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Alice Springs, The Red Desert

I remember looking at a map of The Alice as my family prepared to move there from Perth, and being excited at the prospect of living in a small desert town in the dead center of this vast continent, with a blue river running through the center of it. It was written Todd River over a wiggly line of blue. When we arrived, it was a different story of course. It is a dry river bed, except for an occasional flood when brown water gushed past sweeping everything away. Mostly it was bone dry, people lived in meager camps under the old gum trees, it was stony and hot. Once a year, there was a Boat race, Henley on Todd, a fantastic array and collection of boats that were hand built and relied on scurrying feet, pushed through holes to propel the boats to the finishing line. The main fuel was beer.

Todd St Parade 1977

Todd St Parade, 1977

Our family took a trip to see the Rock, Uluru or Ayers Rock as it was known then. We went on excursions into the desert, felt the amazing strength and beauty of this ancient land. I studied the multiple uses of eucalyptus gum by Aboriginals.

I received my Duke of Edinburgh Award and presented a film about the camel race, "Hoosh Down", which myself and four other students had made, personally to Prince Charles when he came for a day on November 11,1977 for his Birthday.

Girls in the Red Centre

Camping in the Red Centre, 1977

Ayers Rock, Northern Territory

Myself and my sister in front of (Uluru) Ayers Rock, NT

Overall I spent about four years in Alice Springs, and it was to have a profound and lasting influence on my psyche and relationship to this country and its original owners, the Aboriginal people. It was this relationship that inspired me to paint, "We Share the Same Heart" .

We Share the Same Heart

We Share the Same Heart, oil on canvas

Almost thirty years later, I drove with a friend that I had known in Alice Springs, from Melbourne to Alice. It took three days. It was a magnificent journey. This time the rains had come and transformed the red center into a stunning composition of green and red.

Stuart Highway, Northern Territory

Simpsons Gap, Alice Springs

Simpsons Gap, Alice Springs

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