Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Braided Channels Braided Channels of History - Recorded Creative Work and Transcript - 69 (Raw)

Braided Channels of History - Recorded Creative Work and Transcript - 69 (Raw)

Item metadata
Isabel Trish Shirley
IN 00:00:00; OUT 00:15:09
Trish FitzSimons
Griffith Film School
Photographic stills found in the Braided Channels collection have generally been contributed by external creators. Copyright questions about external creator content should be directed to that creator. When publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the Braided Channel's collection, the researcher has the obligation to determine and satisfy domestic and international copyright law or other use restrictions.
3 September 2000
Timecode refers to tapes 66_BC_SP, 67_BC_SP, 68_BC_SP and 69_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History - Recorded Creative Work and Transcript - 69
Native Title Intersex
Recorded creative work created by permission of the copyright holder. Copyright in individual works within this collection belongs to their authors or publishers.
Isabel Tarrago Shirley Finn
An interview with Isabel Tarrago and Shirley Finn taped at Highgate Hill, a suburb of inner Brisbane.
part of:
Braided Channels of History - Recorded Creative Work and Transcript - 69
Document metadata

69_BC_SP_FINN_TARRAGO-raw.txt — 110 KB

File contents

                                      3 September 2000
          Timecode refers to tapes 66_BC_SP, 67_BC_SP, 68_BC_SP and 69_BC_SP
                                        Topics in Bold
                  TF = Trish                IT = Isabel    SF = Shirley


TF       This is Betacam no. 66, it’s DAT no.24, it’s time code 1800. Today is 3 September
         2000. Trish FitzSimons on sound, Julie Hornsby on camera, and we’re interviewing
         Isabel Tarrago, nee Hanson, and Shirley Finn, also nee Hanson, at Isabel’s home in
         Highgate Hill.                                    66_BC_SP

         Okay, so I want to get quite a picture as well as your two lives in the Channel Country, I
         want to know about your Mum. So what can you tell me about your mother’s birth, the
         circumstances of the birth?

         Race Relations/ Intersex

         00:01:21:20   Mother was born on Meetukka. She was the daughter of an Irish ummm
         Scots, was it a pumper, and her mother was a traditional Aboriginal from that area.

TF       And where was she born? All the way along in this interview I’m going to pretend that I
         know nothing because I want you to answer me as if I don’t know any of these stories,
         because I want to then be able to edit it without my stories in. Could you tell me about
         your Mum’s birth, about her Mum dying. I’d like to hear the whole catastrophe.

         00:02:10:24   Well, Mum was born at Meetukka and during the birth ummm our
         grandmother died and Mother suckled on an old bitch dog that was there in the camp and
         when the old women come over they realised that the dog actually saved our mother’s life,
         and Granny was already passed on, I don’t know how long but that’s the story that’s been
         passed on from all the old people to us, and she was cared for in the camp from there on.
         And as a young woman, she learnt, she came up, as a baby she came through and was with
         the family and the traditional old people and from there on some of the old white people
         that were in the station areas there … at this time she was moved around many stations as a
         young girl and I think the age was, we were told, about eight years old, she was actually
         moving around ummm from different stations with the old people who worked on the
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       2

          stations doing different things. And a lot of station managers’ wives took her in ah and she
          was a very young girl when she was doing …

SF        As a housemaid. But then the ah, a lot of the old Aboriginals used to swim the flooded
          creek and steal her, take her back to the camp, and then you’d have the ummm the white
          station owners, they’d come and get her, and that went on for oh several, several weeks,
          because they expected her to stay in the camp with the old traditional people. But ah …
          and then the station managers and their wives wanted her to be a housemaid, to look after

TF        Her father being a white bore operator, was he claiming her at all, because she … to read
          that article in the mining magazine, it sounded like your Mum was a bit like a football as a

          Race Relations/ Intersex

          00:04:31:14     Yes. No, he didn’t have anything to do with Mum. She was brought up …
          he sort of disappeared out of the picture. He used to … I think he lived in Boulia when he
          first came out as a pumper. But no, she didn’t have anything to do with him.

