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Return to Warruwi

By Heather Hewett

On a typical pre-wet October day in 1957, "Sheppie's" (Rev Harold Shepherdson) plane landed on the little landing strip next to the small settlement on Warruwi. I was a very excited passenger arriving to take up the position of nurse, and before long I
was established in the "Sister's Cottage" with Rae Reese the teacher.

I had come to Warruwi with the desire to learn Maung and had attended Summer School of Linguistics to learn how to write down the sound system and grammar of a language. This was very helpful to me. During my time as a nurse (1957-66)
it was a great joy, in off-duty time, to go fishing and food gathering with the ladies and to sit with them while they were making baskets. M. Sagiba, Ngalwalun, Miriam Kris, Mondalmi, Meiyawaidba and other ladies all happily helped me to learn to speak Maung.

In 1966 I was set aside to work on the language and to begin bible translation. Philip Ambidjambidj, Peggy Mirwuma, M. Sagiba, and Nita Garidjalalug all worked with me in linguistic and translation work during that time.

In 1975 I married Ray Hewett and continued to work in linguistics and translation until 1979 when Ray and I left Warruwi and settled in Western Australia. After Ray's death I moved to Horsham, Victoria, and settled into life in the local church and community.

Then, quite unexpectedly, in January 2009 I received a letter from Rev Lindsay Parkhill, Frontier Services Patrol Officer Western Arnhem Land. Rosemary Urabadi and Nancy Nganmindjalmag were working on bible translation. Would I like to take part as a back translator (into English)? I was very happy and got in touch with Lindsay to say, "Yes!"

Since then I have been able to visit Warruwi again. It just seemed like a wonderful dream to land on the modern bituminized airport, to meet up with those who were waiting and greet friends I hadn't seen for many years. We drove into the community where there is lovely new store and craft centre and clinic.  On Sunday evening we gathered together in the church and again it was wonderful to meet up with others I had known in the past. 

Since then I’ve been part of several workshops in Darwin where Nancy and Rosemary began translation of the book of Mark, and on Warruwi where Rosemary and Nancy and Sandra translated from Kunwinjku into Maung with input from Elizabeth
and Annie, Kunwinjku speakers. 

“Ngapi ngamin marrmarrr mira ta ngamurnanganinyka ngatjama ngatjirtiki God nuyu ja jurra.”
“I am very happy that I’ve come back (and that) we are helping each other (as) we work on God’s Word.”
Heather Hewett