From my perspective the day began like any other… breakfast, dishes, washing and heading off to playgroup. I heard quite a few planes overhead throughout the morning and wondered at their frequency. I noticed as I headed off a rather large number of cars, white faces and people around the council offices and then I remembered that the policeman had told us last week that today was court day. Apparently once every few months (the details weren’t specific) judges, lawyers, police, witnesses and those facing charges all arrive in Numbulwar for a day of court proceedings. When someone is charged with a serious crime here they are removed from the community and wait for their court case in detention in Darwin. Then when court day arrives they are flown back in for their trial.
Anne, (not her real name) one of the ladies who helps with playgroup greeted me as I arrived at playgroup looking upset and stressed. She asked if I could oversee things for the day as she needed to go to court. Her husband was facing charges and had been in Darwin for some time and more recently had been in the police station overnight awaiting his trial. They had been to visit him and her young daughter was rather distressed at having to say goodbye to her father again. Anne was very nervous about the day ahead and left for court with a praise song declaring God’s faithfulness playing from her phone.
The following morning, Anne and I were able to chat about how the day before had gone. Her husband was heading back to prison and she needed to go and say farewell to him later in the day before he flew out to Darwin. She was tired and her daughter was eager to be near her mum throughout the morning. After playgroup finished, we were chatting about things when a phone call came asking Anne to come to the police station to say her farewells. She begged me to walk with her and so we set off. As we walked Sam chatted away about Dada, dogs and planes as usual. Anne’s daughter clung to her hand, not saying anything. Knocking on the big black door of the police station to announce our presence we awaited someone to open the door. Anne was nervous and gave me a brief smile as the door was opened by a policeman who recognised her, and entered. I headed over to visit Jason in the MAF office, pondering all the while how much Anne must carry on her thin shoulders.
Later that afternoon, as we waited for the arrival of the barge we chatted with the local policemen who were waiting for some goods. They were counting down the minutes till they were off duty and could go to bed. For them, court day is a busy one. NT law states that when any prisoners are held in a cell, two officers must be present to do regular checks to ensure their health and well being. The policeman we were speaking to hadn’t slept in over 24 hours and were exhausted.
As I have reflected upon Tuesday’s events I realised just how differently we experience life. Anne walked to that police station probably wondering how the goodbyes would go, questioning what the new few months will hold as a lone parent to two children and a million other things that I can’t even begin to imagine. To the policemen it was another day at the office, keeping Numbulwar a safe place for us. For me, this glimpse into Anne’s world (and many other women in her situation)has been an insight into life for my friends here. They face challenges, struggles and pressures that I can only imagine. And yet, they carry on… loving their children, helping run playgroup, faithful at church, helping with ministries to the children and even befriending me … while clinging onto to their loving, faithful God.