David stopped the car on the narrow dirt road. Gazing at the ancient steep sided red mountain ranges and weathered sandstone formations, thoughts of another Kimberley came to mind.
But for now, he had a job to do, find diamond-bearing rock, collect sediment samples and return to Perth. He started his battered old Land Rover and drove east towards Cattle Creek. He knew this region was adequately watered during the wet season, being a short distance from Lake Argyle. As he wandered about collecting samples he noticed what looked like three stone figures overlooking the waters.
Forty thousand years earlier, in Gidja dreamtime, a barramundi, chased by Gidja women swam into a cave at Barramundi Gap. As the barra entered the cave the women prepared to catch her with nets of rolled Spinifex grass. Trapped in the shallow muddy water the barra tried to flee by swimming to the other end. There was no escape.
She swam back towards the women at the cave entrance. With no way out the barra jumped over the women shedding her scales, leaving them behind in the shallow water. The barra then jumped through a gap in the rocks landing in the deep clean waters of Kowinji, Cattle Creek. As the barra dived she turned into white stone. The three old women, chasing the barra, peered into the water. They too turned to stone, forever to become part of the landscape. The scales left by the barra were to become the diamonds found in these waters today.
Three billion years before the dreamtime, as molecules evolved and temperatures reached somewhere between 900° and 1300°, the pressure increased and carbon atoms combined to crystallise and develop into diamonds within the rocks.
At the same time magma formed within the Earth’s mantle. Being subjected to similar pressures as the carbon atoms, the magma was forced upwards through the rocks, partially melting a deep and narrow channel, which carried the diamonds towards the earth’s surface.
The magma exploded, and erupted to form a pipe. Millions of years later this magma ash solidified and became diamond-bearing rock. The Geologists’ theory was diamonds would be washed down the creeks and rivers as the top of the rock was eroded.
As night fell David noted in his diary, ‘found diamond-bearing rock today.’
Today was Anna’s thirtieth birthday. After months of counselling, a breakthrough, a day she and her doctor could pinpoint as to when and why her anxiety began. Why, on days leading to her birthday and Christmas Day, she felt the elephant sitting on her chest. The elephant of anxiety that scattered her thoughts like the leaves in Kings Park on a windy day. These thoughts filled her head as she pulled into the driveway of her parent’s home.
Her mobile rang as she let herself in the front door. It was her boss, Mr Hawkins.
‘Hello Mr Hawkins.’
‘Hi Anna, I meant to talk to you today but got caught up with our visitors. We are having dinner tonight at the Breakwater. Our visitors expressed an interest in meeting with you. Would you be available?’
Anna was somewhat surprised by the invitation, taking a moment to reply. ‘Um… yes I would love to come.’
‘Dinner is at 7pm. We will be upstairs in Ishtar. Let the restaurant know you’re in the Hawkins party.’
Anna clicked her phone shut.
‘Happy Birthday darling!’ Anna’s Mum was in the kitchen preparing a birthday dinner.
‘Thanks Mum, I’m sorry to do this but I can’t stay. My boss has asked me to dinner with some visitors from Argyle.’
‘But dinner’s almost cooked. Your Dad will be home soon.’
‘Sorry Mum, this is important. We’ll do dinner tomorrow night.’
‘Where are they from?’ Her mother remained facing the stove.
‘The mine, Kununurra, Argyle.’
‘You aren’t considering moving there?’
‘If they offer me a position…yes.’
‘Why would you want to leave here? You have a great job and good friends.’
Anna looked at her mother and sighed, ‘Mum I’ll come for dinner tomorrow night. Tell Dad I’m sorry.’ As Anna left she saw her mother grab a handful of tissues. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow night,’ she said.
Anna’s thoughts bounced around her head. Why would these people want her to come to dinner? And way down in the depths of her subconscious, squirming its way to the surface was the unasked question. Why were her parents so against her moving or visiting the Kimberley? The answer would have to wait. She locked those thoughts away and headed home to change.
She arrived at the restaurant on time. Dressed in a short black dress with her hair down, Anna was unaware of the furtive glances she received as she was shown to the table. She took her seat beside Mr Hawkins.
