At Hayes Springs

2002 graphite  140 x 246 cms

 
Late in 2002, Kevin Webb stabbed a Walpiri man to death near the footbridge over the Todd River. he was soon arrested. In fear of immediate retribution the entire population of Whitegate shifted into hiding at Emily Soak, a further eight kilometres east of town.

Until the first trial later in the month, I helped transport people, water and food out to the soak. I doubt such sustained, large scale camping had transpired there since the families were in the employ of Undoolya cattle station in the 1960s. It was on one of my trips that Noelly Johnson suggested making a painting of himself cleaning the soakage for drinking. I didn't get around to it at the time, but took advantage of another excursion into the Hayes's country in the Phillipson Pound, part of a back-to-country program for school kids. The dramatically located springs had been stuffed over by cattle and camels and were soon to be protected with assistance from Greening Australia with a substantial fence on the access trails to this most precious of commodities. Kevin's sentence, by the way, was the controversial first occasion of a two-laws punishment; ritual spearing in his legs to their satisfaction by the wronged Walpiri family, and reduced incarceration and banishment from town for a fixed period.