Stanley Douglas

Photograph by Mark Smerdon.


Written by Mark Smerdon


Stanley Douglas is one of the world’s true gentlemen. He wears an Akubra hat and a neckerchief, riding boots and a cattleman’s check shirt. His hair and bristling moustache are snow white, his eyes are brown and always twinkling. He lives on his homeland which is about ten kilometres from the Northern Territory border with South Australia, only about 150km from Uluru. Whilst he has made music sticks for our concert piece, woodworking is not his usual activity. Stanley was a cattleman in his younger days and learned the art of leatherwork then. He makes whips and all the paraphernalia that cattlemen need, as well as belts, trinkets and so on. Stanley is an excellent horseman and has been in many films as a rider. He really comes alive when he is talking about horses.


Stanley is the chairman of Tjurma Homelands, a group of communities, here in the Musgrave Ranges of north-central South Australia. He still manages to make some leather artefacts, teach leatherwork to the younger, newer artists, look after his people (who all deeply respect him, as do I) and even has time to spin a few yarns now and then. He has strong connections to Europe, since he takes small groups, mainly from central Western Europe, to experience and learn about the cave on his Homeland, which is called “Cave Hill”. This cave is covered in cave paintings, which some claim may be the oldest paintings in existence in the entire world. Being the Elder of his Homeland, Stanley is entrusted to the care of this precious treasure, and he loves to share his knowledge with people who come from all over the world to see it.



Stanley would be about sixty-five, I guess, and lives in a tent at Cave Hill, about thirty kilometres from Amata. He is quiet spoken and listens very intently. When I want a real opinion I ask him. He laughs with a twinkle in his eye and can play tricks on you just for fun. Some time ago when a concreter was laying some floors in the area, he “employed” some pimply-faced kids to give him a hand. Stanley was the policeman in the town at the time and called in to the site to have a chat (and check out the builder and how he was treating the kids).

“So these blokes have been working for you, have they?”, he asks the builder, let’s call him Bob.

“Yeah”, says Bob.

“Well you know that only married men can do jobs like this out here.”

Bob replies “No, I didn’t know that.”

“Well, I suppose we could overlook the situation here but they will have to be married before the sun comes up tomorrow or there will be big trouble for them”

“Oh”, says Bob. “Could you find some kungkas (women) for them. You are the boss around here aren’t you? And you could find some good ones for them?”, says Bob, getting right into the spirit of things. Some with big lips”.


“And big hips, too”, says Bob.

“Yeah. That is important”, says Stanley.

“I’ll get onto it right away”.

The poor kids were so bug-eyed frightened that they hid all night in case these monster women turned up.