‘We’ve ordered a bottle of white and red.’ Robert said.
‘White’s fine, thanks.’ One glass would be enough, she thought. Getting tipsy wouldn’t impress anyone.
Robert poured Anna a wine.
‘Is it your birthday today?’ Mr Hawkins asked. ‘I vaguely remember seeing some balloons in your office this morning.’
‘Yes the girls put them there last night.’
‘Thank you for coming out on your birthday.’ They raised their glasses in a birthday salute.
As the waiter left with their orders Sarah, the Human Resources Manager, spoke, ‘So, Anna do you have plans for your future? I see you’ve been working here for thirteen years. A long time.’
‘I came straight from school, studied part time to obtain my degree. Like most people here, I frequently check the intranet to see what jobs are available within the company.’
‘Have you been to Kununurra?’
‘No.’ wrong answer, she thought. If you want to work somewhere at least visit the place.
‘Have you done much travel?’
‘Yes I’ve been to Europe, UK, Bali and the East Coast.’ That’s better. At least I’ve been out of the country. Feeling intimidated by their questions she took a sip of her wine to slow the pace down, give herself time to think.
‘I travelled to Sydney and Melbourne for a month. Looked at jobs on the east coast, but came back to Perth because I love working for Argyle. I love my job…I’m doing what I studied.’ If this was a job interview, Anna did not intend to miss her opportunity.
‘What do you know about the mine?’ Robert asked.
‘I’ve read all the available material. I’ve looked at the recruitment process. I’ve read the mine’s history…where and when diamonds were found. I’ve looked on Google earth but the view is limited.’
‘Yes, the mine site’s very secure. Sarah, would you like to continue,’ Robert said.
‘Thank you. We have a position for a second Human Resources Manager. Bob put your name forward as a possible candidate. You would be based in Kununurra. The job is a two year contract with three weeks at the mine and one back in town.’
Anna was silent. She could see they were waiting for an answer. Kununurra the Kimberley…she could hardly believe her ears. Eventually she found her voice.
‘I would love the job. Show me where to apply. If you are asking me if I am interested, the answer is yes.’
‘Interested is good,’ Sarah said. ‘How long before you would have a replacement?’ she directed her question at Mr Hawkins.
‘I have someone in mind. A current employee.’ Mr Hawkins turned to Anna, ‘I would say a month, no more, Anna?’
‘A month is good.’ A rush of excitement had Anna almost jumping out of her chair. Stay calm, she cautioned herself.
‘Welcome to the team.’ Each one at the table congratulated her. It was then Anna realised the job was hers. ‘There are two procedures within the recruitment process we will have to complete, a security and medical check. As you have been working for Argyle thirteen years, I don’t foresee any problems.’
‘I wouldn’t think so. I’m Australian born and bred, no police trouble and healthy.’ Anna hoped the tremble in her voice was seen as excitement and not fear. Would they discover her counselling sessions and would these affect her chances?
The rest of the evening was a blur. The following afternoon Anna found herself back at the front door of her parent’s home.
‘Hi Mum’n Dad.’ Anna’s parents were in the kitchen.
‘Happy birthday for yesterday love. I hope last night’s dinner was worth giving up dinner with your parents.’ Anna’s Dad kissed her on the cheek.
‘Dinner with top management from Argyle Diamond Mine…they offered me a job as Human Resources Manager.’
‘Aren’t you the HR Manager already?’
‘Not in East Kimberley…this job’s at the mine.’
Anna sensed rather than heard the disapproval from both parents.
‘East Kimberley? That’s a long way from home.’ Anna’s father put a protective arm around his wife.
‘It’s a huge opportunity. Human Resources Manager at Argyle Diamond Mine. It’s for two years. I get holidays every six months. You could come and visit.’ Anna looked at her mother. She appeared frozen to the floor. ‘I’ve accepted the position. I thought you’d be excited for me.’
‘You’re right Anna,’ her father said, ‘It’s your decision.’
