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Doodie Lawford remembered

Doodie Lawford remembered

The Foundation family was saddened to learn of Doodie Lawford's passing in December.

The Indigenous leader and graduate of ARLP Course 14 was farewelled by family, community, and friends from the Network.

Former Foundation CEO, and Fellow of ARLP Course 1, Rob Patrick attended the funeral for Doodie, along with Colin Hendrie of Outback Initiatives and Honorary Foundation Fellow John Brocklesby. Here are Rob's reflections on the sad day.

Alan DOODIE Lawford 30 August 1961 - 15 December 2014

Torrential rain pounded the roof of the Fitzroy River Lodge as JB, Colin Hendrie and myself prepared to drive the last leg of our journey to mourn the sad loss and put to rest Alan ‘Doodie’ Lawford on Bohemia Downs Station. Joe Ross (ARLP 5), a Bunuba man from Fitzroy Crossing, called by and provided copies of the service and tributes documents. The covers of these documents carried the words ‘A man of many talents, a strong community leader and an inspiration to many’, and ‘A truly inspirational cowboy and community leader’.

These statements served to reinforce the dozens of tributes inside the covers, as well as what we all know to be true, Doodie was a dear, special friend and respected leader. His sudden and tragic passing at 54 was palpably sad.

We drove through verdant rangeland with crystal clear, wet season runoff flowing over the road, and buzzards and kites circling overhead. A landscape brimming with life, yet this was over-shadowed by the purpose of our visit. At the turn-off to the station a number of 4WDs and two mustering helicopters were already parked near the side of the road. At the station, some 20km down the track, there were dozens more. Within the hour this would become triple figures. An estimate of the crowd by the time the service began was in the order of 800, possibly more.

The coffin arrived in a Toyota Landcruiser led by stockmen (including Robbie Watson, ARLP 9) on horseback, and flanked by the two helicopters hovering alongside. Family mourners followed the vehicle to the ceremony site and took up seats under cover. The majority of mourners clustered in a semi-circle to witness proceedings, which were projected with the aid of an audio system. 

Indigenous Pastor, Donald Cox, opened the Service with a reading from the Bible (John 14 Verse 1 to 6), Gospel Choir followed. Joe Ross then led the reading of eulogies, followed by Peter McEntee, Wayne Bergman and Barry Taylor. I have included Joe’s eulogy below. The opportunity was then provided for others to come forward and speak. We were invited to go first, and all three of us spoke. In addition to my eulogy, I also read Course 14’s thoughtful contribution.    

The coffin was then transported to the gravesite some 500 metres away, again with stockmen leading and helicopters flanking. The small graveyard is nestled in wooded rangeland, a landscape appropriate for Doodie’s final resting place. Graveside sermon completed, the coffin was lowered and hundreds filed past sprinkling a handful of Kimberley red soil into the grave.

A few hours later a smoke ceremony was held at Ngumban, then a wake conducted at Kupartiya in the evening.

Rob Patrick

1 February 2015

Eulogy (Joe Ross)

Doodie was born on the 30th of August 1961 at the Old Fitzroy Crossing hospital. He was the second child to Julia and Eric Lawford (dec) with Eva being the oldest daughter. At the time, Eric was a stockman employed by Emmanuel brothers who owned Cherrabun, Gogo and Christmas Creek stations. Eric had to move with his family to whatever station needed work so they moved between these stations often. Doodie was a baby at Gogo Station while his parents worked. Julia was a house maid for Timmy Emmanuel and his wife, and Eric did stock and station work while their kids were being raised by Diminagully (Nelly) and the Smith family.

The family resided in Gogo for a year until moving to Cherrabun Station in 1962. In 1967 they moved back to Christmas Creek Station where  they were amongst most of their families. They all grew up with their grandparents, two jajas and one japi, at the old camp. Doodie was best mates with Freddy Thomas, Ronnie Rawlins, Rodney Rawlins, Hector Hobbs, Robert Lee and Donald Laidlaw: together they would get into mischief. When he got older he stayed in Fitzroy Crossing at the old mission with his japi and jaja David and Mary-Anne Downs and he went to school there.

Whilst schooling in Fitzroy Crossing he drew the illustrations for the first Walmatjarri dictionary. He left Fitzroy Crossing in 1977 and went to Perth Technical then a year later to Claremont Art School. His dream was to be a sign writer. During the holidays he would come back and spend it with family. When he finished his schooling he returned home to Christmas Creek.

In 1979 he met his first wife Mary Nellie, they lived in Junjuwa and Mary was working as a health worker. Doodie worked with Peter Ross in Junjuwa doing plumbing around Fitzroy valley. They built the first toilet block at the rodeo grounds. That same year Doodie and Mary moved back to Wangkatjungka. It was around that time that Doodie, along with others from the community, worked for Merv Hughes building houses in Wangkatjungka for State Housing. Doodie and his dad were actively involved in the community.  They did a lot for Wangkatjungka, they got a lot of stuff started there like the first community store which he managed until John King took over.

After leaving Wangkatjungka he found work in the Territory working at Matarankka, Riveren, Doris Vale and a couple of other stations. Then in 1990 Doodie and Mary moved back to Kupatiya to work on the family station. In 1994 Doodie took over the management of Bohemia Downs Station.

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