and another thing. Considering that two Greens dominated local councils in Melbourne have now decided to abolish Australia Day maybe it’s about time that journalists here asked the local Greens if that is what they intend to do here if elected. Just a thought.


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