Roy Savo was born in Mapoon, in far north Queensland, a few hours south of Punsand Bay where the arrow head pointing at Papua New Guinea chips off into the Torres Strait islands. Both of his parents worked on the Mapoon mission, a perpetually underfunded Presbyterian mission whose industrial school became the destination for scores of children stolen from the surrounding peoples -- including the Mpakwithi, Taepithiggi, Thaynhakwith, Warrangku, Wimarangga and Yupungathi peoples. They were converted to Christianity and put to work. By the time Savo was born, in June 1939, Mapoon's various attempts at self-sufficiency were floundering, and the place could only survive thanks to "compulsory financial contributions" deducted from the wages of domestic staff and stockmen.
From the age of 14, Savo was taken to Bramwell Station to work. Speaking to Crikey, he describes his employer there, Ron Heinman, as "the best boss" as well as "the end of the good bosses". He worked happily for two years -- "cattle work, mustering, rounding and all that" -- before droving down from Mitchell River to Charters Towers, and eventually being sent to work at Wurung Station.