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Celebrated Indigenous artist, family rescued from flooded WA outback

Grace Baldwin -

Two of the seven people who were found alive after being missing for days in the flooded outback have been revealed as celebrated artist Lennard Walker and Mr Rictor, whose family is the last known group of Aboriginal people to live a traditional nomadic life in Australia.

Mr Walker, 74, has been an artist for decades and was a finalist in the WA Indigenous Art Awards, with art collections displayed as widely as in Brussels and Korea.

Mr Rictor’s family are renowned as the last known Indigenous group living a traditional nomadic lifestyle in the country, with two members of the family remaining in Tjuntjuntjara.

The group, including four children, were found alive on Wednesday afternoon, about 270km west of Tjuntjuntjara, and have been flown to Kalgoorlie-Boulder by helicopter.

In a statement, WA Police said the group was found next to their bogged vehicle in an isolated and remote area.

“The search was hampered by the treacherous weather conditions across the Goldfields area,” they said.

“Due to these weather conditions, a rescue was not able to take place yesterday and the group were required to spend another night at their location.

“Food and blankets were dropped to the group by a local helicopter operator.”

The group have been taken to hospital for an assessment. Picture: WA Police
The group have been taken to hospital for an assessment. (Image: WA Police)

They were finally rescued on Thursday.

Everyone is “believed to be well and will be medically checked to ensure they suffer no adverse effects”.

“WA Police wish to acknowledge the support received from local station owners and government stakeholders during this search and rescue operation,” they said.

“We thank everyone involved in this incident.”

The group was travelling in two cars from Kalgoorlie-Boulder to Tjuntjuntjara, about 650km northeast of Kalgoorlie, when they got stranded in the severe weather that hit WA.

A deluge of rain earlier hindered emergency services from using air assets to search for the missing people, but a break in the weather finally allowed them to resume the search.

On Wednesday afternoon, emergency services confirmed the family had been located.

WA Premier Roger Cook said it was an “immense relief and a great outcome” after what had been a “really difficult and distressing situation”.

“I just want to thank all the police, first responders, search parties, everyone who participated in the efforts and the operations to locate that family,” he said.

The group were found about 270km west of Tjuntjuntjara. Picture: WA Police
The group were found about 270km west of Tjuntjuntjara. (Image: WA Police)

“The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, we thank them and it’s a great outcome.

“We know that these road conditions change rapidly when we have these severe weather patterns move through.

“Significant flooding has taken place right throughout that region.

“So I urge everyone, motorists in particular, that when you’re going out, please be aware of the conditions.

“In this situation, the family notified the community of Tjuntjuntjara that they were starting to return home.

“And so because they notified others, the Tjuntjuntjara community were able to send out the alert.”

An aerial photo taken by police showed all seven people around their bogged car, with no immediately obvious injuries on any of them.

Tjuntjuntjara Community Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Jon Lark will meet the group in Kalgoorlie on Thursday night.

Grace Baldwin - NCA NewsWire

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