About the Author

Helen Bond-Sharp

“The relationships that we developed with Aboriginal people in Maningrida are an enduring source of pleasure and richness in our lives.”

Helen Bond-Sharp, 2012.

Helen was born in Broken Hill, spent her secondary education as a boarder at Our Lady of Mercy College in Goulburn, NSW and did her teacher training at Wagga Wagga.

In the early 1970s she spent a few years teaching in Sydney and then went travelling around the world. She stayed in Dubai for 12 months and established the Jumeirah English Speaking School which operated out of a bungalow on the edge of the desert.

On returning to Australia she applied for a teaching position in the Northern Territory and shortly after began her NT service in the Special Unit at Rapid Creek Primary School in Darwin.

Helen’s involvement in the teachers’ union opened her eyes to teaching ‘out bush’. She became aware that 35% of the student population of the Territory lived in Aboriginal communities. After four years in Darwin she won a position in the Arnhem Land community of Maningrida.

Helen stayed in Maningrida for the next 23 years. She met her partner, David Bond there. They often went fishing on the weekends, enjoying the coastal environment and the company of Aboriginal traditional owners. But it wasn’t all scenic beauty and picnics. Far from it. Poverty and disadvantage sorely affected the lives of Aboriginal people.

FamilyA family picnic in the Island of Kabalko.

Helen held several positions in the school and in other organisations in the community. She particularly enjoyed her job as a teacher-linguist working in the Ndjébbana bilingual program.

In her role as teacher-linguist she helped regenerate the community newspaper, Manayangkarírra Djúrrang. The aim was to make the newspaper relevant and interesting particularly to Aboriginal adults.

While she was on extended maternity leave she worked with local women to establish the Babbarra Women’s Centre and later she established an independent Aboriginal training organisation, called the Maningrida JET Centre.

In 2000 Helen started researching local history. She talked to people who were in Maningrida in the early days of the settlement and went through the old files in the Djómi museum. This was the beginning of her book about the history of Maningrida. She finished writing it in 2012.
Helen and David retired from Maningrida in 2005 and now live in Darwin’s rural area.

Family HomeThe family home, circa 1987, with veranda looking out to the mouth of the Liverpool River.

The Book

This book is a social history.....

beginning with evidence of occupation by the traditional owners around 6,000 years ago. It traces the explorations of the first foreign visitors who were Makassans from present-day Sulawesi, then the European sailors, surveyors and patrol officers. Aboriginal people engaged openly with visitors but conflicts did occur and lives were lost.

A permanent settlement was established by Government in 1957 in an attempt to repatriate Aboriginal people who were living in squalid conditions in Darwin. The new community of Maningrida grew rapidly under an assimilationist banner, aiming to introduce tribal Aboriginal people to western notions of work, education and health practices. During the 1960s and 70s there were several attempts to establish commercial industries. With the exception of Aboriginal art, all industries failed. When the assimilationist policy was dumped by the Whitlam government in December 1972 serious tensions developed in the community around the new policy of Aboriginal self-determination. This policy enabled the growth of the outstation movement. Many groups of Aboriginal people abandoned the new township and returned to their traditional country.

The campaign by Labor Party supporters to get Aboriginal people enrolled and the subsequent Northern Territory election in 1977 created a great deal of animosity between factions of non-Aboriginal (Balanda) people in the community.

about_image The conflicts negatively affected community management and in 1978 the Federal Minister sacked the Community Council and its entire staff. The Balanda’s permits to be on Aboriginal land were revoked. They had just weeks to quit their homes and the community. Three employees and their families  ̶  supporters of the outstation movement and self-determination ̶  challenged the Minister’s ruling in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.

By 1980 tensions had calmed but the need for services commensurate with other Australian towns remained dire.

The history is shaped by Helen’s personal experiences of having lived in Maningrida for over 20 years. Snippets of memoir are included. Maps and photographs support the text.

[service_item title="Synopsis" img="http://maningridahistory.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/download.png"] Download a chapter by chapter synopsis [/service_item]

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Maningrida. A History of the Aboriginal Township in Arnhem Land

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    about_image“Djómi are the spirits of the freshwater spring at Maningrida. This is where the original people of Maningrida came from. The images were painted by senior traditional owner, Stephen Garwulgu and are used here with kind permission from his son, Joseph Diddo Garwulgu.”