My grandma was a Warlpiri woman. She raised me when I was only about three years old at Waylilipa, which is sixty kilometers south from Yuendumu in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory of Australia. Her name was Jeannie Nungarrayi Egan. There were seven of us girls with our grandma and our grandfather. We all lived in a humpy before we had a house (a humpy is a shelter made of twigs and leaves). We lived on bush tucker. Our grandfather would come hunting too. He would drop all us girls off with our grandma and great grandma and we would look for goannas. My grandma and great grandma would go separate ways looking for fresh goanna tracks and dig a hole to find the goannas. They would get four or five goannas each. We would bring them back to our camp and cook them on the fire. In the winter my grandma taught all of us girls how to look for bush potatoes and honey ant.
The desert gets very, very hot and can be freezing in the winter. We had no electricity and no running water. My grandma spoke up for all that. She spoke up to the government and land council for us to get houses at Waylilipa, a water tank and a phone booth. She was strong and resilient. Never giving up on the outstation and looking after all of us girls in the bush at the same time.
My grandma was a teacher since 1974 who was well known as a strong and resilient leader in the Community of Yuendumu and Waylilipa. She worked as a teacher at Yuendumu School for thirty years. She always wanted a two way education for all Warlpiri kids around the Warlpiri region, which means learning about new ways but also keeping our culture and language strong. She even went to Chicago USA with her sister Bess Price, who is now a minister, and when she came back from America she was rewarded by Prime Minster Howard.
She was a loving and caring person who worried a lot about the kids wandering around at night and not coming to school so after she retired she started a program in the year 2000, a program called Jaru Pirrijirdi, which means strong voices. This is a youth program which is run by the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation. The program now runs football, basketball, softball and going out on bush trips and disco on weekends from seven pm to ten pm and opening the swimming pool every day for the kids.
I was proud of her, what she was doing and what she did and she always said to me education is a key. She is my role model and the most resilient person I know.