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
|| 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.
Station" Queensland 1985
Station NT 1990
George", "Wave Hill" NT 1990
Saddle Making Course 1995
and Song Man "Palumpa"
Head Man Robin
Wadji "Palumpa" Station
| 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
"It is also the longest I've ever lived in a place with
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
For more information on Darryl Anderson,
his family and the life he has led in the Australian outback visit
Darryl Anderson with some Didgeridoos
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