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Beryl Ponce

Spinifex Hill Studios

‘I grew up in Strelley on the station with both my parents – mum, dad, my nana, yeah my grandpop was there too, my grandmother’s husband. That was her third husband. I had my sister, she was older than me. My sister was living there with my brother in law, and with their kids. I grew up there and I start to school under the bough shed. The first teachers was John, Gwen, and Robin.

I lived in Strelley for a long time, till that homestead got blown away for a cyclone. Cyclone Tracy blew away the house and buildings. He was a really big cyclone! But we was safe, we was in Strelley. We couldn’t see the river after that, the water was overflowed. Water come up to the homestead. They made a middle house then, the middle camp. We moved to the middle camp, still in Strelley. They built a big school for us.

After school I got my first job. I worked in the office, and I was running the shop. Then I come to be a teacher – English, language, maths, all sorts. Then I went to Darwin to keep doing my training. Two week out in Darwin doing my course, two week out. I got qualified then, got my certificate. I taught at communities for fifteen years: Callawa, Lalla Rookh, Warralong, Camel Camp, and Woodstock. Strelley school got closed down and they moved us to the desert, Camel Camp, and to Mijiji Maya, because too many people were getting drunk.

We broke away from other families and we made our own family school in Callawa, with a teacher lady – Sheryl, myself, and my mum. We was a teacher. I moved around a bit then, until I moved to Port Hedland in 2003. My mum finished (passed away), my grandmother finished, my brother and sister gone. I moved myself into town with my kids.

It’s good to be out here painting, to sit with the people and make friends and be happy. Painting is like telling stories. Painting about history, life, talking about myself and my parents and the past. What they taught me – bush tucker and bush medicines. I want to make a story for the young ones – the story behind. My grandkids can look at my paintings, my great grandkids. They might be carry it on in the future.’

Language group: Nyangumarta