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Story: When we left the Gold Coast of Australia for the desert we tried not to base our expectations on the warnings we’d been given. Take plenty of water out there with you, an extra jerry can of fuel in the back, a baseball bat if you’ve got one and make sure you lock your doors when you get to The Alice. One mechanic’s wife even suggested keeping a couple of jars of ground pepper in the glove box, to chuck in the faces of any bushmen angling for a good time.

The Australian outback is brutal and never more so than in the heat of summer in a ute with a broken air conditioning unit. Once the fertile coast was far far behind us we rolled down the windows and watched the road turn red. It took us four days to cross Queensland, stopping along the way for gas, sleep, bags of ice and jumps into local swimming pools when we were lucky. By the third day all the creeks we passed had run dry, the cattle farms vacant. We played ‘spot the dead kangaroo’ until we lost count.

While little seems to thrive on the surface of this harsh lunar-desert landscape, there are butterflies and electric storms in the air, opal fields and coal abundant below ground. At Devil’s Marbles we read about the myths of the rainbow serpent and allegories of children who were called into the shadows. For many remote aboriginal communities – a further 500km or so from Alice Springs – the outback is home and they continue to live in harmony with the land. By the time we made it to The Alice we’d collected a few more warnings. But these remote communities are the ones who are truly under threat today as questions concerning land ownership and the rights of indigenous people fly back and forth like boomerangs, rarely landing on a solution.

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