The weather is warming up considerably; not that it has ever really been cold here from my point of view, except for a couple of relatively chilly nights a few months back.
The recent heavy rain has topped up the waterholes, though the creeks have not yet started flowing. I had 18 kids today, the most I have seen at one time for weeks. They asked me to take them to their favourite swimming spot which is in Sturt creek just across the Tanami road opposite the ‘back’ road into Billiluna from the Balgo side. I ferried them in two trips. In places the tracks were axle deep in water and we all enjoyed splashing through the ponds in a shower of bright red spray.
I had to clean the troopy when I got home.
Two of the boys will be going away to high school next year. I used this news to give them both a bit of a boost and some encouragement, and to discuss in general with them all about their prospective futures and ambitions. I waxed lyrical about the fun and excitement in learning new things and seeing new places. The wondrous potential of the world outside of their little corner of it. I told tales of the places I have been and the things I have seen. Some of my little goldfishes actually paid attention for a short while.
We also talked about planning, rewards and consequences. The School and I are taking some of the deserving students on a trip to Darwin and the Kakadu next month. This has a few of them quite excited, though I was surprised to learn that some youngsters are very reluctant to travel far from their homes and family. It seems this is the reason that many don’t go to high school.
They are still demanding sports trips to other communities, something I have not been delivering lately. It gave me the chance to lay out the trip rules again: School attendance and good behaviour are prerequisite. We need a team that actually turns up to practice at least once a week. We also need a coach. I know nothing about this strange game called AFL. There are some very good adult players in Billiluna, and I asked the kids to persuade one of them to coach for us. Same for the basketball girls. I also suggested perhaps we might try forming a girls’ football team but that idea met with even less approval than an earlier suggestion of mine to form a boys’ basketball team. At least some of the boys do like to play basketball. Thinking it over, it would only work if the girls had someone to play against. Not likely, I suppose, given that it is clearly seen as a male sport.
The swimming spot is a favourite because in the middle there is a small island with a tall tree. It gives them an easy climb to a branch, about eight metres above the water, from which they can jump in.
When I learned their intention, I insisted they carefully check out the water below to ensure there were no sunken branches or snags in the landing area. The creek is so brown and murky there is no way of knowing what is beneath the surface. They all seemed to believe it would be just as it always was, and thought I was being silly. I’d rather be thought silly than have to explain a drowned child to a grieving parent. I told them so.
No one mentioned the recent tragedy, but I could see that this thought struck a chord. A couple of the older boys checked the landing zone for me. I was grateful, because I would have been obliged to do so myself before I let them jump, and I did not really feel like swimming today.