The Aboriginal community of Balgo Hills or Wirrimanu is south of Halls Creek. It’s to the right off the Tanami Track or what is also known as the McGuire Track. tanami-desert312838_304109423023475_1377167991_n

For the journey to Balgo, first travel the Canning Stock Route down to Bililuna Cattle Station and the Mindibungu Community. It takes you over Sturt Creek and past the turn-off to Wolf Creek crater. At Bililuna, the road divides, the Stock Route taking you to Wiluna while the Tanami Track leads to Alice Springs.

In my time as regional-director of education in the Kimberley, I visited b22438041oth Balgo Hills and Bililuna several times.

Both had schools under the control of the Catholic Education Commission and I had to occasionally undertake certification of new buildings or extensions to old ones. I also had the pleasure of working with the staff of these schools and the Principal of Balgo School is one I remember with particular fondness. His name was Brother Leo , a De la Salle Brother from Melbourne with a slight stutter.

We first met in Broome at a conference before I had visited Balgo Hills. I asked how long he’d been there and how and how enjoyed it. It was his third year and, “Y-yes, I enjoy the p-place and the p-people and intend to stay f-for a w-while y-yet”.

Later in the conversation, I asked him about the weather, learning it could be very cold in “the dry” which is the southern winter, sometimes getting down to single figures and even below freezing point at night. The reverse, of course, applied in the wet, when temperatures would be over forty degrees on a daily basis and very humid.

He also told me of the custom of the local Aboriginal people who, if someone died in a community house, the house would be vacated until the next time it rained, and then there a smoking ceremony would be held the next day and the house re-inhabited.

That led me, of course, to the obvious question. “What’s the annual rainfall at Balgo, Brother?”

“Oh, ab-bout s-six inches D-Dave.

“When do you get it?”

With a wicked grin, he told me, “D-December the third.”