A bridge to the past – a wish come true
The deep connection Barbara ‘Barb’ Weribone has to Country prompted her to make a simple wish – to eat fish and chips by the bridge over the Balonne River in St George, a location rich with meaning and memory for her.
Barb is of the Widi People and one of the indigenous Elders of the St George group. She was raised by the banks of the river, which was a precious life source for her family as they depended on it for food, water, washing and leisure. She has lived close to the river her whole life, and taught her four children to fish the river for food. Now as a Warrawee Aged Care Service resident living with limited mobility, she has not been able to visit the river as she used to.
At a picnic table in the dappled shade of the grey gum trees, Barb’s smile lit up her face as she told stories about her life by the river to Lifestyle Officer Kellie and fellow resident Harold, who joined her on her special trip.
Barb told stories of how her and her family fished the river for food and how they shared the river with the Chinese shepherds who used it as a guiding route when they would move their sheep from town to town.
She also shared that when she was in primary school, she would run home each day to watch the building of the new concrete bridge that stands today, which was officially opened in 1953, replacing the old wooden bridge.
“It meant the world to her to have the opportunity to reminisce by the waters of her birthplace, it brought her joy”, said Denise Cole, Warrawee Aged Care Service Manager.
The discovery of Barb’s connection to the local site and her wish to be able to go there again was made through a wellbeing survey that the residents complete each year, with the final question asking “If you had a dream, and I could make it come true, what would it be?”.
Barb’s simple and meaningful wish has overflowed to be a blessing to her fellow residents. Harold usually keeps to himself and can rarely be enticed to join in activities. When Kellie noticed his interest in the river she asked Barb if he could join her for her trip to the river, and Barb was more than happy to invite him along, making it a special day for all. There are now plans to make the trip to the river a regular event, with other residents invited to come and do some fishing from the river’s banks, with Harold excited to join in.
For Denise, who has worked in aged care for 19 years, witnessing Barb’s joy at her simple wish being granted is what makes her work worthwhile.
“You stay in this industry because of the joy you can bring,” she said.