Anna looked between her parents. There was something in their expressions she didn’t understand. A knowing look she was not privy too.
‘I’ll get dinner ready.’ Her mother turned back to the stove.
Anna disappeared upstairs to her old bedroom while her mother prepared dinner…the familiarity mildly comforting. She found some of her belongings from high school…her books, boxes of letters, all stacked in the cupboard. She dragged out an old box and sat on the bed. Inside were her diaries. The first one she found was from 1997, her final school year.
Even then she questioned her identity. Her diary was full of thoughts and strange feelings of being disconnected from her parents and relatives.
She found another diary, stuck down the side of the box…dated 1998. The year she turned eighteen. The year her parents told her she was adopted. The year adoption laws changed.
October 1998, her parents took her to Bali for her birthday. While there they asked her to sign some documents. Did they think she would simply sign them without asking any questions? Would they have told her if the laws didn’t change?
She signed the papers not wanting to hurt them. She ticked the box refusing any contact with her birth parents. She suppressed all feelings, pushing them as far down in her heart as possible. To be told she was adopted answered many questions. Why she didn’t look like any of her cousins. Why she loved so many things her parents knew nothing about. Why there were times she couldn’t relate to her parents and why she felt they were keeping secrets from her.
But in signing the papers she knew the life defining questions like…who was her mother…who was her father…where was she born…would never be answered. That evening she sat alone on Kuta beach and cried for her lost birth mother and her own lost life.
Now twelve years later her circumstances were changed. With the help of her counsellor she identified the reason behind her anxieties. Her next step would be to contact the adoption department and reverse her original authority. Before she left for Kununurra she would begin the search for her birth mother and father.
‘Dinner’s on the table Anna,’ her mother called from the kitchen.
It was her favourite meal, but tonight she ate little. Her parents presented her with a beautiful gold and emerald tree of life necklace. The symbolic nature of interconnectedness of all life was not lost on Anna.
The next month saw Anna undergo her medical examination and federal security clearance. She was never asked, so never proffered, information on her counselling. She trained her replacement and cleaned and packed her unit. Some things would stay in Perth. The rest would go to her new apartment in Kununurra.
The day before Anna left, while stacking boxes in her parent’s attic, she came across a small grey box, securely sealed. With dust caked on four corners Anna could see it had been there a long time, possibly forgotten. Her name was on the outside, written in her mothers handwriting. She threw the box in her car. She would open it in Kununurra.
‘Anna, remember we’re just a phone call away.’
‘Thanks Dad. I’ll call when I arrive. Don’t forget I’m on email.’ She didn’t want them to see her upset so kissed them both and turned to leave. Her mother began to sniffle and she could see a tear in her father’s eye.
‘Take care, if you need anything, call us.’
‘I’ll be fine Dad.’ She grabbed her belongings walked through the gate, and waved one last time.
The flight was a couple of hours. There would be plenty of time to read the information given to her by the recruitment officer. Anna took her seat beside an older gentleman…his face buried in the West Australian. Before long the plane was pushing back from the gate.
Two and a half hours into the flight, as the hostess announced their descent into Kununurra, the man beside her spoke.
‘I see you work at Argyle.’
Anna turned, surprised by his remark and South African accent.
‘Yes, I’ve been working in Perth. I’m moving to Kununurra and will be the new Human Resources Manager at the mine. Do you work there also?’
‘Thirty years ago…today I consult. I’m a geologist.’
‘Thirty years…you must have been involved in the original diamond discovery?’
‘October ‘79.’ His voice was a soft whisper. He glanced out the window. He seemed to be searching deep inside for a memory long forgotten.
‘I’ve wanted to come here for years. Our office in Perth has some beautiful paintings of Purnululu and the Kimberley area. Is it as wild and colourful as the artists paintings?’
‘The colours and its people are unique. Make sure you get out and see it all. The experience will last a lifetime. I’ll be at Argyle for a few weeks myself. We may run into one another. My name is David King.’
Anna took his hand and smiled. ‘Anna Parsons.’
