By Ranger Milika Marika
Before, the elders would look at the land and see signs of a big storm.
The animals would be the first indicators that they needed to get out of there; the birds would be the first to disappear and then they’d just feel it and know it was a good time to get to a shelter.
The story passed down from my father is that there were caves that families went to, to be safe.
Back then, the destruction to the land was what they had to live with. So if the creeks got flooded then they’d have to trek further inland to find freshwater and new waterholes. This is why most Yolngu in those days were mobile.
Maybe the big swells would have changed the tide lines too but that would have created flat sands which are better for hunting.
These days, with more outstations, we need to be a bit more cyclone-wise. There’s more infrastructure and more damage we have to clean up.
In the last couple of weeks we have been out to the communities badly effected by Cyclone LAM. One group went to Gawa, and we went to Mooronga and Langarra helping the Crocodile Island Rangers. They’re Yolngu Rangers based in Milingimbi - different clans but still family.
The cyclone was very close to these communities.
The first thing we noticed was how many trees had fallen down on houses. I’ve been to these communities before and usually they are beautiful, but after the cyclone, with debris everywhere, they looked atrocious. It was good to be able to do something about it.
One family came home from the mainland and was pleased that the tree that had been resting on their house had been removed and turned into firewood with the magical wand called chainsaw.
On Mooronga Island the biggest problem was that loads of trees had fallen across the track to the airport, so the only way to get to the island was by boat. We worked our way from the community to the airport cutting trees with chainsaws and using manpower to clear them.
There was also a swamp that overflowed because it had been raining too much. During low tide we were on the beach and found freshwater long-neck turtles that had been washed out of the swamp. They were trying to crawl back, looking for freshwater, so we picked them up and took them to the mouth of the creek.
Apart from all the destruction the rain brought we noticed the native frogs were benefitting from the wet. They don’t have cane toads there so it was latju (good) to see the native frogs thriving.
It was also excellent working with a good crew. From the community, helping the community. Crocodile Rangers, YBE and Dhimurru working together. Bit like Bob the Builder, we just got the job done.