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Georgina Brown:

It was really happy for [my parents] at bush. Not in town. When we came here [Wiluna], we wanted to go back. Mum and Dad went halfway but [our family] still follow us and got us and bring us back into town.
A woman standing in the bush with a wooden vessel on her head. She is carrying a baby and a young child is standing nearby and holding what appears to be two dingo puppies. - click to view larger image

The enormous changes that desert people have faced in recent decades are sometimes hard to imagine. For many desert people, history is not something they learned, but something they lived.

Georgina Brown was just six years old, clutching an armful of dingo pups, when her world was turned on its head in 1976.

Forbidden to marry under traditional law, Georgina’s parents, Naomi and Nyama, had run away from Wiluna. For years they lived and travelled in the Gibson Desert, in the region east of wells 13 to 19. It was here that they raised Georgina and her younger brother Yuddi.

In 1976 the Gibson Desert was in the grip of a terrible drought. Mudjon Freddy Freddy, a relative of Naomi and Nyama, was concerned for their safety.

He had been a guide for many expeditions led by Stan Gratte, and he enlisted the explorer’s help search for them. He and Gratte eventually found the family 100 kilometres southeast of Well 18. Gratte gave Nyama an English name: ‘Ben Canning’.

Georgina’s parents didn’t like town life and always longed to return to desert country, but their worried relatives prevented it. They both died in Wiluna. In 2009, Georgina returned to the country where she grew up.

A square painting on canvas in metallic colours with a gold concentric circle with silver and copper dots, in the centre flanked by two curved shapes with a wavy inner edge that are outlined with a solid gold line overlaid with silver dots. The two shapes have three horizontal stripes in gold, silver and maroon and are filled with yellow and brown dots. An oval shape at each side edge merges into the back of the curved shapes. There are semicircular shapes at each side corner as well as at the centre top and bottom. These semicircular and oval motifs are filled with curved lines of dots in silver and maroon on a gold and black background. On the dark brown-black background are wavy and straight lines with curly lines extending from them, as well as curved lines arranged in patterns, all painted in a solid gold colour overlaid with dots of maroon and silver. There are also small V shaped lines of white dots interspersed with the background pattern.

My Country by Georgina Brown

Georgina Brown:

We like to go back and see that country where me and my brother born. My older sister passed away there. Me and her used to play around together. It was really happy for me and her. And I lost her, then it was sad for me, but then I had my little brother. I used to nurse him when he was a little baby. We had a lot of little dingoes to play with.


Dadina Georgina Brown

born about 1970, Manyjilyjarra language group, Panaka skin group, Wiluna, Patjarr communities, Tjukurba Gallery

Georgina was among the last people to lead a customary nomadic life in the Western Desert. She was born in the bush and travelled around with her family in the Country east of the stock route.

In 1976 concerned families in Wiluna sent out a patrol to find Georgina and her family and bring them into the settlement.

Georgina still moves across the desert today, travelling between her homes in Wiluna and Patjarr. Her story is told in the 2009 book, Born in the Desert.

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