covered in white flour extend to gnarled fingers deftly kneading
a lump of dough into round flat bread. Mary Margaret flashes me
a toothy grin from a well-etched face, I am making damper
for the tourists, she responds to my enquiry. Her shock
of white hair and grandmotherly appearance contrast sharply to
the energy she brings in sharing parts of her Tiwi culture with
countless visitors. With her friend Doreen, an accomplished artist,
they have become legendary as the tea and damper ladies who entrance
all who visit Bathurst Island north of Darwin. They are an integral
part of one of the oldest Aboriginal tourism enterprises in Australia.
pandanus baskets, painting mussel shells, crafting the delicate
armbands, face painting the more adventurous guests, dancing the
welcome dance and ceremoniously smoking the visitors with fronds
of ironbark leaves are all part of the action. Beaming young faces
of the grandchildren intermingle with the quizzical looks of the
tourists as ageless knowledge and wisdom is dispensed in a totally
relaxed and inclusive atmosphere. Paul, one of the new generation
guides, explains that Tiwi Islanders take great pride in showing
their culture to the stream of visitors who come from all parts
of the world. The Church precinct, museum and a range of art and
craft enterprises have all been part of our full day tour which
also included visiting one of the bush burial sites with their
distinctive carved pukamani poles.
group of guests, ashore from a cruise boat on a special visit,
happily devour the damper bread fresh from the hot coals and wash
it down with the traditional black billy tea. As I
eat more than my share of damper spread with butter and jam I
ask Mary Margaret about her damper recipe. Eyes flashing she looks
sternly at me and emphatically states, No way! It is a secret
taught to me by my husband. Enjoy!
is an Aboriginal owned tour company operating on Bathurst Island.
Bathurst and Melville Islands and the sea that surround them are
the home of our people the Tiwi. Prior to modern transportation,
our people were very isolated and as a result Tiwi culture developed
independently from that on the mainland.
have been coming to our Island for the past 15 years and local
Tiwi guides now conduct all tours. Our Morning Tea Ladies
alone now have over 40 years combined experience in the tourism
industry. Our guides include former school teachers, star Australian
Rules Football players, an acolyte and up and coming track and
Tiwi people are proud, outgoing and friendly and time spent with
us provides a unique experience. Our tours are culturally based
and visitors learn first hand about the traditions and culture
that co-exist with todays modern society.
Doreen applying ceremonial paint