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Wendy Baarda Nangala

Lest They Be Lost

A Lifetime of Little Ponderings

From the heart of Yuendumu, a remote Aboriginal community nestled in the sweeping desert landscapes of the Australian Outback, comes a collection of ponderings that capture over fifty years of observations and reflections. Wendy Baarda Nangala, a teacher and long-term resident, offers us a window into her world through these verses, which weave the personal and the universal, the rhythms and hues of life in an extraordinary part of the world. With each line, Wendy invites readers to travel with her through decades of change, resilience, and connection to her community and its traditions. This collection is more than just ponderings; it is an intimate map of a soul's journey through the vast expanses of land and mind.

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Photo Sophie Park 8 5 24 (2).JPG

Wendy Baarda (née Cameron) grew up in Casterton in the Western District of Victoria.

In the early 1960s, she attended the University of Melbourne. There, she sang folk songs in cafes and demonstrated against the Vietnam War. At university, she made lifelong friends and met her future husband.

Her marriage to a geologist took her to nickel-boom Western Australia and oil-rich Alberta. She qualified as a schoolteacher at Calgary University.

After a several month-long odyssey from Canada to Panama and by ship across the Pacific, Wendy taught in Melbourne and Darwin.

In 1973, she settled with her husband, two sons, and daughter in Yuendumu, a Warlpiri community 300 km northwest of Alice Springs. Ever since she has been deeply involved in Yuendumu School’s bilingual program, and she still is.

This collection of a lifetime of little ponderings draws on an unusual worldview that owes much to Wendy’s Warlpiri friends and colleagues. It contains insightful, frivolous, kind, poignant, and respectful words.

To paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien: Not all who ponder are lost.

Some these ponderings were written more than fifty years ago.

Many things have changed. The biggest changes have been in this Aboriginal community, some for the better, some sadly not. There is not so much rubbish. No more plastic bags for the willy-willy’s to spread far and wide, and regular rubbish collection. Children are healthy, very few pussy ears or running noses. No more petrol sniffing. Also I have changed, attitudes, and lifestyle.

But I haven’t changed the original ponderings. They are a true reflection of my thoughts at the time of writing. What surprised me, when I collected them together, is how much hasn’t changed.

I thank Cecily Napanangka and Katey Ferry for their publication Yawalyu From Yuendumu. It is such a genuine record of Cecilly’s knowledge, stories, beliefs and concerns for the future of her culture. It inspired me to consider publishing these ponderings, to leave a record of my beliefs, and concerns for the future along with a bit of silliness.

I also wish to thank: Ken Newman who got me started by kindly typing, from messy, mostly handwritten notes, very many of these ponderings; my husband Frank, for his encouragement, putting up with me spending so much time on this and cooking supper every night; my son Joe for putting this typing program on my computer and many conversations about many of these things; my son Don, also for many discussions which contributed to these ponderings; and my daughter Jenny, who told me so openly, what it is like to be her.

I must also thank all the patient Warlpiri friends and fellow teachers, especially Tess Napaljarri,  Yamuna Napurrurla and Ormay Nangala, who have worked with me and been my friends for fifty years, who taught me Warlpiri, and opened my mind to another way of seeing, being and believing. We are all still working in the Warlpiri Bilingual program. I’m still learning. They are still my teachers.

Wendy Baarda Nangala

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