National Geographic : 1986 Jan
it from both sides. But I speak in honesty when I say it is too soon for us to do it alone." There is a canteen in Kowanyama, and that, Maude Fraser said, is the cause of many of the problems on the reserve. As chairwoman of the council, she pushed through a ruling limiting sales of beer to five cans per person except on Friday. "On Fri day," she said, "they can have six." It has been estimated that one-third of the community's total income is spent for drink. In one six-night period the canteen had gross sales amounting to $47,000. Patrick Eric is an old man who sits for most of the day in the shade of the veranda of his house on the reserve, smoking a pipe with no stem (he draws on the stub of the bowl) and waving flies away from his face. A crocodile mangled one of his legs when he was young, and now he walks with alimp. "I worked at a cattle station for 30 years," he told me. "My last drive was in 1950, and I haven't been on a horse since." It was a Friday when we talked, and the old man said that was good because it would be a six-beer night at the canteen. "Last night was good too," he added. He laughed easily in the manner of so many elderly Ab originals who have the facility for turning a casual encounter into a friendship. Patrick's eyes were hidden in the shadows of his hat a fine hat baked in hot sunlight until faded and limp. It was high crowned, and the brim rolled around his ears and brow like a skirt lifted in the wind. Stained and torn, it was a headpiece of character, not simply a hat, but a hat, a Legionnaire's kepi, a knight's casque, Yasser Arafat's kaffiyeh. Such hats are worn by Queenslanders like medals for service in the bush. Sometimes they are hung with bits of cork dangling on strings to keep the flies away. However, the major purpose of the hat is to provide pro tection against the north Australian sun. Nothing so marks the fool in Queensland as a head bared to the skies. Long before there was a Kowanyama re serve, this part of Queensland was at the Little hope can be offered to a woman of Kowanyama by Dr. Geoff McDonald (left), a visiting governmentphysician. She is dying of cancer,yet seems impervious to pain. Socialills stem from the reserve's canteen, where constable David Kitchener keeps order (right).Beer sales swallow one thirdof the community's income, even with a daily limit on the amount each customer may buy. Jobs are painfullyfew for Kowanyama's nearly 1,000 residents; some work as seasonal stockmen. Politics whipsaw Queensland's indigenouspeoples, who number more than 50,000, the highest state total.Federalpolicies promotefree title to traditional native lands-anominous prospectto the state, which seeks to keep its Aboriginalsand Torres Strait islandersas leaseholders. Themselves divided, some demand their rights,while others believe they are not readyfor them.