TF        And had it been a long relationship between your grandfather and your grandmother, or
          was it a more casual relationship? Do you have a sense of the context that your Mum had
          come from?

IT        00:05:08:08     I don’t think ummm, you know Mum always said to us the only thing her
          father gave her was her name but from where I was coming in as being the youngest of the
          family, I mean, Shirley, Bessie and Georgie, they had a lot more to do ummm in that area
          because they were on the properties with Mum and Dad and that. But I think, this is just
          my own information on this. I really do think Granddad really wanted to know, because he
          did stay in some of the camps. He was in Dajarra with all the old people but he was so
          used to being in a traditional camp, I don’t think he ever came back at that time and was
          around when Mum was born because I just think he moved around all the pumping places,
          you know, round the stations and there was so many. I mean, you just wouldn’t get back
          to find out about anything that’s happened. And I think Mum really got angry. Mum was
          very angry about the fact that he didn’t give her anything other than her name. She was
          very adamant about that but I think, as a young person myself growing up, that I believe
          Granddad really would have wanted to stay around and I remember her taking me, Mum
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                         3

          taking me to Dajarra when he was very, very sick and he was at the old Dajarra camp, and
          they actually had him in a little shed there because he wouldn’t go to hospital. And that’s
          the first time in my life that I saw my grandfather Arthur Daly, and he was very ill.
          Ummm and it wasn’t a very nice sight because I saw him when he was very ill.

TF        So he would have been cared for by Aboriginal people?

IT        00:07:06:10     He was there in the camp, yes, and I don’t know.                   Who was
          Punch, I think. Uncle Jack Punch. Ummm and Aunty Biddie and …

SF        Biddie, yeah, Aunty Biddie Punch.

IT        They were there. I don’t know if they were looking after him but he had a place at the
          camp and I just think he … you know, for him to actually be there at an Aboriginal camp
          gave him peace and, well Mum went and saw him so I don’t know what went on but I
          know that she needed to show us. I don’t think Shirley ever met him.

SF        No, I’ve never met him.

IT        But I noticed that, you know, in the end Mum took us, took me there, and I think that that
          was a very good process for me and for Mum because that was the last time I saw him.

TF        You may find this next question offensive but I’ve been interviewing white people
          throughout the Channel Country and I’ve had said to me five or six times this thing about
          ‘Stolen Generation’. Babies with white fathers, black mothers. The blacks wouldn’t have
          anything to do with them. They’d leave them, left them to die, so therefore there is no
          ‘stolen generation’. White people were saving babies that otherwise would have died. So
          your knowledge of your family history, how would you respond?

          Traditional Aboriginal/ Race Relations/ Intersex

          00:08:33:10     I think that’s rubbish, Trish. I think it’s absolutely rubbish. Pauline Hanson
          stated that as well in her, you know, political agenda, to say that you know half-castes
          weren’t accepted and, you know, we ate their babies. And I actually gave a talk not long
          after that and I know Shirley actually tried to ring Laurie Kavanagh about it as well, who
          never responded to us, because he was on these stations and what he saw obviously was so
          different to what we saw through our eyes, and we happen to be black. He happens to be
          white. Ummm they’re the sort of things that I think is a whole race connotation behind it.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                          4

          Now I wouldn’t … you wouldn’t call me full-blood because my grandfather is
          Scottish/Irish background, you know. And, I mean, I have no bitterness for that, and my
          mother was very fair, but I tell you what, she was accepted. The traditional camps really
          wanted her. She spoke five languages, traditional languages. I mean, you don’t get that
          rite of passage of you know that whole connotation, so it didn’t happen in our family. Our
          family took in a lot of what the so-called, the derogatory term of ‘half-caste, quarter-caste’.
          Ummm Glen Ormiston we had so many families mixing, you know, falling in love with
          each other. I mean, for goodness sake, you know, what do we do about that? You can’t do
          anything about it and it’s not a racial connotation and there were, in some of the areas,
          Stolen Generations because the Assimilation Act in this state makes that happen. You
          know, we weren’t allowed … I mean, that’s how you get your Woorabinda Missions, your
          Palm Island, your Cherbourg, ummm you know those sort of things is to divide us up on
          colour. Only by pigmentation of the skin. Now if that Act would have taken place, Shirley
          and I, just by sheer colour, would have been separated.            She would have gone to
          Woorabinda or Palm Island and I would have gone to Yarraba, and that’s how this Stolen
          Generation really was enforced. It was set up by a policy of the Crown and it is real.

