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Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Mission, Port Keats | Docherty, Mission, Keats, Port, Ngunima, Kolumboort, Darwin, Wife | FATSILC, Fed. Aboriginal Torres Strait Island Languages and Culture
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Mission, Port Keats PDF Print E-mail
In 1934 the government approached Bishop Gsell about the possibility of establishing a Mission in the Port Keats area. Bishop Gsell turned to Fr. Richard Docherty to lead a survey of the area to find the most suitable site.

Fr. Docherty went and spoke with some of the Aboriginal people from Port Keats, who were living in Darwin at the time.The people were happy with the idea.

In September 1934 Fr. Docherty sailed with three men, Madjindi, Wardirdy and Ngunima to what is now known as Docherty Island. There they met four men, Thurnthurn, Nalpu, Kampurt and Ngarlbuk.These men could not understand English, so Madjindi, Wardirdy and Ngunima explained that Fr. Docherty would like to come and establish a settlement in the area if they agreed.They said that Fr. Docherty was their friend and not to be feared like the Policeman.

Everyone agreed with the idea, and they spent two weeks searching for a suitable area to establish the Mission.An area for a permanent Mission could not be found, so a temporary site was selected atWentek Nganaiyi.This site is now commonly known as Old Mission. Banana and coconut trees were planted to establish the gardens, and tools were left with the people.

Fr. Docherty and the others said goodbye and told the group they would return after the wet season. He reported back to Bishop Gsell and was then instructed to make preparations for the establishment of the Mission.

In 1935 the final arrangements were being made in Darwin, and there was a mountain of equipment to be loaded onto the boats for the journey to Port Keats. Kolumboort, one of the Murrinh-Patha Elders, had been hoping to go on the boats, but seeing the size of the load he said to Fr. Docherty "There is no room for us, so we will have to walk in the lead!" The trip would be around 300 kilometres.

The group that walked back to Port Keats included Kolumboort, his wives and children - Rosie who was about five years old, and the infant Jean Marie. Ngunima had his wife Yilwa with him.Yilwa had been married to Tchula, but didn't like him and eloped with Ngunima in 1934 on the boat to Darwin with Fr. Docherty. Wagon Tjimari was with his wife, Nora Wenna. They were living at the place called Piyirt.Also in the group was the Elder Bunduck and his family.

Together, they all awaited the return of Fr.Docherty, their Aboriginal friends and relations who were with him on the boats.
When the Mission was established, and the people had moved in, Fr. Docherty noticed that his friends Ngunima and Yilwa were missing. He learned that Ngunima had died and Yilwa had been taken by another man as his wife. Br. Quinn and some men travelled by small boat to Tchindi, to negotiate the return ofYilwa.

A deal was agreed upon, and she returned with Br. Quinn to the Mission. She later became the wife of Jackie Marlunth. Oral history audio tapes from Fr. Docherty, his cofounder of the Mission, Harry Luke Palada Kolumboort and other Aboriginal people, give their account of the founding of the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Mission, Port Keats. The Mission was relocated to its present site in 1939.

Kolumboort's eldest son, Harry Luke Palada was a young married man who had been to school in Darwin. Harry was a good English speaker, and Fr. Docherty's best friend. He always translated what was said for the people. Karramanhi Lawrence Kolumboort, pictured on the cover, is the son of Kolumboort and brother of Harry Luke Palada.

Wadeye meets Japan in eye opening tour.

THE initiative of managers of a small cultural museum in Japan led to a five week tour of the country by members of the Wadeye community. Basil Parmbuk, Colin Warnir, Richard Tcherna and Gregory Munar, took the culture of the Port Keats area to a wide cross section of the Japanese community as they travelled from big cities to small villages throughout the country. The cultural exchange tour was arranged by the Japanese Mithila Museum.