Growers in Carnarvon
Before any photographs were taken I sat down to enjoy a home-grown mango smoothie and a chat at the kitchen table with Carnarvon grower Rick Skender and his mum, Zarka.
Born in 1937, Zarka was evacuated from Croatia to Egypt during World War II, spending the last year of the war in El Shatt, a refugee camp in the Sinai Desert.
A few years later, now back in her homeland, Zarka married George. With his two brothers, George left Croatia in 1959 in search of a better life in Carnarvon, a place they’d heard about with fertile soil and a warm climate on the west coast of Australia. 900+ kilometres north of Perth and long before bitumin roads, it was not an easy place to get to. Zarka and young son Rick, joined George there four years later.
“Carnarvon used to be a little part of Europe in those days”, said Rick. Aussies were growing bananas there but there was a large influx of Slavs, Italians and Portuguese in the 50s and 60s. Back then runner beans were the biggest crop with produce being sent to all the major cities across Australia directly from Carnarvon.
It was a time of hard work. According to Rick, Zarka “worked like one of the men, then went inside to prepare meals and do the rest of the house duties.”
Nowadays machine-picked string beans have replaced the labour-intensive runner beans, and Rick also now grows mangos, papaya, table grapes and some avocados, on their 21 acre property.