The Josephite connection with the Gulf region of Far North Queensland began in the 1970s, when the church’s ministry was known as the Gulf Mission.
In the 1990s, the Gulf Mission became the Gulf Savannah Parish where I was ministering as the pastoral associate. Over the years, I have met and worked with many wonderful rural women who hold values that encourage and inspire. Sharon Prior, a Ewamian woman and General Manager of Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation (EAC), is one such woman.
Ewamian People are the traditional owners of some 29,000 square kilometres of land located in the northern Gulf of Carpentaria Savannah lands. Elders of the Ewamian cherished the dream of coming back to country from which their families were forcibly removed during European settlement. Though dispossessed, their descendants maintained physical and spiritual contact with country.
In 1994, the Ewamian People established the EAC (now Ewamian Limited) to support the lodgement of their native title claim, to provide services to the people and to develop sustainable economic, commercial and cultural opportunities for the future.
Connection to Ewamian land was identified and mapped over a period of many years because of the dedication and commitment of Elders, culminating in Native Title Determination being formally recognised by the federal court on 26 November 2013.
A priority of the EAC was to review options for the purchase of property on traditional country to provide a base for Ewamian people that could provide sustainable opportunities for the future. Talaroo Station, west of Mount Surprise, was chosen for its cultural importance. It is also the home of the Talaroo Hot Springs, a significant sacred asset for Ewamian People. Talaroo is a place to restore and maintain physical and spiritual connection. It is now managed as an Indigenous Protected Area and a Nature Refuge. Ewamian rangers based there manage the conservation and cultural values of the property.
EAC acquired funding through State and Commonwealth Government departments as well as corporate sponsorship to develop Talaroo Hot Springs as a world class eco and cultural tourism venture, which was officially opened on 13 August 2021. With the oversight of a Board of Directors representative of the community, Talaroo Hot Springs has become a successful tourist business but it is much more than that.
Sharon is “very proud of this great milestone we have achieved through the hard work and dedication of Ewamian People, our funders and stakeholders.” She is dedicated to upholding the corporation’s vision of creating value through partnerships and positive relationships with other businesses, pastoralists and stakeholders for the wellbeing of country and viability of the organisation.
Sharon grew up in Chillagoe in North Queensland. She is passionate about Talaroo, which is on the traditional country of her late mother, Bonnie Prior (nee Lacey). She hopes she has inspired the next generation to work hard so they may return and connect to their country.
For Sharon, “Talaroo Hot Springs is a place of healing and reconciliation, and we are inviting others to walk with us to share our story and the Talaroo Hot Springs story to achieve a deeper reconciliation between people, culture and place and experience the genuine hospitality that we have to offer. We don’t want to keep it to ourselves.”
Ewamian Aboriginal Corporation will host the first Women’s Wellness Retreat at Talaroo Hot Springs on the 15-17 October 2021.
Irene Harrison rsj