Cheryl Bell of Mingenew  |  100x70cm Giclée Fine Photographic Print by Martine Perret (2021)

Cheryl Bell

"Did you know the Mingenew grain facility (CBH, Co-operative Bulk Handling) has the distinction of being the largest grain receival point in the Southern Hemisphere. Less than half a kilometre from CBH is the relics of the Littlewell Reserve, where our family first lived, in the early 1960s. It has the remnants of cement floors of each tin and iron-roofed house. These houses consisted of a small room on each side of a small kitchen, with a wood stove, and a front verandah. There was a communal ablution block, in the middle of the houses, with showers and toilets and a cement wash trough.

Whilst living at the Littlewell Reserve I remember my paternal Grandmother, Maggie Bell (affectionately known as 'Granny Mag') taking me out on bush walks, looking for bush food, by digging for Karnos (bush yams), Quandong fruit, gum from Acacia trees and eating Bardi grubs and goanna cooked on a small fire. Gran had a wealth of knowledge, from how to treat head colds to delivering a baby. I remember having a fascination with the things owned by her like a Box Brownie camera, Singer treadle sewing machine and a laundry corrugated washboard. Gran being a strong proud Badimia woman, lived to the ripe old age of 96.

My parents were a loving, hard working couple, and were one of the first families to be moved from the Reserve into a house in town, where I remember being at the Catholic school and being taught by Nuns.

Dad was the Joker of the couple, he always told stories and joked with us, even though Mum was the disciplinarian, she cared for us with a lot of patience and love, and never had any animosity towards others, despite having been sent away to New Norcia mission, because of her Mother passing away when she was 14 months old, and her father not being able to look after Mum and other siblings, because of work commitments. Mum remembers her mission days as receiving very little education and being put to work at a young age. One of her jobs was to handwash the monks' robes.

Mum was born under a pepper tree (which has since been cut down) in Mingenew on the 28th June 1928, and the place where my family and I live now, a pepper tree has grown, in the backyard on the left hand side! Seeing the tree has strengthened my memories of Mum.

Later in life, one of my first jobs was as a Wool-handler, it was a very active and hard working environment. The wool-handling work stood me in good stead to work in New Zealand and America, with my partner who is a Shearer by trade and still shearing at 66 years of age.

After being in the wool-handling business for a number of years, I worked in a few businesses in town and then did some volunteering work at the local school where our children were enrolled, and later on I was offered a Teacher’s Aide job, two days a week, where I am still employed, that was 16 years ago! I am also employed at another school in the Mid West three days a week, and enjoy working with, learning from and growing together with both school communities."


Click below to view the full portrait and read each story from the Act Belong Commit exhibition Women of the Hinterlands