My father was the first officer in charge of the Port Hedland Airport, he was in civil aviation. The tent he camped in when he first came was right next to the bomb crater from the Japanese bombing raid in Port Hedland; they dropped 54 bombs and in the process they killed a Western Australian man, we’ve just had the 70th anniversary. The street out to the airport is named after my father; it’s a bit of a treasure. My parents had their heart in Hedland.
I came up working in the hospital and from there found whatever I’m meant to be doing at the time, whether it’s aged care or teaching. I get called Sister Joanie. I’ve been here now for 20 years. I love Hedland, I do a lot to try and make it better. I’ve got my three boys and then the child of my heart, who I adopted when she was five. Her health condition was outside what could be managed in the family. I knew the family that belonged to her and they researched who I was, my connections.
My daughter is twenty one, her family is from Hedland; their family is part of my family. I am a disability advocate. I highlight inclusion for people with disabilities, that’s the mission I’ve set myself. I get up in the morning. I get my daughter going; get all the bits done in the morning, then once I’ve got her to work, I do my community work. I’ve got aged care students who I’m working with, Aboriginal girls. On Mondays and Fridays I train students for media in radio at Pundulmurra
Tafe. Two of my students, both 16, have intellectual challenges. One of them made a sound bite to tell the Minister for Education that he doesn’t like being excluded; they want to be on an equal footing, to the point that the other lad got Under 25 Volunteer of the Year Award.
I’m also a volunteer at the Historical Society, I work at Dalgety House, which was set up for the commemoration of Hedland’s establishment. Its original activity was to be a stock and station agent, as pastoral suppliers. We have displays of all the different stages and eras from around here, about the land and Indigenous people, about the start of transport and stock routes. There is information about the station walk-off, which was a huge historical moment for Aboriginal people; they said we are not working for tea and sugar any more and to keep themselves, they yandied minerals for years. We have a display about the SS Koombana, a ship that had the infamous Rosetta pearl on board, it was a cursed pearl and bad luck for anybody who had it in their possession. The Koombana disappeared during a cyclone, and people have been looking for it for over 40 years.
One of my favourite memories is going out bush to Punmu with Bruce Thomas, on the way back he’s sitting in the car and starts singing this rain making song and in the desert a beautiful rainbow sprung up from the ground and rain just poured down in the middle of the desert. He was singing in language, it was just a really beautiful moment.