Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Women of Gold

Australia has certainly had a rough time these past few weeks.  The floods in Queensland/New South Wales and Victoria have destroyed so many homes and ruined so many crops.  The death toll from the floods is still unknown.  It is just unbelievable to see the destruction and devastation which has occurred in so many parts of the country.

In 2009 we had the disastrous bush fires in Victoria where so many lives were lost and  hundreds of properties burnt to the ground.   In 2006 Cyclone Larry swept in from the Coral Sea and tore Innisfail apart.  Again, properties destroyed and the livelihood of  so many Far North Queenslanders put into jeopardy.

How is it possible for people who have experienced such crisis in their lives to be able to pick up the pieces and start all over again?  Where have they been able to summons the strength and resilience needed for this massive regeneration?

In looking for an answer I find myself reflecting on the past and thinking about our early pioneers - particularly those who settled in this part of the country.   An excellent book I have recently read depicting life on the Far North Queensland goldfields at the turn of the 19th century is "Woman of Gold" by Jean Barry.

This book struck a real chord with me because it reminded me of so many of the stories Nan Walsh used to tell me about growing up in mining townships like Gurrambah and Mount Garnet.  This book had me transformed back to the days when I would lay in her bed, cocooned under swathes of mosquito netting listening  to stories about the "olden days". (When I close my eyes I can still smell her sheets - the unmistakable perfume of naphthalene flakes!) 

As a wide eyed 7 year old I was totally entranced by Nan's stories.  Stories about how her mother (my great grandmother) met her untimely death when thrown from a horse and sulky on her way to Mount Garnet hospital to give birth to twins;  stories about how she and her siblings were forced to work in her uncle's bakery to pay their "keep" after their mother died;  stories about the goat kids they reared and how they would often be taken by wild dingoes.  It was such a tough life.
The women of this era were truly remarkable.  These brave and resourceful women encountered conditions which would test their resilience and resourcefulness to the utmost: relentless heat, dust and isolation.  They lived in wooden huts or tin sheds with concrete floors, cooked on wood-fired stoves, and lacked any of the domestic appliances we take for granted today.  They truly were "Woman of Gold".

So perhaps it is this same resilience and resourcefulness which  has somehow found its way down through the generations and provided us with the will and determination to carry on. 

Perhaps it is this which has shaped the spirit of Australians today.   We have so much to thank them for.

Happy Australia Day everyone!


  1. Oh yes, amazing resilience and fortitiude our pioneers. I think all women have the capacity to rise to the challenge. It's just so deep within in us. Happy Australia Day! Here's to our beautiful country and our blessed free lives. A-M xx

  2. A wonderful post Sharyne. Happy Australia day to you.

  3. Happy Australia Day, Sharyne. I've loved seeing more of what life's like over there through your blog. Blogging is so fantastic for tearing down stereotypes and replacing them with real people.


  4. Hello Sharyne, Women of Gold is my mothers book - the story of my grandmother and great grandmother in FNQ So glad you have read it and enjoyed it. Yes they were certainly inspiring spirited women of great courage. I live in Sydney but was born in Atherton and lived in Cairns as a young child so am thinking of you all during this very challenging and fearful time. Thank-you again for your comments and post re Mum's book Desley Creedy


Thank you so much for visiting my little corner of the world and leaving a comment. XX S

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.