Faulkner Gallery - Mibalafoto


Ern came in the Kimberley in 1935 and Alice in 1936. Six months later they were married at Watjalum Mission and honeymooned in a tent on Sunday Island. They worked in Watjalum, Mt Barnett and Derby with UAM. They had to move from Derby to Mt. Barnett (over the Range) during the war years because of the danger of bombings on the coast by the Japanese. They moved back to Derby from there. Also they visited and had meetings in the Leprosarium in Derby.

In 1956 Ern, Alice and family moved to Fitzroy Crossing to superintend the mission while the Smoker family moved to establish a base in Halls Creek. As superintendent they were responsible for leading the mission staff and organizing the running of the mission station. Duties included reporting to Native Welfare Department all ingoing and outgoing activity of the mission. The food store had to be well stocked with flour, sugar, tea, canned foods, cereals, dried fruits and vegetables and powdered milk to provide the weekly rations of food for the aboriginal people. Prior to the wet season the stock had to be greatly increased to carry through until rivers and creeks were down and roads were again passable for transport to get through. One acre of land was set aside and an irrigated garden was established to supply fresh vegetables and fruit, while a herd of 600 goats supplied milk, butter and meat. A ‘chook yard’ was built to house 200 hens to supply eggs and Christmas dinner, while bread was cooked several times a week in the mission kitchen. Alice quickly became the mission nurse attending to sickness, ailments and injuries on a daily basis.

A boys dormitory and a girls dormitory had been established for aboriginal children to come from outlying stations and stay so they could attend the Fitzroy Crossing School. Having been trained as a dressmaker/ seamstress in her late teens, Alice made sure all the children were beautifully dressed in clean and colourful clothes for school. She trained some of the aboriginal women to use sewing machines to mend and patch where necessary. For many years Alice managed the girls’ dormitory and also supervised the cooking of meals for up to 80 boys and girls. She was ably assisted by some of the aboriginal women. Both Ern and Alice were also involved with church services, Bible teaching, Sunday school, providing guidance, conducting marriages and funerals. Ern also travelled to outlying cattle and sheep stations to minister to both aboriginals and whites.

During January every year when it was ‘walkabout time’ the mission conducted a two week intensive Bible School and aboriginal people would gather from all the stations up to a 150 kilometres away and camp on the mission. Teaching sessions happened morning and night and the people loved to sing the songs the missionaries taught them so often the campfire sing-a-longs went on into the early hours of the morning.

Ern and Alice left Fitzroy Crossing mission to work with UAM in Kununurra in the early 1970’s and later moved to Halls Creek for several years in retirement. They both loved the aboriginal people very deeply and prayed for them daily. For them it wasn’t a job or vocation but a God given calling and a mission. They always referred to the aboriginal people as ‘our people’ and spent 45 years of their lives investing in them.Ern died in 2000 and Alice died in 2005 and both are buried in Fitzroy Crossing. During their years in the Kimberley Erna and Alice had 5 children Peter, David, Joy Graham and Murray.

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