Monday, April 15, 2013

A Walkabout Through Alice

As I realize my time in the Alice is winding down before I head back to Canada/U.S. for the summer, I thought I better start checking out some of the "Things I Must See" places on my list.

Every two weeks, there is a fabulous outdoor market on the Todd Mall.  Stalls with mouthwatering food and locally made goods make for a terrific outing.  The fact the sun was shining and the weather was warm only added to the experience.
Todd Mall  Market on a beautiful "Fall" day
Roger then headed out to Adelaide for a few days of business, and I set out to see some of the sights.

Alice Springs is smack dab in the middle of Australia and during my walkabout, I got to appreciate the challenges those who live in the Outback experience.

I've been lucky to find a great taxi driver in the Alice, Stanley, and he added to my list by suggesting I start my day at the Telegraph Station.  This is where the earliest European settlers came and in 1872 began relaying messages from Darwin to Adelaide.

The buildings were made of bricks to help keep the houses cooler in the summers where temps reach over 40C
Volunteers still send messages to other telegraph stations throughout the country
Many of the artifacts from the 1800s have been well maintained

A pair of galahs on the property.  They can be quite boisterous and Aussies who act silly are often called galahs.
A gum tree dating back to the 1800s
The telegraph station operated for 60 years until it was transformed to a residence and school for the half caste children of Aboriginals who are now referred to as the Stolen Generation.  This is a polarizing issue in Australia and clearly a complicated issue.

I was walking on my own around the outdoor exhibits when an older gentlemen rolled up in a motorized wheelchair and started chatting with me.  He told me his name was Alec Ross, and he had lived at the school in the 30s, which prompted me asking him if he was from the Stolen Generation.

He scoffed and said, "I had a good life, and it was the best thing to have happened."  His mother was a 15 year old Aboriginal woman and his father a white Scotsman.  Contrary to what happened to other children, Alec's father gave the Methodist church money to keep him in school, and he also kept in contact with Alec who eventually met some of his 11 half-siblings.
Alec pointing out the picture of himself as a very young boy at the school.  He was eventually moved to a Methodist school near Darwin but during the war the children were evacuated to Sydney.  When he turned 18, he became a professional boxer for 8 years until his wife finally put a stop to it.  
The next stop was 3 kms away at the School of the Air.  Not that far, but it was a hot slog but fortunately most of it was downhill.

The school began in 1951 and now provides distance learning to 130 students over an area that covers more than 1 million square kilometers.  To give you some idea - that's double the size of Texas.  Originally classes were taught over the radio, but now it is done via webcam.
The map shows where all the students live and are color coded based on their grade level.  Students come to  Alice Springs 3-4 times a year for a week of interaction with other students.

You can see the teacher in the room behind the glass, and two of the students are shown in the monitor in the top left corner.  The kids are taught good classroom manners and it was interesting hearing them sign in with a polite, "Good morning" to their teacher.
Children, aged 4-1/2 to 15 years attend school over the internet for up to one hour a day/three times a week.  Mothers do 80% of the home schooling, with the other 20% of teaching done by paid tutors or fathers.  There are some Aboriginal children as well, but most bush communities in the Northern Territory have a school house with a qualified teacher employed by the government, and where children are taught English as a second language.
This is called the "Harmony Quilt" that was made by the students to illustrate their backgrounds on copper squares.  You can see there are a lot of kids living on stations (ranches), but you can also see there is a helicopter pilot, park rangers and a policeman (whose child is the 3rd generation to attend the school). 
 It's hard to see because of the dark metal and glare from the glass, but this tile has a bullet hole in it and Agnews written on it -- my maiden name. Would love to know more about that family!

Next stop...The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Alice Springs historic district.  It is a vitally important service in Australia and has impressive statistics:  36 aircraft make 40,000 flights in a year, fly more than 16 million kilometers and aerially evacuate some 26,000 patients.

Testimonials of patients that have been saved because of the RFDS reinforced the need due to people living and working in remote locations throughout the country.

Medicine chests are used to help first responders in remote locations.  The contents have changed over the years, and the picture below is of one used in 1958.  I read that in a medical emergency a few years ago, a rancher was instructed to give the patient a #9 tablet.  Later, when the physician followed up, the rancher said, "I didn't have a 9, so I gave her a #5 and and #4 and she turned out alright!"

Everything is numbered to enable laymen to administer emergency first aid and medical care

The black wing icons show all the Royal Flying Doctor Service locations throughout Australia

Last stop of the day was the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame that also included the Gaol and Labour Prison at Alice Springs that ran from 1938 to 1996.

In the fact sheet given, I learned that when the gaol was first opened, it was segregated into male and female and then white and aboriginal.  Until the 1950s, Australia had a "White Australia" policy where no person of colour could be naturalized.  Aborigines were wards of the state rather than citizens of the country.

Another interesting component was the Pioneer Women's exhibit.  Those women were tough.  Distances were was extreme....and there were many dangers.
The photo displays told an incredible story.  In this collage, nurses are shown travelling via camels and the caption states that women feared childbirth more than accidents or disease.  
Photos pay tribute to more than 140 women from across Australia who were true pioneers -- whether by raising families in the Outback or as women who became leaders in their field as doctors, politicians, pilots, business leaders and Olympic athletes.

A grand day made even better with Roger emailing to say our Australian visas have been approved for two years.

All I can say is:

"Bonzer!  Fair Dinkum!  Ripper! She'll be apples!"

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