Family: how do you feel when you reconnect with family after 40 years?
My husband Ashley and I lived and worked at Hermannsburg in the 1970s. Ashley did maintenance work and helped build the newly established homelands (then called outstations), and I was the teacher at Kuprilya homeland. We were accepted into the Western Arrarnta family, the Rataras. The children I taught were ‘my children’, ‘my nieces’, and ‘my nephews’.
In 2019, we returned to Hermannsburg in order to reconnect with the Rataras. We felt overwhelmed when we were greeted with love and respect by Conrad, Fay (married to Pastor Rodney Malbunka), Byron, Voight and their families. Then, in August and September last year, we spent five weeks living at Hermannsburg. Ashley’s cousin Dave and his wife, Judith Atze, joined us for four weeks.
We spent time with our Ratara families. Conrad and his wife Noelene took us to their homeland, Palm Valley, where we spent the night. He is the Traditional Owner of Palm Valley and Palm Paddock. Fay and Pastor Rodney took us to Kuprilya homeland, where I saw my ‘old’ school. We relived many happy memories at Kuprilya Springs, of the annual thanksgiving celebrations in October for the water being piped to Hermannsburg from 1935.
During our five weeks at Hermannsburg, Ashley and Dave did maintenance work on the manse and church, as well as the Cultural Centre (formerly the Carl Strehlow Memorial Hospital), preparing it to be used for meetings, research and Western Arrarnta language and cultural programs. Judith and I spent our days digitising and cataloguing photographs of people, the early days of Hermannsburg, and plants. The local people, researchers and tourists will now be able to access records of Hermannsburg’s history.
We felt blessed to be so welcomed and accepted by the Western Arrarnta people, especially our families, David and Lily Roennfeldt and Pastor Neville and Heather Doecke.
There were many special times of sharing meals and outings with our Ratara family. We felt humbled when Veronica Rubutja, who lives at Wallace Rockhole, showed me a photo of her confirmation in 1977. She has kept this photo for 44 years! We were so touched and thanked our Lord Jesus Christ for Veronica’s faith.
It was an emotional farewell when we left Hermannsburg, as we were saying goodbye to our special and beautiful families who have never forgotten us. If it is our Lord’s will, we will return to do voluntary work and be with our Ratara family and their extended families.
Barbara and Ashley Smith are members of Olivet Lutheran Church, Penola, South Australia.