Stock Photography Lightboxes by David C Hancock
Aborginal Norforce Soldiers
Norforce soldiers patrol the northern shores of Australia - the group is a valuable reconnaissance unit of the Australian Army. More than 60 per cent of Norforce's soldiers are Aboriginal men and women who serve on a part-time basis. Technically, they are on duty all the time when in their communities, keeping watch for illegal entries and any other suspicious activities in remote locations.
Contemporary Australian Aboriginal art takes various forms - from painting on bark (mainly in the north) to temporary designs in the sand (of the Red Centre). Traditional designs, patterns and figures are committed to canvass while some designs proliferate on public buildings in many Aboriginal communities.
Aboriginal Bush Tucker
Aboriginal people of Australia have been harvesting native food, known as "bush tucker", for centuries. They continue to do so today. Many of the plants and animals they harvest have stories and play a ceremonial part of their everyday lives. Some foods, such as witchety grubs in central Australia, are vital to establishing healthy babies and young children. In the north, turtles, water lilies and yams play a major nutritious role.
Aboriginal Communities NT
Remote Aboriginal communities are spread right across the Northern Territory - in bushland and along the coast in Arnhem Land, in the central deserts and offshore islands. The small townships are dynamic areas with inhabitants who look after vast tracts of land as part of their traditional indigenous commitments. Outstations are at the heart of these land management obligations and essential for continuing culture.
Aboriginal Culture Dance
Australian Aboriginal people express themselves, their culture and their history through ceremonies that involve dance. Some of these ceremonies can go for hours, days or even weeks. Dance can celebrate a spiritual connection to the world or it may celebrate creatures or plants from daily life - such as the kangaroo or the yam. These ceremonies involve dances that have been handed down through generations of people and many are particular to specific clan groups.
Aboriginal Culture Painted
Australian Aboriginal people use various techniques to decorate their bodies for ceremonial occasions. Their bodies can be painted with natural clays and pigments or decorated with bush cotton. Sometimes elaborate headresses are created or feathers woven into long strands of string made from pandanus palm leaves.
Remote communities are serviced by dentists who fly in regularly to look at peoples' teeth. Dentists can be in a community for days or a week. Aboriginal people in many communities have severe dental problems and dentists work quickly to ensure they can arrest dental decay and work on some major issues such as abscesses and teeth that need to be extracted.
Aboriginal Education Pre & Primary
The most successful education programs for young indigenous children on remote communities involves aboriginal teachers, teaching aides, or parents who become directly involved with the programs.
Aboriginal Education Secondary/Tertiary
Indigenous education extends beyond communities - many courses are available at colleges at major centres and often teachers travel to communities to instruct students. More and more indigenous adults, particularly women, are undertaking mature education.
Aboriginal people work in a variety of businesses on their communities - from forestry projects to pastoral properties, mining and construction as well as running many of the day-to-day programs that keep their townships running smoothly.
Aboriginal Employment Construction
Over the past decade many jobs have been created in construction at communities in northern Australia: building houses and various community facilities, along with railway construction, road building and infrastructure for new subdivisions.
Aboriginal Employment Women
Aboriginal women work in a variety of roles in their home communities and large centres. Many work as interpreters, managers and administrators for large organisations and government, while others prefer to work outdoors as rangers or in nurseries gathering and growing native plants that are often used for revegetation projects.
Family groups out hunting, watching sport and looking after country. Often young children are taken out bush on trips to learn about clan dominions and the spiritual history of places from both sides of the family.
Aboriginal Fire Management
Just as they have for thousands of years, indigenous Australians use fire to management land and landscapes. Early season burns reduce the chance for late dry season wildfires that can devastate the land. Fire is used to clear land around rock art sites to ensure bigger late season fires don't damage the rock.
Aboriginal Health Community
Community health centres and initiatives such as child care and healthy eating programs do much to improve health on Aboriginal communities. Particular emphasis is put on the health of babies, children and the elderly
Aboriginal Health Hospital
Dedicated health teams working on mainly Aboriginal children at hospitals in the north of Australia. Many generic shots.
Aboriginal life is multi-faceted and varied. Between cultural commitments to look after country and family demands in terms of hunting and educating the young about the bush, many people spend much time away from communities. Hunting takes up time and many areas are still rich with wildlife.
Aboriginal Life Issues
Like all Australians, Aboriginal people are confronted by scores of issues daily. However, some issues really grab the attention of people on remote communities - funerals are one thing, also voting on polling day. When an Aboriginal person is elected to Parliament, many from the community and direct family come to town to celebrate in their own unique way. Religion is also a strong influence in many communities.
