I lived and worked briefly (10 weeks) in Papunya in 1978 and then later on at Galiwinku (Elcho Island) for approx 4 years 1978-1981 doing community recreation work with the YMCA (starting as an 18-19 year old). So the Warumpi Band has (and still does) always held a special place for me linking my formative experiences in those two place. It was in this context that I’d known George – the lead singer of the Warumpi Band i.e. at Elcho Island – though we weren’t close friends as such. I also had met – prior to meeting George – his (at that time not yet designated) wife-to-be Suzina from my brief time at Papunya.
Sometime in the late 1990’s just after an Australia Day/Survival Day I was passing through Sydney airport, returning from an overseas work trip. Whilst walking from my arrival to gate to where I would catch my connecting flight I happen to cross paths with George. Neil Murray and the other current members of the Warumpi Band at the time were sitting further back in the waiting area. I hadn’t seen George to talk with since I’d departed Elcho Island i.e. possibly some 15 years earlier (although I had been to a Warumpi Band concert at ANU sometime in 1993-1994 and may have spoken with him briefly then).
Anyway, George looks up and recognises me, “Gidday William” he says nonchalantly (as though we saw each other every day). I said “Hi George, How is it going?” “You missed our big concert” replied George “We just played at a big Survival Day concert. It was great.” “Did you George, that’s good. Sorry I missed it.”
And then for some perverse reason (perhaps so I could tell this story for the years to come) I decided that the essence of our communication had occurred and that anything further would risk tainting or diluting the moment so I finished off the conversation with ” Good to see you George” or words to that effect and kept heading towards where I had to catch my connecting flight!
That was the last time I saw George in person.