Elke speaks again of her mistakes in working with the Aboriginal community, how once an older lady of a nomadic group, a desert woman, fell sick and was admitted to hospital. As with hospital etiquette, you gotta take a shower most mornings but this lady wildly fought Elke as she tried to bathe her. Elke said in hindsight, it was probably because she saw such use of water as a waste. Think of it, to roam the desert for generations, water takes on a higher significance and its scarcity is the line between life and death. To have then buckets of this precious thing wasted on your thigh or head, every other morning, just because it is what is done... But Elke describes something further, she says that as she eventually got her way and began to wash this old woman's body, she realised she was remoing layers, years of the finest dust and honey mixture used to protect the lady' skin against the harsh desert climate. 'Beneath' says Elke, 'lay the softest and most beautiful skin I have ever seen'.
The following morning, over breakfast, I ask Elke about her work promoting health in the mining world of Western Australia. The laboures are very lowly skilled or qualified. The managers do no want people who can think, they want people who can press a button over and over again in the glaring heat and not ask any question, not complicate things, just do. The kinds of people then, tend to be less educated and they quarrel and fight and drink like fountains. Her job is to sail in and teach these sun drenched men how to look after themselves, how to think. She does it using the arts, she creates plays, stories, songs, theatre, interactive, playful ways of learning and she is one of the very few doing something like this in western Oz. She has won awards for her Helathy and Safety Campaigns, but, she says, the companies are apalling.
These men earn up to $100,000 dollars a year, but treated as if disposable. If they get any sort of injury they are fired, so they never complain, never report, just work and work till they burn out. Our breakfast is light with olives, goats cheese, croissants, hot cups of tea and fruit spread out evenly between us, the relentless good weather sprawling in from the window. However what descends on us is morbid sense of how life is treated here and in parts of the west world. We lift the individual over the group and celebrate that individuality and mourn the loss of a single life, yet, with as much gusto, we belittle and cripple individuals and cast them aside till men are treated as beasts. They are opposing ideas that tug against each other. I think how things will fall apart, the centre will not hold and else something changes, mere anarchy will be loosened on the world.