Coonar, QLD, July 2023
I got married to a Māori girl from the South Island. I had to leave her and the kids in Cairns. I went up to Weipa to get permanent work, good paying work, as a carpenter. One of my brothers was working up there as a crane driver. “Why don’t you come and get a job up there in Weipa with us?” he said.
I was away for weeks at a time, you know. It was a big construction job, a bridge [the longest single lane bridge in Australia] to carry traffic and bauxite over the Mission River. That was like a sacrifice, in a way. You miss the kids, they miss you, and you come back and it’s happy times again.
I got out of construction when I was about 60 years old. I became a manager for the Yaamba drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, just up the road. It was for people in the criminal system, and they could come there and do a three-month course, try to get themselves fixed up.
Most of them were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. We were setup for them, but back then we took everybody. We had a 22 person bus that I used to drive. We’d take them somewhere for a barbecue or fishing. Some of them have turned out really good, once they got into that lifestyle, once they went away from the grog and did something like fishing or even some weaving. I used to do weaving with them too, and they’d love it