LOOK­ING BACK: ROSLYN PORT

Aunty Roslyn is a proud Yalanji woman who has contributed to the Moss­man com­mu­nity over many years, as Moya Stevens dis­cov­ered

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

I would walk around the streets in Moss­man and make sure there were no chil­dren out of school.” “And if there were some peo­ple play­ing up, I would send them back home

Meet­ing with Roslyn Port (nee Cobb) for the first time, her ready smile is most ev­i­dent. She has a quiet con­fi­dence which comes with age and ex­pe­ri­ence.

Roslyn, born in 1945, was one of 10 chil­dren born to Flory and Sandy Cobb in Dain­tree. Her child­hood brings back very fond mem­o­ries of camp­ing, fish­ing and school.

“We didn’t have any power at home but us kids still had a great time grow­ing up,” Roslyn said.

“We would swim and fish in the (Dain­tree) river – there were no crocs there in our time,” she ex­plained.

Her fa­ther worked on cat­tle sta­tions where he helped clear the land and muster the cat­tle, while her mother worked as a do­mes­tic in the homes in the town­ship. Her fa­ther later worked at the but­ter fac­tory.

“Dain­tree was a great place, the peo­ple were warm and friendly and we had a lot of fun,” Roslyn said, “and on week­ends and school hol­i­days the fam­ily would all go camp­ing.”

The Port fam­ily would hop in their dinghy and go down to the river mouth and camp, gath­er­ing mug­gierg (fresh wa­ter mus­sels) and catch­ing barra and bream.

“Mum would wrap the fish in ba­nana or gin­ger leaves and we’d cook it un­der­ground,” Roslyn ex­plained, “and she would also cook damper.”

“We would gather berries and nuts from around the bush – it was a re­ally good life.”

“I some­times visit Dain­tree now and catch up with peo­ple I knew from school which is lovely.”

At the age of 14, Roslyn left school and worked around Dain­tree and later in Cairns as a do­mes­tic and then trav­elled to Dim­bu­lah on the Ather­ton Table­land, work­ing with cousins in the to­bacco sheds.

When Roslyn come home to Dain­tree on vis­its, some of her sib­lings would go with her on the bus into Moss­man, go­ing to the Show and the movies.

“We used to watch John Wayne movies and I still love west­erns,” she said.

When work­ing in Cairns, Roslyn met Jim Port and she mar­ried him in 1972 at St David’s in Moss­man. Jim worked for the then PMG depart­ment and would travel away dur­ing the week and re­turn on week­ends.

“Jim stood out from the other men – he was a real gen­tle­man,” she said.

Roslyn raised three boys, Aaron, Ja­son and Steven, and two girls, Car­lene and Mary Ann.

Her in­volve­ment with com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties be­gan when she lived in Wu­jal Wu­jal where she worked as a Po­lice Com­mu­nity Li­ai­son Of­fi­cer for five years. A va­cancy was ad­ver- tised for the same po­si­tion in Moss­man and she was suc­cess­ful in her ap­pli­ca­tion.

“I re­ally loved that job,” she ex­plained, “and I would walk around the streets in Moss­man and make sure there were no chil­dren out of school.”

“And if there were some peo­ple play­ing up, I would send them back home.”

Af­ter al­most 4 years in that job, Roslyn had a knee op­er­a­tion which re­sulted in her fin­ish­ing with the po­lice depart­ment.

As a par­ent, Roslyn was adamant that her chil­dren knew the Yalanji ways of sur­viv­ing in the bush, and would take them camp­ing, teach­ing them about bush tucker.

“It is im­por­tant that we pass on our knowl­edge of good food and poi­sonous food to our chil­dren should they need it as a backup for sur­vival,” she said.

Roslyn was taught the Yalanji lan­guage by her pa­ter­nal grand­par­ents and has con­tin­ued this tra­di­tion by teach­ing not only her own chil­dren but many in the com­mu­nity. She has been asked by the pri­mary and high schools and St Au­gus­tine’s in Moss­man, as well as the pri­marly schools in Miallo, Dain­tree and Cow Bay to hold Yalanji lan­guage lessons for both In­dige­nous and white chil­dren as well as at the Moss­man Gorge Com­mu­nity.

“It is im­por­tant that our lan­guage is taught as it re­lates to much of our cul­ture,” she ex­plained, “and I would take the adults and chil­dren on bush walks, gath­er­ing food and cook, us­ing our lan­guage.”

“It is very im­por­tant for the el­ders to pass on our cul­ture to the next gen­er­a­tion.”

Hav­ing spent most of her life in the Shire, Roslyn says the Moss­man com­mu­nity is a good and healthy place for her chil­dren and their chil­dren to live.

“I have 13 grand­chil­dren and three great grand­chil­dren,” she proudly said, “but sadly my son Steven passed away three years ago af­ter an asthma at­tack.”

With the help of fam­ily and friends, Roslyn is re­cov­er­ing from the tragedy of los­ing a child and re­mains a happy and grate­ful woman. “I have a happy life,” she said, “as I had no real prob­lems with my kids.

“Peo­ple say I’m al­ways smil­ing, and I sup­pose that’s just my way. Roslyn, be­ing an El­der, is well re­spected by many in the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Known to most as ‘Aunty’ and to many as ‘Mum Rose’, her pos­i­tive in­flu­ence is an as­set to the Yalanji peo­ple, Moss­man and the district.

Pic­ture: MOYA STEVENS

Roslyn Port: “Peo­ple say I’m al­ways smil­ing”

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