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‘I am the last one’: Stephen Stewart is believed to be Australia’s oldest Indigenous man

‘I am the last one’: Stephen Stewart is believed to be Australia’s oldest Indigenous man

Karajarri Nyangumarta man Stephen Stewart has defied all the odds to retain his culture alive for added than a century.

Warning: Readers are advised that this article contains the name of an Indigenous one who has died.

Early Newspaper

The life expectancy for Indigenous males is 71.6 years of age, but Mr Stewart may perchance perchance be as passe as 109.

That makes him the oldest Aboriginal man light alive in West Australia’s Pilbara region, if no longer the complete country.

“I am the last one,” Mr Stewart acknowledged.

“All my elders are finished.”

To this day the Ngarla elder spends four months of the year on the aspect road as a senior lore-man.

“Or no longer it is an infinite job, very laborious too,” Mr Stewart acknowledged.

Before data began

For many Indigenous Australians born round the flip of the 20th century, obtaining a beginning certificates became no longer that you may perchance perchance well likely also specialise in.

The totally historical proof of Mr Stewart’s age is an engraving on an passe windmill at Wallal Downs Explain, about 300 kilometres south of Broome.

The rusted iron is marked “Stephen Stewart, 1918”, making Mr Stewart at the least 103.

Nonetheless Mr Stewart acknowledged he remembered engraving his name as an adolescent when he began droving cattle on the Canning Stock Route, likely when he became about six.

“We had been droving cattle to Meekatharra,” he acknowledged.

“There became totally one horse in the lead, ridden by a white man, then the leisure of us had been walking, driving an infinite mob of cattle from behind … and I purchased nothing for it.”

Cherish most Indigenous folk born before 1970, Mr Stewart discovered himself in an generation when Aboriginal folk in WA had been forced to work on pastoral stations that ancient stolen wages, youngster labour, and in some circumstances, slavery.

A sepia photo of a ship docked at low tide.

The MV Koolinda docked in low tide at Broome in March 1931.(

Equipped: Explain Library of Western Australia


Brushing off the kiss of loss of life

Mr Stewart became born on Pardoo Explain and labored there from a younger age, but the a protracted time of onerous toil that had been to advance practically didn’t occur when he became practically despatched to Rottnest Island as an adolescent.

The island, which became ancient as a jail till 1904 and a forced labour camp till 1931, claimed extra than 370 Aboriginal lives.

Mr Stewart acknowledged he became walking to college for his first day of formal education when he became confronted by the authorities.

“Policeman picked me up,” Mr Stewart acknowledged.

The force took longer than expected and Mr Stewart ended up in a keeping room at Port Hedland.

Mr Stewart didn’t know that the plan became to set him aboard the MV Koolinda, an operational steamer creep for Rottnest Island.

Observe of mouth travelled abet to Mr Stewart’s boss, Frank Thompson, who owned Pardoo Explain at the time.

A black and white photo of a homestead on a cattle station.

Pardoo Explain dwelling in 1935.(

Equipped: Explain Library of Western Australia


In direct shock, the renowned pastoralist made up our minds to acquire Mr Stewart’s destiny into his hands.

“Frank Thompson had heard the recordsdata I became on my technique to college, the gather I became picked up stop to Wallal, and became taken to Port Hedland,” Mr Stewart acknowledged.

The MV Koolinda had been docked for 2 weeks and became scheduled to leave interior three days when Mr Thompson arrived.

Mr Thompson adopted Mr Stewart into his family on the field, ostensibly saving his life.

Explain life

It became then that Mr Stewart began to cement his reputation as a stockman and chief at Pardoo Explain.

Nonetheless space life in the Pilbara became no longer without its challenges.

“There became by no technique any a repayment then — none of the blackfellas ever bought paid,” Mr Stewart acknowledged.

“I by no technique conception about it abet then, you correct retain going, retain working, for free.”

Mr Stewart acknowledged he by no technique seen the money owed to him.

“My first job became at Pardoo, at the huge store — they gave me one spanner to tighten all the bolts for the carpenters,” he acknowledged.

“Then I purchased promoted to the huge jobs.

“I did the dwelling — it is light there today.

