The land where I grew up is vast and flat. When I first came to Killarney Station, there was barely a tree to be seen, and that sparse vista stretched all the way to the horizon, 2819 square kilometres, about as untamed as you’d imagine. Wherever I looked, there was Killarney with its feral cattle, its even wilder stockmen and the promise of a new life for my mother, my brother and sister, and me.
In the dry season Killarney was brown and grey and khaki, with only the red dirt to provide some relief. In the wet season the creek would swell, the trees turned bright green, the grass grew emerald and the dirt became vermilion. It was so beautiful, and the land would heave with so much life, that we could almost forget that the dry season would come. But, inevitably, the ground would crack and the creek would become a trickle, and the cycle would continue again.
On Killarney there was no getting away from the realities of the climate. That cycle of life in the Northern Territory dictated everything: how we lived, how we worked. We couldn’t hide inside a comfortable home – we didn’t have one. We couldn’t run away to a nearby town – Katherine was the closest and it was over 250 kilometres away.
When we moved to Killarney, I was five years old and my mother had fallen in love with a man called Bill Tapp. It was Bill Tapp who brought us to Killarney: his home, his kingdom, his crazy dream come true. It was Bill Tapp who changed all of our lives. I hope you enjoy reading ‘A Sunburnt Childhood’.