Eastern Guruma elder made the Pilbara his own

Hughes familyPilbara News
Pilbara sunset.
Camera IconPilbara sunset. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Prominent Eastern Guruma Elder, Nelson Hughes died at Karratha Hospital late last month, aged 96.

Nelson was born on June 15, 1923, at Brockman Station to Pidgee and Sandy Hicks.

He was the eldest brother to Johnson, Jackson, Bedford, Dempsey and Tony. All are dead now except for maybe Bedford who was taken away by the Native Welfare Department in the 1940s.

When he was a young boy the old people gave him his name Bulliwynbungu.

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Nelson lived most of his life at Hamersley Station with his mother, the station cook and his father, a station all- rounder and a dogger.

Schooling was non-existent on the stations back then. He started working at Hamersley at age 11, shoeing horses.

On the station he learnt how to muster sheep and cattle, fix machinery and maintain equipment, and would also go dogging.

Nelson met wife Mary Smith and they had 11 children — most of them born at and around Hamersley Station.

He was a cultural man who passed on his knowledge of Eastern Guruma lore and culture to his family and other Eastern Guruma people. He taught his sons and grandsons about the land — where to get bush tucker, bush medicines, and about special important sites where they should and shouldn’t go.

In the 1980s after 60 years of living and working on Hamersley station, new owners took over and his employment ended, so he moved to Karratha.

His last wish was to return home to Hamersley Station and with the help and assistance of Rio Tinto, this wish was granted.

His funeral was held on April 14 at Hamersley. His grave is under a tree overlooking the station. A large number of people from around the State attended the funeral.

His eldest daughter, Sue Boyd described her father as a caring man who played a big part in the determination of native title rights for the Eastern Guruma people.

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