That cycle stops with me

The red earth of Lamboo Station has been in Darrilyn’s blood for generations, but only recently has she been able to reclaim the right to manage it. 

Lamboo Station sits on Jaru country in The Kimberleys, spanning about 361,000 hectares of sandy soil, ghost gums and paperbarks.

When the white pastoralists first came to the area in the early 1900s, Darrilyn’s grandparents who were born and raised on the country ended up working for them. They watched their homeland be divvied up and handed to new white owners. 

But still they stayed on. In 1994, Lamboo was bought back by the (then) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) through the WA Aboriginal Lands Trust (ALT) and returned to Darrilyn’s family, the Ngunjiwirri people. 

Darrilyn remembers those initial years on Lamboo when the management was returned to her family. Things were tough, equipment was old and run-down and there wasn’t much money around. 

“Financially it meant we weren’t going to see a turnover for five to ten years,” she said. 

“And living out on the station we were 30 minutes out of Halls Creek so my parents, if they wanted to get groceries they’d drive 30 minutes and sometimes it meant going without and having to live off the land for a bit because vehicles were an issue in the early years.”

When she was only 17 years old, Darrilyn became a mother. Her life was thrown off kilter and future career plans were seriously put into question. 

“When I became a mum I just thought straight away ‘oh I’ve got to be a stay-at-home mum, career is over, I won’t be doing anything until this kid is 12’ or whatever.”

“Because you become a young mum in this community and the norm is that, since you’re a mum, you just don’t have to work, you can live off Centrelink.”

It was her Grandfather who changed this mindset.

“He came in and said ‘so what, you’re a young mum, that doesn’t mean life ends there.’”

“I think, because he believed in me so much, it started making me believe in myself. Believing that, even as a mum, as a woman, you still can do things. Anything’s possible. If you’re badly passionate about something, nobody should stop you from it.”

This belief held her in good stead. Originally, while Darrilyn’s uncles managed Lamboo, she was the only woman working on the station amongst ten to twenty men. 

Since taking over the management in the past three years, Darrilyn has made a conscious effort to employ both men and women, but will continue to hire an Indigenous-only crew. 

“I’m lucky because my family story is very unique, it’s different, I don’t have another friend in this town that I can relate to,” she said, when asked about this decision.

“Both my grandparents were introduced into agriculture from a very young age so, when I grew up, it was kind of easy because I grew up learning it. Whereas I think of a lot of my friends, they didn’t have that, I still have family living on our own country, whereas others were taken from their country.”

“But I’m also in a position where I can see that we could have a different kind of conversation,” she said.

“One where I’m acknowledging that it might not be every family story, but I’m able to support them and see what I can do to be able to influence them back into that space, or find a way within agriculture to say ‘this is what I feel is culturally appropriate’ or can engage to bring in other Aboriginal people or find the right people to have conversations and to start something in their own communities.”

“And we talk about, and you hear about it in the media, the talk about the traumatic cycle, intergenerational trauma. I feel like, you know, that cycle stops with me.”

Darrilyn’s story can be listened to on your favourite podcast platform under ‘Humans of Agriculture – That cycle stops with me’.

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