Rhondie’s Return

Rhonderson (Rhondie) Koolatah is an Olkola man and is the eldest of five: Winnifred, Travis, Dollases and Liam.

As a young child Rhondie was relocated from the Kownayama community and placed in an institution in the South East Queensland region.

Due to the nature of his complex and multiple disabilities including blindness, schizophrenia, cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment and microcephaly Rhondie was separated from family and country and institutionalized for many years.

But his life changed when he returned to Cairns in 2014.

It wasn’t long before When Life Without Barriers discovered Rhondies Kowanyama connections they began to reconnect him with his mob.

Regular visits make a big difference to the quality of Rhondies life.

But this most recent trip was very different.

For the first time in his life Rhondie camped on his traditional country with his own mob.

He was welcomed him home with a special fire, a water blessing and Ochre ceremony.

Rhondie spent long days sitting around the fire listening to the men make boomerangs and spears.

He spent his first night in a swag under the stars.

Rhondie’s return to country will always be a special moment for everyone involved.

Thanks to Life Without Barriers for facilitating Rhondie’s return and a special thanks to his carer Asher for going on this long journey with him and Michael Yam for the touching welcome to country.

  • Sandra Irwin

    September 12, 2019 at 4:04 pm Reply

    That’s Lovely. What a beautiful touching story. Rhondie deserves to be happy with his mob.

    • Tom Hearn

      September 23, 2019 at 3:18 pm Reply

      Thanks so mcuh Sandra!

  • Calum kelly

    September 13, 2019 at 7:40 am Reply

    Could you do this for a mining company For Aboriginal men ?

    • Tom Hearn

      September 23, 2019 at 3:18 pm Reply

      Hi Callum, I’m sure we could come up with something special. Send us an email my contacts are at bushtv.com.au Thanks, Tom

  • Martin Beggs

    September 13, 2019 at 2:10 pm Reply

    Thank you for making us aware of this story. Life Without Barriers has done a wonderful job and bless them all and everyone who helped bring Rhondie home.

    • Tom Hearn

      September 23, 2019 at 3:16 pm Reply

      Thanks Martin, yes we agree LWB does an awesome job!

  • Gillian Ramage

    September 14, 2019 at 9:28 am Reply

    How wonderful! Very emotional, he can now live out his now beautiful life on country with his mob. You can see how he loves that connection with country. ❤️🖤💛

    • Tom Hearn

      September 23, 2019 at 3:16 pm Reply

      Thanks Gillian yes it was very emotional making the story! Glad you liked it! Tom

  • Jean Gunning

    September 14, 2019 at 1:19 pm Reply

    OMG that’s such a Beautiful return and Welcome Home I hope he can have a Forever Home with his Family so sorry for all the Lost Years 💓

    • Tom Hearn

      September 23, 2019 at 3:15 pm Reply

      Thanks Jean glad you liked it!

  • Jane Gauci

    September 14, 2019 at 5:12 pm Reply

    This is brialliant thanks for allowing this

    • Tom Hearn

      September 23, 2019 at 3:15 pm Reply

      Cheers Jane

  • Lorretta Drage

    September 14, 2019 at 5:15 pm Reply

    Fantastic effort what a great story to read,just what he needed connecting to his country the Bonding and special spirit returning home and eating all his bush tucker.Loved reading about this young man.

    • Tom Hearn

      September 23, 2019 at 3:14 pm Reply

      Thanks so much Lorretta! Kind regards, Tom

      • Tom Hearn

        September 23, 2019 at 3:14 pm Reply

        Thanks so much Jane! Kind regards, Tom

  • Tania Murphy

    February 4, 2020 at 11:51 am Reply

    Connections with your country, your mob and your spirits bring love, healing and joy. I hope Rhondie feels the joy most of all.

  • Andrew

    November 10, 2021 at 2:04 pm Reply

    Incredible story. Congratulations to everyone who helped make this reunion possible.

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