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Byron Shire
February 4, 2023

Jungala on recovery path after amputation

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Uncle Pete

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Uncle Pete Birch Marshall‘s legs have taken him a long way in this life.

Born to Ethel Birch, Pete arrived under a birthing tree at Rapid Creek near Darwin in 1959. ‘I was taken from there when I was about a week old. My grandfather came to get me but I was gone.’

Pete was adopted from the The Retta Dixon Home several weeks later by Arthur and Lydia Marshall, whom Pete says were good people that helped out indigenous mobs across the top end.

From the time he learned to walk his legs served him well. At first with his parents in Arnhem Land, through his teenage years travelling the country, and then when they carried him to Byron Bay in around 1985.

Adopted a second time in Byron Bay

At that time he was ‘adopted’ by another great woman, Aunty Linda Vidler. He met a local fella, Mick Kay and the two became great mates, walking many miles together.

Pete has been dancing in Byron Bay for around 35 years. Photo Jeff Dawson.

At around this time he began dancing with the Byron Bay mob and he has been in the area ever since.

Last week Pete had one of those legs removed in Lismore base hospital.

Echonetdaily spoke to Pete from his hospital bed on the weekend. He says he’s feeling pretty good after the surgery. ‘I’m feeling a lot better than I was!’

Pete has been dealing with diabetes for a while. He says it’s a mixture of that disease and and smoking which sent him down to the path to amputation. ‘I was in so much pain I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.’

Pete says that since the surgery he’s been having a bit of phantom pain. ’It still feels my leg is on there. It’s a weird feeling.’

On Saturday they took out the nerve blocks and took off the dressings. It will be a few more days until he knows when he can move to rehab in Ballina.

Pete says he feels positive about getting a prosthetic leg. ‘I’m hoping to be back dancing really soon,’ said Pete. ‘Even if I have to make a wooden leg and bang it with sticks like a drum.’

Because of the current social distancing restrictions Pete, Jungala to those close to him, hasn’t been allowed to have a lot of visitors, but his daughter Elle and his partner Vicky have been in as much as possible, but he’s only allowed an hour a day.

Go Fund Pete

The wider community is showing how much they care for Pete by donating to a Go Fund Me fundraising page to help him get a really great prosthetic, one that will allow him the agility he once had to dance.

Former Byron business chamber president, Paul Waters, along with five others, organised the fundraiser. As of Wednesday, over $9,000 had been raised.

Lukas Nelson, left, with Uncle Pete and friends backstage at Bluesfest. Photo Tree Faerie.

Lukas Nelson sends his love

Bluesfest regular Lukas Nelson spoke to Echonetdaily about his affection for Pete. ‘I met Jungala backstage at the Byron Bay Bluesfest and we instantly became bonded as brothers. We both recognized the pure spirit in each other.

‘We traded shirts, and we’ve done all kinds of fun stuff. We go out looking for kangaroo, we go fishing, I play my guitar and we sit around just hanging out and talking about life.

‘I miss him a lot. I wish we weren’t so far away. Life is funny, and sometimes it ain’t.

Nelson is hoping that together we can see Pete get a great prosthetic leg. ‘Please help my buddy out, he’s one of a kind –  one of the best there is. I send him all the love in the world.’

Pete is really grateful that his friends are banding together to raise some money for him, and the usually talkative fella is at a loss for words.

‘What can I say, it’s amazing’.

If you would like to make a donation for Uncle Pete’s new leg, visit:  https://www.gofundme.com/f/peter-birch-marshal-jungala.

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