‘Well Anna.’ There was a momentary silence as he turned in his seat and studied her face. Anna removed her hand embarrassed by the man’s scrutiny. ‘I hope the Kimberley’s live up to your expectations.’
‘I’m sure they will.’
‘Please ensure your tray tables are secure, your seatbacks are upright and your seatbelts securely fastened for landing,’ the hostess announced.
David was gone before Anna reached the baggage carousel.
‘Hi. You must be Anna.’ He was tall, about her age.
‘Umm, yes, and you’re?’
‘Peter Sampson, I’m here to pick you up. This yours?’ he pointed to the bags around her.
The drive to the apartment took twenty minutes. Peter did most of the talking, detouring through town and pointing out the local supermarket, pubs, art galleries and cafes. The apartment complex was within walking distance of town centre.
‘If you feel like some company tonight, a few of us are going to the local Chinese restaurant. We’re meeting out front at 6pm. It will be a chance for you to meet everyone.’ Peter placed her bags just inside the door.
‘I’ll see how I feel once I’ve unpacked, but sounds good. Thanks again.’
Alone at last, Anna wandered through the unit checking out the facilities and view from her balcony. This month had been a roller coaster of strange emotions and huge changes. She gave her parents a call to let them know she was fine.
Her boxes from home had been sent earlier. They had been neatly stacked in the small lounge. She spent the afternoon unpacking and at six was out front to meet the rest of the group.
‘Glad you could make it,’ Peter said as he introduced her.
The evening went well. Peter was a perfect host and she was welcomed into the group. All worked at the mine and would be returning with her on Monday.
‘Thanks for a great evening,’ Anna said as they reached her unit.
The following morning Anna finished unpacking. Later she strolled into town to buy some groceries.
‘Hi Anna how are you going?’ Peter was doing his own shopping.
‘Great, doing some shopping myself. This town is so friendly. Everywhere I walk people smile, say hello, almost like they know me.’
‘Not used to such a pretty woman.’ They walked home together.
Monday morning, Anna along with her new friends, boarded the bus bound for Argyle. A three hour trip down the Great Northern Highway gave the new friends time to get acquainted, laugh and tell stories about their other lives.
‘I sat beside David King on my flight from Perth.’ Anna said.
‘Didn’t he find diamonds here in 1979?’
‘Yes, his profile was on the Argyle website. South African, came here early ’79, married a part aboriginal woman. He went home to South Africa late 1980 and came back eight years ago. He is consulting for the mine. Wow!’ Anna stopped talking, momentarily lost for words. ‘That boab is huge.’
‘Yes, they grow that big here.’
‘Can we stop for a photo?’
The bus driver pulled over so Anna could take her photo…ten minutes later they were back on the highway. The heat of the early morning felt oppressive and exhausting. Soon the chattering and shuffling of the group ceased, as everyone took advantage of the long trip and caught up on some sleep.
Only Anna remained awake. Lost in the beauty of the passing landscape she thought about her parents, her new job and the letter she sent to the adoption agency. As a new employee, Anna was shown to the main office while the rest went off to their accommodation. The HR Manager Anna was replacing would still be working for the next three weeks. There was a lot for Anna to learn.
She found herself crawling into bed each night after 9pm totally exhausted. She managed to catch up with Peter and the others a couple of nights for dinner and even managed to attend a quiz night, held as a fundraiser for the local communities.
‘Are you ready to go back to Kununurra tomorrow.’ Peter and Anna sat around a table in the recreational room.
‘Yes! I so need to catch up on some sleep.’
‘Hello Anna.’ It was David King.
‘Hi Mr King I wondered if I’d see you here.’ Peter left to find his friends. He glanced back, his forehead creased to a frown.
‘I’m heading back to Kununurra tomorrow, by light plane.’
‘Oh, good for some,’ Anna said smiling.
‘It’s all about age. How are you settling in?’
‘Good thanks. Lots to learn and do.’
‘I imagine there would be.’
For the first time since meeting David on the plane, Anna was able to see his face, take in his features under a bright light. A strange shiver engulfed her from head to toe.
‘Are you feeling a bit cool,’ David asked.
