May and Marty Byrne have created a productive haven from the red dirt of the Pilbara.

Story and photos Eleanor Lukale

Just down the road from Karijini, Western Australia’s second-largest national park, and sheltered between the foothills of the Hamersley Ranges and Mt Windell, is May and Marty Byrne’s little patch of paradise.

It’s difficult to imagine that such a harsh, rocky landscape filled with iron ore and other interesting geological formations could produce lush tropical fruits, but hidden away, down a standard dusty Pilbara track, you will find this garden.

Mango, banana, lemon, lime and passionfruit trees are dotted around their humble homestead, with curry and chilli bushes, silverbeet, spring onions, string beans, capsicums and a variety of herbs – the basics they need for everyday cooking.

May, who is a Banjima traditional owner, began the process to secure a place on her traditional homelands, Milyuranba Banjima, in 2002. After living in the coastal town of Roebourne for 17 years with Marty and their three children, Kasey, Pinai and Robert, she felt drawn to return. “I wanted to live in my own country,” May says. Bidurala (which means hills or ranges in Banjima language) is what they called their place. 

During the acquisition of the land, they learnt that the area they would be living on was rich with millions of years of volcanic soil. The surveyor told them anything could grow here. Marty agrees: “Everything wants to grow here; all you need is the water and we get very good rainwater here, lots of rain”.

This story excerpt is from Issue #114

Outback Magazine: August/September 2017