Mirrngatja – God’s own country, in the words of one of the Teachers here, is a community 25 mins flight to the south of us. It is a homeland that has been empty for several months now as the entire population of this place had temporarily relocated to another town for the celebration of a funeral and the boys coming of age ceremony. This was discovered one day when Jason flew the teacher into the community for the week, only to discover there was no one there for him to teach. (The Teacher subsequently flew out the following day). The teacher for Mirrngatja operates on a fly in, fly out system, having a home base here on Elcho island. They have one teacher for the whole community and the teacher’s accommodation is a small room off the classroom. MAF flies the Mirrngatja teacher several times each week and so get to know them really well as the year progresses.
Tuesday, Jason had a ‘sit and wait’ in Mirrinjta. This means he flies a passenger there and then waits until their business is done. The wait was expected to be a couple of hours, so he went prepared to pass the time… with a fishing rod. Looking at the schedule, he discovered that another MAF pilot had a ‘sit and wait’ at the same time… so together they went fishing. While no fish were actually caught, they discovered a beautiful spot and had some fun conversations with a local boy who decided to accompany them.
While Jason was in Mirrngatja, he was able to talk with the community elder and the parents of Stephanie about the possibility of her coming to work for MAF. Stephanie is a young indigenous woman (pictured in the first photo) who we are hoping will come to work in the MAF office here on Elcho Island. We started discussions about this before Christmas, but family and cultural responsibilities have delayed things considerably. We are now hoping that she will come to Elcho on Monday and I (Kim) can begin training her in the ways of a MAF office from Tuesday. Not all ‘sit and waits’ are quite so busy for the pilots. More often than not, they consist of a snooze in the plane, reading a book or trying desperately to keep out of the hot sun. But Tuesday was a little different.