A Rich Past and a Hopeful Future (part 2)

Host: Yougawalla Station
Written by: Jane Sale – Manager, Yougawalla Pastoral Company.

Click here to catch up on Part 1

Selena Omeara The Derby Girl with a big HeartSelena Omeara – The Derby Girl with a big Heart.

In 1995 through a mutual friend Doodie met Selena Omeara and Selena moved to Bohemia in 1997. Selena is a driving force in the community and for the station. Her life experience before Bohemia has set her in good stead and makes her a carer to everyone that is embedded in her nature. She has a diploma from her time at Edwards Secretarial College in Perth and has worked at the Derby Hospital as well as Derby Primary School. Selena has four children – Callum, Michael, and Shantelle who all live at Bohemia and Nathan who lives in Derby working for the Shire.

Their Famililes culture as well as formal education is important to Doodie and Selena 2Their Culture as well as formal education is important to Doodie and Selena.

Selena said that moving to Bohemia was a huge leap of faith for her, “S’pose you could say I did it for this fella here. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Doodie. I’ve always wanted to live out of town though. I like the lifestyle. It’s hard but I like it. I’d prefer to be out here than in town.”

Selena helps everyone out on the station and handles all the administration, teaching sewing and helping where she can. Doodie looks after the cattle and the staff who are family members that work in the stockcamp. There are around 35 people living in the community that are all related in some way. The members of the community are still rich in culture and this as well as formal education is important to Selena and Doodie.

The children are driven by bus to Wangkatjungka Community to attend school. They all gather “bush tucker” when it’s in season and Bianca, Doodie’s niece, practises the bush medicine taught to her by her grandmother. Doodie’s mother Julia Lawford an Elder from Purnululu country (Lake Gregory), still lives in the community also. Eric Lawford passed away in 2012.

Doodie's Parents Eric and Julia LawfordDoodie’s Parents Eric and Julia Lawford.

Doodie is on the WA Pastoral Lands Board, involved in the Kimberley Language Group, and also NAILSAA (promoting the understanding and value of Indigenous knowledge in current land and sea management practices). In 2008 he travelled overseas and around Australia as part of the Australian Rural Leadership Program. With so much of their time spent looking after community members and involved in community work Doodie and Selena are extremely busy. Cashflow has always been a problem for them. With so many people to look after in the community, infrastructure for the station has to take second place. Bohemia Downs has never had its full capacity of cattle running, but every year it still costs the same to muster the area. These factors can be crippling for a cattle business and in more recent years all cattle that are saleable including young heifers must be sold so this makes it hard to grow their herd.

Doodie Lawford at a Rural Leadership Program Gathering in CanberraDoodie Lawford at a Rural Leadership Program Gathering in Canberra.

About five years ago they hit hard times and Doodie and Selena had to find work outside the station. Selena said of this time, “So we had our full time jobs and still had to do everything that needed to be done here. It nearly killed us.” Then hit with the drop in markets as a result of the Live Export Ban in 2011 things looked very grim for Bohemia, “For a moment there we thought we were going to have to shut up shop, have a killer herd around the community and lease the whole place out before we would go under. The agistment, mustering you know, agreement we have with Yougawalla has saved us in that respect. Having a friendship and trusted relationship with our neighbours is a great benefit also. It allows us to be back at home and in control of our land and our own destiny.” Doodie adds, “No one telling you what to do. You can be your own boss again.”

Doodie said of being offered full time work in Perth “I stood up in that flash high rise office looking down on the people and cars moving all around, I had a good look and thought, nah I need a seasoned bird and a bit of scrub around me.” When quizzed about Selena’s choices she replied “Doodie and me have had it both ways, I’ve lived with a big wage, when I was working outside the station and when you leave that it hurts in the hip pocket, but you don’t have the stress of living both lives anymore. We live with what we’ve got, we don’t worry about material things that don’t matter. So for us we’re doing alright.”

Like most of the North West, Bohemia Downs has had a good wet season and there is a more positive market for our cattle this year. This doesn’t mean any of us will be getting rich too quick, well not in the obvious sense anyway.