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Getting lost & other adventures at Starcke Homestead


Group of Aboriginal women and children dressed in colourful clothing stand in front of a grey and blue building on a path with grass in the foreground.
Wujal Wujal Women’s Group at Starcke Homestead (Photo courtesy of Wujal Wujal Women’s Group)
20 Oct 2017

In late August and with trailer packed, 17 women from Wujal Wujal on Cape York drove north to the beautiful Starcke Homestead 50 kilometres above Hopevale.

Organised by the Wujal Wujal Justice Group, the 3-day camp included the Wujal Wujal Women’s Group, the Hope Vale Women’s Group and Hope Vale Aged Care staff and Elders.

The homestead, run by Estelle and Des Bowen, provided comfortable accommodation and was an ideal place to yarn, fish and laugh.

Wujal Wujal Justice Group support worker Marella Gibson begins the story.

‘Estelle had told us to look for a pink ribbon marker after we stopped for lunch at Isabella falls,’ Marella said.

‘We travelled for more than an hour and a half when we came across a ribbon on a tree. We turned down a little track but it was another 20 minutes till we reached a building. ‘’Yeah, we’re here now!’’ we thought, but it turned out to be a deserted shed at a place called Munbarah! Must have been the wrong marker!

Can you imagine some of the ladies? Yes, panic started to set in… ‘

Several women sit or stand on the sloping bank of a river. The water is green. The other riverbank is full of trees and in the background is a single pointed hill with a blue and almost cloudless sky above.
There was time to fish from the Starcke River then enjoy the day’s catch later that night. (Photo courtesy of Wujal Wujal Women’s Group)

‘We headed back towards the Starcke River Boat Ramp, We went to ask directions from a bloke who looked like a ranger. He turned out to be Gordon Pringle from Mossman. We were so relieved to see a familiar face!

He told us ‘’No more, you’re heading the wrong way, you need to go back where the phone is”. Finally, after a 2-hour detour we found our destination. Estelle had already sent out a search party for us!’

‘The laughs about our adventurous start to the camp continued late into the night as we unpacked and sat around the fire yarning. We thought it was quite hilarious now that we were all safe.’

Women’s Group coordinator Claudia Doughboy continues the story.

‘We had 2 days of “Saltwater and Freshwater’’ ahead of us. Our hosts showed us around their beautiful country. We visited freshwater lagoons, they showed us different families’ homelands and told us stories.’

‘We eventually ended up at the Starcke boat ramp and fished all afternoon. Between us all we caught black brim, barracudas, grunters, butterfish and trevally. For lunch, the Elders made us lovely damper baked in the ashes and we had it with fish on the coals and a nice big pot of fish soup.’

‘One of the local fishermen gave us an esky full of mud crabs, so guess what we had for dinner: crab on the fire and fried scones. ‘’We ate our bellies full, it was so YUMMY.’

Mature Aboriginal woman in blue and white dress sits at a small table with a knife in one hand and a loaf of damper in the other.
Justice Group Elder, Doreen Ball (Photo courtesy of Wujal Wujal Women’s Group)

‘We ended up telling stories around the fire till late in the night.’

‘The next day the Hopevale Aged Care brought out some of the Hope Vale Elders and they spent the day with us. Wujal Wujal Justice Group DFV counsellor Debbie Corbett and Youth Program Coordinator Waratah Nicholls also arrived. It was lovely to have them all share this time on Country with us.’

‘We went to Steven Wallace’s place. The river there is both fresh and salt water and we gathered heaps of mussels there on the low tide. The time together on Country was enjoyed by all.’

‘On the last night, I got everyone to write down what they thought of the 3-day camp. This is what they said:

‘’The best thing about it was sharing culture.’’

‘’Mixing and mingling with all ages of women.’’

‘’Different, but DEADLY.’’

‘’Enjoyable the company of the ladies and the sightseeing.’’

‘’I had a wonderful time.’’

‘’It was my first time going to see my mother’s Country; it meant a lot to me.’’

‘’Enjoyed the country and company.’’

Wujal Wujal Justice Group and Wujal Wujal Women’s Group would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners and give thanks to our hosts Estelle and Charmaine Bowen and Feniece Yoren, the Hopevale Women’s Group, Hopevale Well-Being Centre (Apunipima), Hopevale Aged Care and Elders.

Find out more

If you enjoyed this story, read the Wujal Wujal Men’s Group adventure at Hunting, fishing and yarning at Bouchat.

And if you’ve had a rich cultural experience you want to share on, email with the story or the details.

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