Dwayne is a teenager from remote north-west Australia.
If you find his community where it rests just outside the regional town of Kununurra and take a right at the giant crocodile that greets you with its fixed expression at the entry to the town from the Northern Highway, you might find yourself driving into the sleepy suburban streets of Wyndham.
Some of us who grew up in an Australia during the 90s remember those long days and warm afternoons where bike riding with friends after school was one of our favourite things to do. In the twilight of mid afternoon, you would run around care free. As long as we were home by dusk, there would be little to stress about – and even if there was, the streets, front yards of our homes and creeks that ran behind our homes were a refuge to temporarily suspend even those childhood pains.
Can you picture those streets? If you can’t, you may well get a glimpse of them in real time if you drove through some of Wyndham’s back suburbs. Wyndham, East Kimberley: home to health workers, teachers, police and community service providers and a diverse aboriginal and non-aboriginal population. It’s also home to a kid called Dwayne.
Confident. Talented. Courageous.
He was tall for his age, with a thin athletic frame and an instinct for adventure that permeates in his presence. Dwayne symbolises the uncertainty of promising talent. He reflects the best of our remote communities which encourage its kids to look outward as well as nurture and appreciate the small things within the limits of their environment.
Watching Dwayne engage with his natural world as well as operate within his school environment, reminded me of a couple of friends I grew up with when I was his age.
It was in the outer suburbs of Melbourne’s north, where I would meet these two kids who had arrived as refugees from Sri Lanka. They were twins, and identical. Wide eyed, outgoing, the two of them threw themselves into their new environment and that environment embraced their fall. R1 and R2 made friends quickly, which would become lifelong companionships. Today, they are surrounded still by men who have known them since those early days when they were eagerly exploring their world. In many ways they still are, as we all are.
Looking now on Dwayne, I wonder if he two will grow to find himself a job that he could commit to and enjoy as the twins do now. Will these friends that he spends time with encourage him to make the most of his opportunities? What of his desire to stay in his town?
In Wyndham, he is home. It is where he goes to school. It’s what he knows and is comfortable with. However, the number of jobs available to him were limited especially since the port had closed. Watching him a climb a gigantic tree so effortlessly as other kids watched on in awe, I had a strong feeling that Dwayne would outgrow his town as much as he loved it. His intense eyes were always looking at the horizon for the next interesting thing. When he made that decision to move forward, the town would miss him and wish him well.