TF        Obviously that statement is a really convenient one. I didn’t realise Pauline Hanson has
          said it but it doesn’t surprise me remotely and it has its echoes out there.

IT        00:11:11:18     Absolutely, absolutely. And we responded. As two members of the family
          here, we responded to kill it in the water because no way in the world would my family kill
          me. We were loved so much and dearly loved right through, you know, and it’s just
          another form of politicising a statement of people and I just think it’s so … if they haven’t
          got a mentality to run on general intellect, and then you run on class, and you run on race,
          well I’m afraid that they’ve just got no substance, those human beings like that.

TF        Going back to your Mum’s life then, tell me the stations that she worked on. And this
          thing of going from station to station, how did that function?

          Race Relations: Act / Pastoral Industry/ Aboriginal Wages

          00:12:04:18     Well, this is part of that whole process of the state. Now if you look in the
          state, we have got policies there going back ah in the 1920s, that Aboriginal men and
          women were dentured out to do work on properties. Those who were found on properties
          actually moved in, because we had … we were under the Act, and we are all ummm in that
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       5

          process of … I’ve got files there that I can show you where my mother and father were
          actually under an Act and when you’re under an Act in this state, you have to do what the
          state tells you, so the police of the day controlled your movement around the state. You
          had to have a card, an exemption card if they could give you an exemption card, to move to
          different properties. And, you know, this is why I always say the cattle industry in this
          state, and in many other states of Australia, made their money on the backs of blacks, and
          we are no different. And my family really did make the cattle industry a very profitable
          industry. But they didn’t get a cent. They got flour, water, tea and bread, you know.
          That’s the ration system. And ummm they’re the sort of things that a lot of people don’t
          understand. I mean, the station managers on Glen Ormiston would never have understood
          that and once the equal pay came in, we were all removed because they weren’t going to
          pay us.

SF        00:13:44:04     But before that, when people … when you were under the Act and you
          worked for ah different stations and that, you wouldn’t get paid. All your money would go
          to the police. Like, for instance, Glen Ormiston, ah you were under the Act there. Boulia,
          ah the people in Boulia. All their money went to the police. Then, if there was race
          meetings or carnivals and that, they’d go down the local store and say, ‘Oh, well, here, you
          go and buy a …’. You might have four children. ‘Go and buy an outfit for each of those
          children,’ and then they’d give you ummm if you had the food and things, they’d give you
          a list. You would not see the money at all. A lot of people worked there, worked for
          twenty, thirty-odd years and when they lifted the Act, people thought oh well they had
          plenty of money to buy a house, deposit on a house, buy a car. They didn’t even have a
          deposit for a car, let alone for a house. So nobody knows where that money is today.

TF        There’s big cases going on, isn’t there?

SF        There is.

TF        Can you tell me the different stations that your mother worked on?

SF        She started at Lake Nash, Barkly. Yeah, Lake Nash. Barkly. I think she went to …

IT        Linda Downs.

SF        Linda … it would have been Linda?

IT        No, you’ve got to do the circuit.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                  6

SF        What we should have done is yeah. No, we should have started at Monkira.

TF        Do you want to start again?

IT        Yes, start again.

SF        We’ll start again.

IT        She was only, yeah, Monkira.

SF        That’s after …

TF        What was the range of properties? Tell me the range of properties that your mother
          worked on.

SF        00:16:01:06      Lake Nash, Barkly, ummm Carandotta. There was quite a range. I don’t
          know whether she went to Roxborough at all.

