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Sally Hopman, Canberra Times, 1997

The 'white blackfella'
in business at Yass

For more information on Darryl Anderson and the
Australian outback visit www.outbackman.com.

 
 
Darryl Anderson reckons he has a fair idea of what Aboriginal reconciliation is all about.  It has to do with a work ethic, he says, and with respect.  In the Northern Territory and western Queensland, where he has spent much of his working life, the Aborigines he worked and lived with called him a "white blackfella".  His wife Maxine wasn't surprised.  "You should see his feet after he's been out in the bush," she says.  "they definitely are blackfella's feet."
Darryl Anderson with his didgeridoo Whatever work was going up there, Darryl would be in it.  A contract musterer, he would round up anything from brumbies to buffaloes.  He also worked as a shearer and did a hawker's run where he would take clothes, books and other supplies out to distant communities, often doing 1200 km round trips daily.  But he gave it away when too many other blokes started doing the runs and it got too competitive.
Darryl Anderson shearing at Tambo Station Queensland 1985
Shearing "Tambo Station" Queensland 1985
Hawking "Dugaruagu" (Whattie Creek)
Hawking "Dugaruagu" (Whattie Creek)
"Wave Hill" Station NT 1990
Smilier George Wave Hill NT 1990
"Smilier George", "Wave Hill" NT 1990
Darryl Anderson Making a Saddle
Eddy Powel, Saddle Making Course 1995
Aboriginals Playing Didgeridoo
Robbin Wadji and Song Man "Palumpa"
Station NT 1987
Young Man Ceremony "Palumpa"
Young Man Ceremony "Palumpa"
Station NT 1987
Aboriginal with boomerang
Head Man Robin Wadji "Palumpa" Station
NT 1987
It was while he was working up north that he learned a skill that was to cement his reputation with Aborigines - and to bring him and his family a few thousand kilometers south to start a new, prosperous life.  Turning his hand to saddlery, under the guidance of experts, he also began to learn the art of didgeridoo making.   "I was out shearing one day and came across some timber by chance," he say." I started talking to these blokes about it - I remember we started making them - with one drill between the three of us.  "When I was starting out, one of the old blokes took me out to the bush and showed me the sort of timber you look for, the stuff that termites have been through.  You don't use the solid stuff.  Then he showed me how you bark it - sometimes we'd go more than a 1000km in a day just to find the right sticks." Black and white men working together, Darryl says, was one of the best ways to learn respect.  "All this stuff they talk about reconciliation … I believe it has more to do with working together, respecting each other, more than anything else." Darryl recognized from the start that decorating the didgeridoos was the job of Aborigines, so now when he finishes his work, he contracts them out to the cultural experts to complete them. "We were lucky," Maxine says, "to earn the respect of the people we worked with.  I remember one time the elders wanted to initiate our kids.  But when I realized that circumcision was part of the initiation ceremony, I put my foot down." Although they had spent much of their life working in the outback, Darryl and Maxine decided it was time for a change.  Move south, they thought, and settle the family in one place for keeps.  They chose Yass. "I knew a bit about it," Darryl says.  "I knew it was central, close to Canberra and Sydney - I suppose I just had it in my head that it was the right place for us."
 So while he was finishing a job up north, Maxine packed up the three kids, the horse, all their gear and drove 1700km south in the family truck. It took her three days. Although the Andersons admit to missing the wide open spaces, they have made Yass their home. "I did feel a bit unsettled at first living here," Darryl says, "Because it felt really closed-in to me.  I was used to spending all my time traveling, being out in the bush with only my swag - but it is really civilized here.
"It is also the longest I've ever lived in a place with electricity." For Maxine, who is equally at home in the bush, it also took some getting used to. "But it's OK" she says.  "When I need a holiday I just go out roustabouting - so I get paid to have what I reckon is a holiday."   Today, Darryl's didgeridoo business is thriving.  He sells his sticks around the country and overseas.  A display of his work is on show at the Yass Tourist Information Center in Comer Street. He now employs two people full-time, working from a saw mill in town.  Down the track, he plans to set up the business on the property he has just bought out of town.  He wants to make it a tourist attraction, showing visitors how to make and play the age-old instrument.

For more information on Darryl Anderson, his family and the life he has led in the Australian outback visit www.outbackman.com.

Darryl Anderson with some Didgeridoos
Darryl Anderson with some Didgeridoos

 
Bronco Branding Stonehenge 1991
Bronco Branding Stonehenge 1991
 

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