Rover Thomas and his Brother
Story:Rover Thomas is one of Australia's most important artists - his paintings sparked a greater appreciation of Aboriginal art, both nationally and internationally.
Although he found fame as an East Kimberley artist Rover was a desert man, and the story of his life is interwoven with that of the Canning Stock Route. Rover was born in the 1920s in the Country near the middle stretch of the stock route. After his parents passed away he was picked up by a drover, Wally Dowling, who took him north to Billiluna and the Kimberley. Rover became a stockman himself. He was married and settled in Turkey Creek.
When Rover was taken by drovers his brother, Charlie Brooks (Clifford Brooks' father) was away travelling. When he returned Rover was gone. Charlie set off in search of his brother from Martilirri (Well 22). On his journey he encountered a horrible scene somewhere near Well 41:
'[My father] went looking for his young brother Rover back in his home Country, but nothing, empty. No track. Only track was a wagon wheel and yawarta (horse) and bullock, that's all... He been get up on a sandhill and he been look down... whitefella, massacre. They been got shot: [Aboriginal] men, women and children.' (Clifford Brooks)
'That old fella [Clifford’s father, Charlie], he knew in his heart that his young brother was still alive. Every time in the camp fire he used to tell me … 'My young brother is still alive somewhere up north.'' (Clifford Brooks)
Charlie Brooks and Rover Thomas were finally reunited in the 1980s, a lifetime later, after family recognised the Rover’s face in a newspaper. Charlie Brooks travelled to see his brother again for the first time, Clifford Brooks describes the intial encounter between the brothers:
'So when he arrived I got him off the bus at night, took him across to the car park. My old man was standing up and I took Rover across, and they didn’t know whether to yampulkaku [hug] or shake hand, they been cry. But I stood in the back there, I had tears coming out my eyes. I cried for them.' (Clifford Brooks)
'You have got to come back to your Country. You should have come through the Canning Stock Route. You went away from here through the stock route and you should have come back here, through the stock route. I’ve been waiting for you.' (Charlie Brooks to Rover Thomas, 1986)
Media Creator:Nicole Ma
Media date: 2010
Story Location: Wiluna
Media Description:Clifford Brooks tells story his father's reunion with his younger brother Rover Thomas after 40 years apart.
Story contributor(s):Clifford Brooks, John Carty, Jarntu Rover Thomas, Charlie Brooks
Art Centre(s): Birriliburu Artists
Media copyright: FORM
Source: CSROH_140_Clifford Brooks
This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.