Pension Day and tourism

After Jimmy's show we stood around with him and asked questions about the town and aboriginal issues.

He has straddled the two cultures well. For eight years he has been doing a show seven nights a week in the caravan park for seven months of the year, charging $3 per person to come along. (He doesn't do his show during the wet season because no one visits). In the mornings he does four hours work cleaning the caravan parks toilets and doing other general maintenance.

In the afternoons? Well that afternoon he had been out collecting the various foods that he uses in his evening shows.

What is Tennant Creek's industry? The bottom line is that it doesn't have one at the moment. The gold mines have all closed. And while there's talk of another one opening up it isn't immanent. When I asked what drives the town he said that there was pension day, when those unemployed received their benefits, and also the ongoing funding provided as compensation for mining rights and for the compensation paid over by the government for the train line being put through.

The other industry is tourism.

This means that there are some in town who have lots of money and lots of time. And there are others in town who have not much money and lots of time. And this plus alcohol leads to fights.

So what about the people (and especially men) who are just hanging around the main street all day? The population of Tennant Creek is about 3,500. But Jimmy said the first impression is wrong. They are the same faces every day and they are only a smallish percentage of the town population.

Heading down the main street. You can't help feeling that they are staring at you as you are looking at them. Do they resent me touring here? Do they resent me as a white person? How can I not make the situation worse? Is there anything I can do to make it better?

What future? Jimmy said things are changing. He told of a 14 year old girl from town he knew who knows nothing about his practice of bush tucker. She justified this to him by saying she was a 'city girl.' What city he asked, expecting the answer 'Sydney' or 'Melbourne.' He was shocked when she said Tennant Creek. He does see things gradually improving as more young people get educated at university and work to improve things.

It's clearly an issue that is going to confront us in a bigger way as this trip continues. More thoughts later.