‘No, I’m fine.’ She brought her thoughts back to the present. ‘Will you be flying on to Perth?’
‘No, I’ll be in Kununurra for the weekend to catch up with friends. Monday I fly to Warmun Community Centre. If you have some free time maybe you would like to come. I’ll be there two days. It would be good for your work.’
‘I’d like that. Isn’t that where we recruit some of our staff?’
‘Yes that’s right. Do you live at the company apartments in Barrington Avenue?’
‘Yes No. 4.’
‘I’ll pick you up Monday morning around 8.30am. Bring some old clothes and boots.’
‘Okay. Sounds great. Thanks for the invitation.’
‘Have a safe trip back.’ David left, leaving Anna bewildered and delighted at the prospect of visiting a real Aboriginal community. She went to find her friends.
‘Guys, I’m off to bed. Early start in the morning.’
‘So that was David King the famous diamond explorer.’ Peter asked.
‘Yes, he offered to take me to Warmun Community Centre on Monday.’
Anna said goodnight. Had she looked back, she would have seen the puzzled expressions on her friends’ faces as they stared from her to David, who had stopped to talk to an acquaintance.
On her return to Kununurra, Anna called her parents. They weren’t home so she left a message.
Sunday morning she stood in the mall contemplating a cup of coffee. An old man came up to her.
‘You Lizzie’s girl. Where you been?’
‘Sorry you must be mistaken, my name’s Anna.’
‘No mistake. You Lizzie’s girl all right.’
‘You ok Anna?’ It was Peter. ‘Off you go mate. Leave the lady alone.’ Peter’s manner was friendly but firm.
The old man wandered off muttering, ‘Lizzie’s girl. No doubt about it.’
‘What’s he going on about?’ Peter asked.
‘No idea.’ Anna felt visibly shaken. ‘I’ve got to get groceries.’
‘I’ll wait here and walk you home.’
Peter walked Anna back to her apartment.
‘Will you be alright?’
‘Yes thanks. I have to pack for my trip and make a few calls.’
‘Give me a yell if you need some company.’
As Anna put her groceries away, the old man’s words replayed in her head. What did he mean ‘Lizzie’s girl’?
Distracted by these thoughts she stood looking across the road. A flock of white cockatoos screeched to a halt on the power line connected to her unit. Their sound brought her back to the now. Turning, she saw the box from her parents’ attic sitting on the sideboard. Now would be a good time to open it, she thought, a distraction from today’s events. Sometime later she tried her parents again. No answer. Why didn’t they have a mobile?
Anna was up early. She waited for David and wondered what she would say. The drive to the airport was twenty minutes.
‘Do you know much about Warmun Community?’ David asked as they drove onto the main road.
‘My wife Lizzie was born there. We met when I was searching for diamonds. She followed me from the Mitchell Plateau airstrip. Barefoot, wild and beautiful. I didn’t know she was there. She was standing behind a rock formation at Cattle Creek.’
Anna could only see his profile. Sitting in the car, eyes straight ahead she was reluctant to turn and face him. His voice faltered, barely a whisper, he said, ‘I believe she’d decided to let me see her. You’re quiet. Is everything all right?’
She steeled herself. Being here was her destiny. She knew this for certain. Coming to Kununurra and Argyle where in her life’s plan…just as sitting beside David King on the flight from Perth was. The pieces of her life were coming together. Questions were being answered. But the one question she didn’t think would ever be answered was, why. Why was she adopted?
‘Why did you give me up?’
David looked straight ahead.
‘I couldn’t look after you.’
‘So you adopted me out instead. What about Lizzie’s family?’
‘When I arrived back in town, Mary and Jim Parsons were already looking after you. They begged me to sign the adoption papers.’
‘What do you mean? My parents were never in Kununurra’
‘Your adoptive parents, Mary and Jim, were Lizzie’s and my friends. They lived here and worked on the Ord River Scheme.’
‘Stop the car!’
David pulled off to the side of the road. Anna jumped out…there was nowhere to go. ‘Anna please.’ David stood beside the car as Anna paced up and down
‘Go on, I’m listening.’
