I tell everyone I am 86 years old – though that’s a lie – and I am stunned when anyone unquestioningly accepts such news.
Although now officially retired and considered redundant, I am, or have been, the author of four published books – one of poetry (Poems of Central Australia), another Aboriginal oral history (Yammatji), an Australian naval history (In the Wake of HMAS Sydney), and a collection of bush yarns and verses (Cartoons and Yarns of the Outback). I have also been the editor of two rural newspapers, The Northern Times and The Gascoyne Telegraph, over in the north-west of Western Australia; a composer of commercially recorded bush ballads for Aussie entertainers Rolf Harris, Slim Dusty and Ted Egan; a broadcaster with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; a Justice of the Peace; an honorary Probation and Parole Officer; and a newspaper/magazine cartoonist. Currently, I am the senior editor of a soon-to-be-published internet publication "The Australia Times OUTBACK magazine." I am a widower, with a family of two Blue Heeler cattle dogs and a thoroughbred stock horse.
For the period of time I had been living in Arnhem Land, my humble abode was a leaky tent, if I had something to eat once every three days I considered myself fortunate, and I used to tap out my daily activities each night on a little Olivetti typewriter, clenching a small torch between my teeth, my deathless prose illuminated by a solitary, flickering candle. The pages I dispatched weekly to my sister Colleen, down in Melbourne. Roughly twenty years later, she suggested I start sub-editing this swag of reminiscences and ever since I have been going through the grubby old pages to formulate what will emerge – hopefully – as an autobiography, with the title, Journey into Dreamtime.
Recovered and inflicted once more upon the world, I devised training programmes for Aboriginal communities in isolated locations, teaching the rudiments of craft activities – wood carving, leather work, pyrographic art, ceramics, etc. The government’s Aboriginal Arts Board funded my project for three or more years until it was established throughout Arnhem Land and the north-western tribal areas of Western Australia. When I left to return to journalism, my role was taken over by the old tribal men and women, who incorporated the teaching of their traditional arts and crafts into the programmes.
But, apart from the above, my years on this planet have been quite idle…