The wobble walk was an early sign of the Groote Eylandt “sickness” for Bakala. Police officers have been known to mistake the walk for public drunkenness. It wasn’t so long ago that Groote locals with the sickness were mistakenly thrown into paddy wagons, too panicked to slow down and concentrate on their words so they could explain themselves.

The reason for their staggering, lurching gait is Machado-Joseph ­Disease (MJD), a genetic neurodegenerative ­condition so mysterious and incurable that many of the island’s 1100 traditional owners remain convinced it’s a black magic curse.

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