Tappers Inlet is a small outstation located on the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Access to the peninsula is via a main arterial road, the first 96 kilometres of which is rough, unsealed dirt road. After 96 kilometres, the arterial road is sealed all the way to the tip of the peninsula. Only the road from the arterial to Beagle Bay is sealed; roads to all other communities are unsealed, often crossing wetlands, which flood during tidal movements and the wet season. Unsealed roads require the use of expensive four wheel drive (4WD) vehicles, and limited spatial mobility is one of the main challenges of remoteness.
Tappers Inlet has a unique training and trading relationship with nearby outstation Gnylmarung. Participants from both outstations attend horticulture training on alternate weeks in both Gnylmarung and Tappers Inlet and the two communities engage in trade. Gnylmarung regularly trades produce such as beets, pumpkins and tomatoes for Tappers Inlet free-range pork, chillies and eggs.
Tappers Inlet is a coastal family outstation with a fluctuating population of around nine. Two of the residents at Tappers Inlet are Non-indigenous, and are registered as CDEP participants working in the garden. Several more of the Indigenous Tappers Inlet residents, who were not participants in this study harvest and cook the produce. Tappers Inlet garden is comprised of 100 square metres producing vegetables and fruit for consumption.
Tappers Inlet also has an additional area of 1100 square metres dedicated solely to chillies to produce a homemade chilli sauce for sale as a business venture.
Tappers Inlet has many food trees including mango, coconut and Gubinge, and also produces eggs, chicken and pork. Seafood and beef are also wild harvested from the surrounding areas. The strong relationship between Tappers Inlet and Gnylmarung fosters knowledge and resource sharing and barter.
In 2007 Tappers Inlet’s water pump and tank was damaged by arson. The pump had previously supplied 20 litres per minute of bore water, and was sent off to be repaired by the service provider. While awaiting repair, Tappers Inlet was provided with a less powerful pump which supplies 12.5 litres per minute, a net loss of 7.5 litres per minute. Around the same time, the population of Tappers Inlet doubled. Government guidelines allocate 300 litres of water per person in remote communities for consumption, washing and other basic needs (Porter Interview, 2008). These water allocations set by the WA Department of Housing do not include provisions for producing food.
To further complicate matters the repair of the original pump was slow and difficult to arrange due to poor communication with the service provider. Residents of Tappers Inlet felt that their calls for a speedy repair went unheeded and reported feeling ignored, and that the service provider did not understand their priorities.
Due to the reduction in water many of the food trees established over several years have dried out. Drier wood makes them more susceptible to white ants. As discussed elsewhere in this chapter, pests are a fundamental challenge. The combination of social challenges (arson, poor communication with service providers), infrastructure challenges (smaller capacity of replacement pump), remoteness challenges (nowhere local to hire a larger pump) and economic challenges (unable to afford to purchase water) compound the fundamental challenge of the pests. As a result, significant water shortages threatened the established food trees, the health of the livestock and the productivity of the garden. However, Tappers Inlet residents were resilient and continued to access vegetables grown at Gnylmarung.
Setbacks such as these have a very real impact on food security. In Tappers Inlet participants reported feeling disheartened that their hard work could go to waste for the want of a water pump. Yet, residents have remained determined to continue their gardens.