Becoming ‘Number Two’

Prolonged hours in 40-stage warmth for terribly runt reward became the norm for Aboriginal employees for many years, but that became field to change.

On Could perchance 1, 1946, 800 employees, together with Mr Stewart, walked off pastoral stations across the north-west region and the famous Pilbara Strike began.

The campaign for dazzling wages and working instances paved the technique for Indigenous rights in Australia.

Mr Stewart acknowledged it became merely a case of enough being enough.

“We wished the dazzling to dwell a same outdated life,” he acknowledged.

“We did huge jobs, cattle mustering, every little thing, and we wished extra money.

After the strike, Mr Stewart joined his best pal, the unhurried Peter Coppin, in running Yandeyarra Explain.

The idolised figures had been nicknamed Number One and Number Two.

In 2021, Number Two light sticks for Mr Stewart, with most of the Pilbara’s residents familiar with the name.

A honest trusty making an are attempting horseman

Mr Stewart acknowledged it became inevitable that he developed a keenness for all times in the saddle.

“I became a horseman all for the duration of my life,” he acknowledged.

Hump meets in the Pilbara had been among the few moments in the year when space work stopped.

Aboriginal families relished those events because they may perchance perchance reconnect at the racecourses.

Nonetheless for Mr Stewart it became a platform to showcase his skills.

A historic photo of a race meet in Western Australia in the 1970s.

Crowds gathering at Wittenoom Hump Route in 1970.(

Equipped: Explain Library of Western Australia


“I’d scurry 24 blokes, all white jockeys,” he acknowledged.

“My horse became a hack, a mega colt for cattle mustering.

“He became my horse — I trained him when no one may perchance perchance journey him.

“There became nothing substandard with him.

Mr Stewart went on to have interaction the Marble Bar Races and the Wittenoom Cup.

A road sign in the desert that reads

Yandeyarra is an Aboriginal community with a population of about 400.(

ABC Pilbara: Susan Standen


Spirit need to continue

Among all the trials and tribulations Mr Stewart confronted, nothing ever bought in the technique of keeping Aboriginal lore.

Annually he became given one week off to bellow lore, which engaging walking 270km to a sacred ceremonial ground.

Mr Stewart acknowledged lore became integral to his culture.

“It may perchance perchance well acquire us three days to lunge there, [there was a] ceremony for sooner or later, then lunge abet to the space in the last three days,” he acknowledged.

“The space would give us half of a web of flour to continue to exist.

The ceremonial ground Mr Stewart and others visited for many years no longer exists.

It is now a mine space.

Mr Stewart acknowledged the probability of Aboriginal culture being forgotten forever increased with the destruction of every sacred space.

“All the pieces at Wodgina makes us who we are, it offers us our identity,” he acknowledged.

“Or no longer it is too unhurried to set now.

“Unfortunately, it light happens today, and the best risk is the younger fellas and the culture.

“They will be taught nothing the extra these sites are destroyed.”

On the aspect road

For the last 50 years Mr Stewart has referred to as Yandeyarra Mugarinya Neighborhood dwelling.

It is rarely you may perchance perchance obtain him there, then again, because he spends four months a year educating the younger expertise lore.

Mr Stewart travels extra than 3,000km from Bellary Springs to Warralong, Roebourne, Bidyadanga and Wiluna, year in, year out.

Mr Stewart acknowledged he had no plan to dumb down.

“I obtain a runt bit lonely,” he acknowledged.

“You in actuality feel a runt bit utterly different while you lose all your mates.

A treasured dad and grandfather

An elderly Indigenous man and his smiling daughter, standing in front of a waterway.

Mr Stewart’s daughter Margaret says her father is a fixed source of inspiration.(

ABC Pilbara: James Liveris


It is no secret that Mr Stewart has left an indelible label on many folk, and none extra so than his daughter, Margaret, who acknowledged she intended to apply in his footsteps.

“I am in actual fact proud of him,” she acknowledged.

“There is no longer a single 2nd of the past that I will also take and rob, he has been by our aspect daily — daily.

“Me and my kids will love that.”

‘I am the last one’: Stephen Stewart is believed to be Australia’s oldest Indigenous man