IT        I think she did.

SF        But the main stations would be Lake Nash and Barkly were the main ones.

IT        Monkira.

SF        No, she went to Monkira after she married Dad.

IT        But she was working there because in the book that she was doing the ummm peddling the

SF        Oh, she was looking after the ummm station manager’s kids as well as doing the peddle

IT        That’s where she was there. And she did go to Roxborough because Roxborough is where
          Dad actually had his first big mustering camp with old Granddad Joe.

SF        Yeah.

IT        Okay, and the buggy. And old Mary. Walkabout Mary.

SF        Mmmm.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                        7

IT        00:17:01:16      Yes so Roxborough was the first big camp that our father was head

TF        And if you were overall to talk about the role of Aboriginal people in the pastoral industry,
          as you know it from your parents and your family, how would you define it? What role
          did Aboriginal people have in the pastoral industry?

          Pastoral Industry/ Aboriginal Contributions/ History

          00:17:24:08      Well, the Aboriginal people had in the pastoral industry, they knew where
          they were going. They knew the country, whereas the ummm … they virtually made the
          stations today. Ummm there was three big camps on Glen Ormiston station. Our father
          was the head stockman there and he had a lot of … and there would have been about ten to
          twelve ringers in each camp when the cattle, when they were mustering cattle for the beef
          industry and trucking them away. But I feel that the Aboriginal people, past and present,
          they don’t get … they haven’t got that recognition. Nobody gives them that recognition of
          what they did back in those days. It was hard. You know, now they’ve got helicopters and
          motor bikes, where they had the old horses, mustering horses and that, hobbling ‘em out
          and ummm a lot of those Aboriginals couldn’t read or write. Ummm our mother and
          father both couldn’t read or write and ummm it was said some years back, the only reason
          that he couldn’t get a manager’s job was because he couldn’t read or write. He could only
          sign his name.                                     00:19:07:10

TF        So when you think back to, say, those three mustering camps at Glen Ormiston, and you
          said there were ten ringers, what year would you be talking about and what balance of
          white and black workers would there have been then?

IT        Mostly Aboriginals, eh?

SF        Yeah, a few jackaroos.

IT        Very few jackaroos. You could name the non-indigenous ones on your hand. All the rest
          were all Aboriginal from Boulia, Dajarra …

SF        All family-based.

IT        All family-based, yeah.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                          8

SF        Because language was spoken in the camps.

TF        What year are we talking here? What sort of period?

IT        Back in the fifties. Yeah, fifties, sixties.

TF        So it sounds like in that northern bit of the Channel Country Aboriginal people were
          working in great numbers in the pastoral industry when further down they’d been pushed
          out earlier.

IT        Mmmm.

TF        Do you think that’s true?

IT        00:20:14:00     Yeah, because Dad also was ummm asked to go down to Marion Downs
          when he had finished Glen Ormiston muster, or go across to Linda Downs. You know,
          that’s across the back of Glen Ormiston. Or Croghan’s Peak. Or Carlo. So the numbers
          ummm that our father had, and there was a comment made recently by Uncle Cliffie
          Donohue, who’s now retired from Boulia. Ummm he actually said to me, he said, ‘Isabel,’
          he said, ‘we were having a drink a couple of months back,’ and he said, ‘and I asked the
          group who would have been the best cattleman in the Channel Country, out this way,’ and
          they said, ‘With no doubt, it was Snap’. Because he said, ‘You know, he could drive
          15,000 head of cattle during the night and not lose one’. He had this marvellous way of
          getting his stock ummm to the … and he’d drive all night and rest the cattle all day. So he
          had a very, I’d say, traditional way of dealing with ummm with the stock as well, and this
          is stock that had never been driven before.

TF        When you say ‘traditional way’, you mean Aboriginal traditional way?

