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