Pygmy elder faces eviction

By Peter Michael

August 25, 2007

LAST stand . . . the matriarch of the lost 'pygmy tribe', Lizzy Woods, 105, has been told to move.

IN a "heartless" move, the 105-year-old elder of Australia's "lost tribe" of Aboriginal pygmies faces eviction from her far north Queensland home.

Lizzy Woods who relies on a wheelchair, is blind and suffers dementia is the mother of 10 children and the oldest surviving matriarch of the Jirrbal rainforest people.

She has been classified as a "living treasure" and is the sole surviving link to the pygmy "white cockatoo" tribe most of whom stood less than 122cm (4ft) tall of the Misty Mountain region near Tully.

Sitting in the humble three-bedroom Ravenshoe house she has called home for nearly 25 years, she told The Courier-Mail yesterday she was angry at the impending eviction.

"They are making me homeless," said the 110cm-tall elder, surrounded by some of her five generations of offspring. "I was born in the rainforest. I grew up chasing kangaroo and picking berries off the trees. I belong here. This is my land.

"The pygmy tribe that is my mob. And this is the place I have chosen to die."

Outraged locals have condemned the move as "heartless".

The Cairns and District Regional Housing Corporation, which owns the house, served notice on Mrs Woods and her carer son, Warren, to leave by August 6. But that has been stayed, pending a complaints panel decision, until September 4.

Corporation chief Jack Szydzik said Mrs Woods was living in a "high-risk" environment.

"This is one of those horror-story drunken brawling party houses and, after three years of warnings, we have had enough," Mr Szydzik said.

He said up to 25 people stayed and partied at the house, where $90,000 had been spent on maintenance in four years.

"It's a terrible thing for the old lady; but we can't get the others to modify their behaviour. And it is not fair that the rest of the whole neighbourhood is held to ransom," he said.

Anthropologists of the 1930s investigated reports of a lost pygmy-like tribe living in the Misty Mountain rainforest.

Photos emerged of child-size adults, carrying wooden swords and shields. Experts have been divided as to whether the tribe are true pygmies, with prehistoric links to African rainforest dwellers, or simply small people.