Aboriginal singers and bands are at the cutting edge of contemporary music in Australia. Many bands such as Yothu Yindi, Eastwind Journey and others hail from remote communities and include traditional instruments such as yidaki (didgeridu) and bilma (clapsticks) in their performances. Music attracts many young people and the industry is a large source of employment.
Aboriginal people play a substantial role in contemporary Australian society, particularly in the political arena. many of them are active in the areas of Land Rights, Stolen Generation and racial equality. Others continue to hold their own culture strong so indigenous youth have a vibrant culture as a foundation for their lives.
Aboriginal rangers undertake a variety of land management work - from feral animal and plant control, rock art conservation and fire management. They are largely responsible for looking after vast tracts of country with limited resources. This has led to some interesting innovations in land management.
Aboriginal Rangers Female
Female Indigenous rangers undertake a variety of land management work and are often involved with the collection and cultivation of native foods and seeds. Aboriginal female rangers are also deeply involved with education and scientific programs.
Aboriginal Rock Art
Aboriginal people recorded many aspects of their lives - both physical and spiritual - on the walls and ceilings of rocky escarpments in northern and central Australia. Often the drawings depicted the creatures that were essential to their survival as food, while the spiritual figures explained many of the natural occurrences in the environment, such as lightning storms. Some of the drawings show animals such as the Thylacine that are now extinct.
Aboriginal Rock Art & People
No matter how remote indigenous rock art is from settlements traditional owners have a responsibility to look after sites and make sure they don't get damaged by feral animals, wildfire and the elements. Often indigenous rangers take on this role, along with recording the sites.
Aboriginal communities love sport - in the north and centre of Australia AFL is the choice of most young men, and growing in popularity among women. Basketball and softball is popular among women. Often, the older men like spear throwing. There are frequent sports festivals all through the Outback and Aboriginal people travel hundreds of kilometres to participate.
Many visitors to northern and central Australia want to know more about Aboriginal culture. A lot of indigenous communities have started their own tour businesses with Aboriginal guides who show visitors various artistic and cultural aspects of their lives and explain the indigenous history of the region. Tourists often get to view dances and eat bush tucker and be engaged in weaving, spear throwing and painting.
Young Aboriginal people have a varied upbringing. They participate in ceremonies from a very young age, learning how to dance and play music, as well as being taught stories about tribal history and responsibilities. Much of their time is spent outdoors learning how to gather bush tucker and hunt.
Even though much of Australia from the north to the south, down through the centre and across to the west is arid, dry country, the landscapes are either subdued or spectacular.
Arnhem Land is a rugged region of northern Australia populated mainly by Aboriginal people, traditional owners who have lived there for thousands of years. Much of the area is a rocky plateau that billions of litres of water runs off on to the coastal plains every year during the wet season. Rock art adorns many rock walls and ceilings
Northern Australia's most iconic fish, the barramundi, is caught from the wild but, because demand from restaurants and the public is so high, barramundi farming has been established as an industry. Humpty Doo Barramundi farm, south-east of Darwin is one of Australia's largest fish farms. Chilled barramundi are shipped to all parts of Australia year-round.
Barramundi Wild Caught
Wild-caught barramundi are regarded as some of the best eating in Australia. Their numbers are healthy in Northern Territory waters due to a strict management regime which includes seasonal fishing and bag limits. Commercial fishers use nets to catch barramundi but are not allowed to lay nets around river mouths or upstream.
Australian native bush fruits are becoming globally recognised as having unique health properties and are widely sought after not only by chefs intent on producing interesting and healthy local cuisine but also international pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies wanting an edge in fighting diseases such as cancer, diabetes and alzheimers disease
Thousands of cattle are regularly mustered from vast paddocks on Outback cattle stations in Australia. Helicopters, bull catchers, quad bikes, motorbikes and horses are used to round up the cattle and move them to the yards where they are usually divided up and loaded for export or sent back to the paddocks to grow some more. Young men and women, known as "ringers", carry out the hard, dusty work.
Cattle Station Life
People who live on cattle station in Australia lead a demanding but enjoyable life - up before dawn and working into the night - spending long days in the saddle or camped out bush. It is a lifestyle that appeals to many people, and far from the city lifestyle.
Cattle Stations Australia
Usually located on vast tracts of land in the centre, north and western areas of the continent, Australian cattle stations are measured more often in thousands of square kilometres rather than hectares or acres. Some pastoral stations are larger than countries in Europe and are home to more cattle than people. It is a tough life raising cattle for Australian and export beef markets and only resilient, tough people are suited to the work.
When cattle are mustered they are put into strong steel yards where a variety of activities happen. Animals are sorted to weight, sex, size and suitability for export, processing at an abattoir, branding or simply to be returned to the wild so they can grow some more. Activity around cattle yards can be dangerous but it is an important time for taking stock of numbers and generating income for property owners.
