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Rare photographs connected to UAM

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Rare photographs connected to UAM

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Rare photographs of many local families connected to the United Aboriginal

Mission in Fitzroy Crossing between 1951 and the 1980s have been chronicled

for the first time for everyone to see.

Keren Masters, nee Smoker, the daughter of missionaries Bruce and Pearl

Smoker, has spent a year tracking down other missionary families – one as far

away as Canada – and has tapped a rich vein of extraordinary images from

personal family collections, most of which have not been seen for decades.

The thousand plus pictures are many and varied; some show Fitzroy Crossing

as nothing more than a couple of sheds and a dusty road, others reveal well-

known Bunuba, Walmajarri and other local groups now in their 40s, 50s and

60s as cheeky, tearaway kids hunting goannas, swimming in the river and

generally “just being kids”.

Every one of the black and white and colour images on the website

www.mibalafoto.com.au reveal a life very different from today.

The idea came about after the death of Keren’s father, Bruce, last year. It

sparked Keren into action, and she tracked down other missionary families

who came to minister and support the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley. Such

as the Faulkners (Alice and Ernest Faulkner, who lived into their 90s, are buried

in Fitzroy Crossing cemetery), the Walkers, the Burchams, the Goods, the

Rowleys, Joyce Hudson and Eirlys Richards and asked permission to publish the

photographs.

Keren decided that while there continued to be much debate over the merit or

otherwise of government policy at the time relating to Aborigines, mission life

“just was, it was a significant part of the lives of Aboriginal people of that

time”.

“I don’t want the pictures to take a stand one way or the other about the pros

and cons of the missionaries,” she said. “I just want to make sure that this part

of Fitzroy Crossing’s history, both black and white, does not disappear forever.

“We (the families of the missionaries) have all this history just sitting there and

I thought that it would be good for us to share it with the Aboriginal people of

the Kimberley, who brought us so much joy and happiness as we were growing

up.”

She said some families were relieved that she had contacted them as they

didn’t know what to do with the many family snaps they had and did not want

to throw them out.

While handing over their photographs to Keren, some families had also

discovered old diaries and other memorabilia over that period in back sheds

and old suitcases, and were now appreciating their historical significance.

Keren is chasing another five collections of images from past missionaries

which will hopefully bring the number of family collections, some of which run

into their hundreds, to 14.

Keren says that should anyone be upset by the images of those who have

passed away she will immediately take them off the website.

While photographs from the website can’t be downloaded at this stage, they

can be shared on Facebook. Keren can be contacted at mibalafoto@gmail.com

If you recognise any one in the photos which are not labelled please email and

let Keren know, quote the name of the collection and the number of the photo.

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