‘I looked into your records when I arrived here two weeks ago. When I saw who your parents were, I knew, although the papers said you were adopted in Perth. I don’t know how, they must have changed the details.’
‘Are you saying my parents adopted me here in Kununurra?’
‘Yes. When I first saw you on the plane, there was something about you. I couldn’t work out what. Then when you introduced yourself…when I got to Argyle I found my photos of Lizzie. You could be twins.’
‘I don’t understand. The papers I found said I was born in Kununurra. My mother, Lizzie Jacobs, died in labour. You were listed as my father. My place of adoption was Perth. There is nothing about my adoptive parents living here.’
‘Do you want the truth?’
‘How do I know what you’re saying is the truth?’
‘Come with me to Warmun and meet your grandmother, aunts and cousins. You don’t have to believe me.’
Anna stared at David. ‘I have a grandmother…aunts, cousins?’
She was standing at the passenger door. David at the driver’s side. A sob escaped her, her chest heaving with the enormity of his words. ‘All this time,’ she said, ‘all this time I was never alone.’
‘They know about you. One of Lizzie’s cousins saw you in town. He told them you would be visiting soon. They are waiting.’
‘We have a plane to catch.’
‘Can I tell you about Lizzie?’ David asked as they got back in the car.
‘We met at Kowinji, Cattle Creek early 1979. She belonged to the Gidja tribe. Tall, long dark curly hair, large brown eyes and a laugh that was infectious. We married in 1980 and lived in Kununurra.’ he paused.
‘Within the year Lizzie was pregnant. Everything went well but a month before you were due I was called to Smoke Creek. Lizzie experienced problems during the birth. In 1980 there weren’t many doctors in Kununurra and even fewer who cared about the welfare of a pregnant half-caste.’ David stopped and Anna stole a glance across the car. ‘Her brother came and found me. They took her to Warmun Community for a traditional burial.’
Anna looked straight ahead, fresh tears streamed down her face.
‘After the burial I went back to Kununurra to see you. Mary and Jim had offered to look after you while Lizzies family took her for burial. I was devastated. How could I look after a baby?’ he was quiet for a while.
‘I didn’t think I could leave you with Lizzie’s family. There were already too many. Lizzie’s father had died. Half caste children were often removed from their homes and sent away. When I arrived at Kununurra Mary and Jim were the happiest I had seen them for years. You were so tiny. I could see they loved you.’
‘But you were my father.’ Anna said quietly.
‘They wanted to adopt you. They promised to give you a happy and loving home. They promised to stay in Kununurra. They said I could watch you grow.’
‘I wrote a letter to give my consent to the adoption. It was signed and witnessed by a Justice of the Peace, so it was official. I went back to Smoke Creek for two months. When I came home you were gone.’
Anna’s mobile began to ring. Checking the phone screen she could see it was home. She took the call.
‘Hi Anna. Sorry we missed your call.’
‘Mum, I’m here with David King.’ Silence filled the void. ‘When were you going to tell me?’
‘Never! Telling you, you were adopted was hard enough. Your father and I fought for months before we went to Bali.’ her mother cried. ‘I didn’t want to tell you but he insisted. You’re our daughter. That man never came looking for you.’
‘I’m going Mum. I’ll talk to you and Dad soon.’
‘Come home Anna. You don’t belong there,’ her mother pleaded.
‘It seems I belong here more than anywhere else in the world,’ Anna said saddened by her mother’s words. She hung up.
‘I’m sorry Anna, I tried to stay away but I couldn’t. You’re so much like your mother, beautiful and smart.’
‘Now I know what that old man in town meant.’
‘Lizzie’s cousin, Gari.’
‘He called me ‘Lizzie’s girl’…wanted to know where I’d been.’
As they pulled into the airport David said. ‘Your grandmother has been waiting since I called her Friday. She is very excited.’ They stepped out of the car, father and daughter, the Kimberley ranges in the distance. White cockatoos screeched their welcome as new life awakened among the varied shades of reds and blue.
‘My family. I have a family.’ Anna’s smile came from her heart.