Saltwater crocodiles often grow to over four metres in the Top End of northern Australia. These are dangerous animals and may be found in almost any place where there is water - rivers, creeks, billabongs and the sea. The freshwater crocodile is smaller and less dangerous, nevertheless both are large predators. Saltwater crocodiles have attacked and killed people.
Darwin, tropical Australia
Darwin is the largest city on the north coast of Australia, and the only capital city in the tropics - it is closer to Jakarta and Asia than any other city in Australia. Darwin has a history of different races mixing to create a unique tropical culture with strong influences from European, Asian and Aboriginal people. Darwin is an outdoors city - with warm temperatures and perfect weather during the dry season and wild weather during the wet season. It has a very young, dynamic population.
Natural gas is found in many areas offshore Darwin in the Timor Sea, as well as in fields of Central Australia. The energy industry is a major economic driver of northern and central Australia - it provides employment for thousands and income for the NT Government. Many energy industry service companies are based in Darwin.
Finger Limes are a native fruit that has, traditionally, been valued by indigenous people living in the southern Queensland and northern NSW region of Australia. The citrus fruit is long and shaped like a finger, hence the name. Horticulturalists of the region have developed commercial strands of the fruit that is used by high-end restaurants - the fruit also has substantial Vitamin C and anti-oxident properties.
North Australian waters are rich in seafood and highly regulated by the NT Government, including many self-regulatory measures developed by commercial fishers to ensure a sustainable harvest. There are only a handful of offshore trawlers plying northern waters while, closer inshore, catch limits are enforced and many fisheries are seasonal.
Fishing Commercial 2
Commercial fishers ply the waters of northern Australia, searching for some of the world's finest tropical fish. Red snapper and mackerel are found offshore while barramundi, jewfish and other snappers are caught closer in. The various fisheries are highly regulated to ensure the harvest is sustainable; compared to other parts of the world there are far fewer commercial fishers working northern waters.
Forestry north Australia
The Tiwi Islands is home to one of northern Australia's most successful forestry projects. Initially, the Tiwis grew pine logs for the markets of Darwin but then moved into Acaccia mangium trees that can be chipped for wood pulp in factories in Asia. The Tiwi Islands are far closer to Asian markets than forestry projects in southern Australia and the wood grows significantly quicker.
Men and women work in the mining, energy and other industrial areas of employment in northern Australia. They operate and maintain large machinery to keep mines and energy projects functioning.
Kakadu in the Wet Season
When the wet season comes to northern Australia around Christmas time, Kakadu National Park is very hard to get around by vehicle. Rain pours off the escarpment and fills the creeks and rivers to overflowing - they flood the plains and the otherwise dry landscape is inundated with moisture. This is a period of renewal, when the country recovers from seven months of dry, hot weather. Trees flower and fruit and it is a time of plenty for all creatures including animals and mankind.
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park in the Top End of Australia, three hours from Darwin, is a World Heritage Area. Owned by the Bininj Aboriginal people and managed by Parks Australia, Kakadu is regarded as one of the great parks of the world encompassing complete eco systems - from the Arnhem Land plateau to the Timor Sea. More than two-thirds of Australia's bird species can be found in the park and many rare animals - such as the colourful Leichhardts grasshopper - exist within its borders
Kakadu plum is native to northern Australia and has been collected and eaten by Indigenous people for thousands of years - it is known for its health benefits. Western science has found the fruits - also known as billy-goat plum, mimarral and gubinge - has the highest levels of vitamin C and anti-oxidants in the world. Several Aboriginal communities have begun gathering the fruit to sell to multinational health and beauty companies.
Some populations of koalas in northern New South Wales, in Australia, are under threat from habitat reduction, disease and attack from introduced species such as dogs. The animals feed exclusively on eucalypt leaves and spend much of their lives in the high branches of gum trees. There are groups of people dedicated to caring for any koalas who are injured or sick.
Large Feral Animals Australia
Over the past 200 years a number of very large animals have been introduced to northern Australia that create significant damage, especially to the fragile wetlands of the Top End. Animals such as buffalo and pigs are nearly impossible to eradicate in floodplain and wetland areas while camels, donkeys and horses flourish in the drier parts of the north.
Making Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal people use all manner of materials to produce some majestic art, whether it be painting, weaving, carving or simply drawing designs and patterns in the sand. In the north of Australia women weave intricate containers and mats made from the leaves of pandanus palms and coloured by various natural dyes from roots, tubers and bulbs. Painting on tree bark is also extensive but the bark must be harvested at the end of the wet season, when it is soft.
Mining is a major industry in central, western and northern Australia. Massive open-cut mines dot the country and there are mineral processing plants across the north. The people who work at these sites are responsible for operating large machinery and equipment and often perform dangerous jobs.
