Tjeyenga Mathias Nemarluk – Faces Of Wadeye
Mathias was born in Wadeye in 1955. He is the eldest of 3 boys: Anthony, Boniface and one sister Mary. His father’s country is big Tjindi and his mother’s country is Nardirri.
He was sent to the school at Port Keats mission and then to Kormilda College in Darwin. His parents had meanwhile contracted leprosy and were living with the rest of the family at the East Arm leprosarium. The leprosarium was run by the health department and staffed by the nuns from the order of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the same order that ran the school here in Wadeye.
Near the end of his time at Kormilda he spent his school holidays with his family at East Arm. The nuns told him he had to go to work or go back to school. He started work as a ward orderly, where he was responsible for making beds and helping with showering.
The Doctor at the Leprosarium was Dr john Hargreaves who was a pioneer in reconstructive surgery for people with leprosy. He decided that Mathias would make a great nurse and supported him to undergo formal training in nursing. Mathias was responsible for the preparation and sterilization of the theatre equipment. He then began to assist in operations, which consisted of taking part of a nerve from the leg of a patient and joining it to a damaged hand. At the time this was ground- breaking work in the treatment of leprosy.
Mathias graduated with a certificate in nursing which allowed him to dispense medication and other things. He then began working for the health department in Katherine with people from the town camps who had leprosy. He also done general nursing work at the hospital. During this time, he lived in a hostel for government workers.
Mathias had annual leave owing and came back to Wadeye in December 1974. Cyclone Tracey hit Darwin later in the month and Matthias decided to stay in Wadeye.
He worked as a general nurse at the Wadeye clinic which was called the Sacred Heart hospital. He met and married his wife Teresa and they had one son Timmy who lives on the Tiwi islands with
Shaun who was adopted and is a ranger who has one son.
Mathias is currently writing a book about his life.