Mud Crab Fishing
Mud crabs are caught along the coast of Australia and are particularly common in the north. One of the most productive areas is in the Gulf of Carpentaria at the mouth of the Roper River, where several groups have established a settlement to capture the creatures. They use small dinghies that are tossed on the cross-currents of the Roper and Gulf to set and bring up crab pots for about nine months of the year - a tough life.
The flowers of native trees, bushes and shrubs provide a splash of colour all over northern Australia - insects and birds such as the rainbow lorikeet distribute pollen and nectar far and wide while other creatures crack open hard nuts and kernels to distribute seeds.
North Australia Coastline
The coastline of northern Australia is generally flat and bereft of the pounding surf that is a feature of the eastern and southern seaboard. Waters can be muddy and brown during the wet season as huge rivers disgorge flooding rains and cyclone become a distinct possibility. During the dry season the waters are glassy, flat and beautifully green or blue in colour - beaches are often sandy and white and the coastal cliffs a deep red or burnt orange colour.
The Top End contains more than two thirds of Australia's bird species, many of them with strong ties to waterways and flooded plains.At the end of the dry season birds gather tightly around billabongs and rivers to feed and drink. When the rains come they fly to all corners and spread throughout the country.
What passes for a road in various parts of Australia can be nothing more than a graded track. However, these roads are highly important and heavily used by local people and are usually very well maintained. In the north, the wet season can wash out roads but they reappear in the dry. Many Outback roads are important economic connectors - particularly for the cattle industry, and Aboriginal people who travel frequently for ceremonies and family reasons.
The Red Centre of Australia is dominated by Uluru or Ayers Rock. The low hills of red sand sweep across the region like waves; spinfex and saltbush grow atop them and a multitude of insects, birds and animals live there. Other spectacular rock formations such as Kata-Juta and Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu) attract many visitors.
Long, large trucks called road trains are used to carry livestock from outback cattle stations to ports where they are exported from Australia. The live cattle trade depends on these vehicles which can carry over 100 animals at a time, often in "triples" or three double decked trailers. The road trains have replaced drovers as primary movers of cattle.
Rock Art Contact Period
When Indigenous Australians first came into contact with Europeans their art detailed remarkable observations - people with white skin, ships, guns and horses all made initial big impressions. Then, as both groups intermingled and got to know each other, Aboriginal people drew images more as social reportage for others who would not, or could not, venture out of remote locations. Much of this "Contact Art" is being rediscovered in Arnhem Land today.
Sea turtles nest along the northern coast of Australia, mainly on remote beaches where their nests enjoy a modicum of safety. However, when they nest on beaches around Darwin local wildlife rangers try to locate the eggs and hatch them and release them as a community event. It is an educational opportunity and also saves the small turtles from dogs and other predators that would eat them as they got to the sea.
North Australian seafood is among the most abundant and high quality in the world. Strict regulatory laws try to ensure the resource is sustainable. The food is nationally and internationally recognised and chefs, such as Steve Sunk, create some amazing dishes.
Snakes of North Australia
Northern Australia is home to a variety of snakes. Some, like the Taipan and King Brown are deadly while others such as small pythons are vibrant and colourful. At Fogg Dam, outside Darwin the largest biomass of animals in the world gather - water pythons searching for and feeding on native dusky rats.
Big storms and large seas are typical of wet season weather in northern Australia; the dry season is a period of stability and perfect weather that includes radiant sunsets but during the wet season the weather is turbulent and often violent.
Top End Rivers
Rivers of the Top End of northern Australia are among the largest of the continent. While many of them flow languidly in the dry season, most swell and break their banks and flood out on to the coastal plains during the northern wet season, providing nutrients and a sense of rebirth and rejuvenation to all life in the north. Quite a few of these rivers - the south and East Alligator, Liverpool, Blyth, Cadell, Roper, Katherine/Daly - have their source in the Arnhem Land plateau.
Top End Rivers 2
Rivers of the Top End of northern Australia are among the largest in the continent. During the dry season they flow languidly towards the coast but during the wet season the rivers swell and often flood across the coastal plains bringing much-needed nutrients to all life. Many of the rivers such as the East and South Alligator, Katherine/Daly, Roper, Blyth, Cadell and Liverpool - rise in the Arnhem Land plateau.
Wet Season Weather
When the rains come during the north Australian wet season at the end and beginning of the year, creeks and rivers swell and flow towards the coast, flooding the plains and inundating the countryside. It is a time of renewal after months of extremely dry weather - the wet season is a time of turbulent and violent weather.
Wetlands are life-giving areas in northern Australia. Billabongs, swamps and rivers are generally refuges for birds reptiles and other creatures and essential for life to get through the northern dry season, a period a great hardship.