IT        00:21:46:00     Yeah, I think … I think it is an Aboriginal traditional way. I think it’s a way
          of looking after ummm you know, the animals, of which you’re caring for, because he was
          very strict with us – Shirley could probably tell you more – because he wouldn’t let me
          ride. I was not allowed, and I used to always get cranky with Shirley because she was
          always allowed to have a horse and go riding and I could only hold it, and lead it. And my
          father said, ‘Well, you’re just not equipped’ because I was so thin and so frail, he said I
          wasn’t equipped to manage it. And yet Shirley was always allowed. I mean, she was not
          much thinner or fatter than me but she was taught to deal with the stock and maybe she can
          answer that. Because he was very strict with all the camps.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                      9

          00:22:44:06     Yeah, we couldn’t go into the camps because, well ummm certain times
          we’d go, when we came home from holidays, because we all … both of us went to
          boarding school. We both went to St Anne’s in … I went first. At six years old I was sent
          to ummm Black Heath College in Charters Towers and ummm then both Isabel and I went
          to St Anne’s in Townsville, and we’d only come home at Christmas time, because you had
          the May holidays and the August holidays, and you’d only have two to three weeks, and
          we wouldn’t come home so we’d come home at Christmas time and ah we’d go out and
          visit Dad in the mustering camps ummm and we’d only see our father once like at
          Christmas when he came in after all the mustering and that. And I used to look after the
          horses when he’d have them at the station. Feed them for him.

TF        So going back a bit, because this is going to connect to Granny Brown and I want to fill in
          that story. What kind of stories did your mother tell you of her relationships with white
          women as a child? What was the range of ways that she was treated?

IT        00:24:02:!4     Our mother was very grateful. Ahhh, she never had a mean streak in her
          body because it was from those station managers’ wives that she was taught how to work.
          For a person growing up, didn’t go to school, and couldn’t read or write, ummm she knew
          how to work. And I think she was grateful for that.

TF        I want you to tell me how did she get to know, because the woman in that photo you came
          to call Granny Brown. How did that relationship between your mother and Granny Brown

IT        00:24:51:10     I think Granny Brown was on old Glen Ormiston, on Meetukka.

SF        No, she was on Roxborough.

IT        Was she?

SF        Mmmm. Old Dave.

IT        Davey Brown.

SF        Dave and Nell, they were both on Roxborough.

IT        And then went down to Glen Ormiston.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                   10

SF        And then … actually I don’t know where they went then. But then Bill Robbins come. I
          think it was just that when …

IT        She met up with them when she was very young.

          Yeah, ahhh Dad went across and ah I think it was that ummm Dave and Nell Brown was
          on Roxborough and I think our father met them first. And then, I think, no she might have
          been working at Roxborough at the time too.

IT        Yeah, she was.

SF        Yes, because I think that’s where Mum and Dad met first.

IT        Yes. Through the keyholes of the pantry door.

SF        Yes, they did meet at Roxborough.

IT        Yeah, they did.

SF        00:25:56:20     Because old Granddad Brown and Grandma Brown were there managing at
          the time and from there I think that relationship grew ummm even though Dad was still
          under the Act ummm she followed him then, he was brumby shooting and he was shooting
          brumbies all over the stations, all over the Channel Country.

          White Women/Black Kids

          And I think the partnership of those two women, Granny Brown actually took over and
          reared Mum up as a young girl and consequently all, Aunty Marg and Aunty Tup, they’re
          all the daughters of the Brown … they had a big family.

SF        Yes.

IT        00:26:44:10     And I believe that Grandma Brown saw no colour or anything and she just
          said, ‘Well, Topsy, you’re one of ours’. And everywhere, when we were in boarding
          school, we used to go and stay with the …

SF        Mr and Mrs Brown in Charters Towers there.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       11

IT        Yeah. And Aunty Tup and ummm you know, we became as a family and I think she had a
          big influence on Mum. And she actually taught her how to cook and do a lot of things and
          we’ve always been friends and we’ve always classed her as our grandmother.

TF        Do you think that kind of close relationship between black and white was unusual or was
          there a lot of that?

          Race Relations/ Women

          No, a lot of it, because you know when you’re women in the bush, colour didn’t come into
          it. I don’t think so.

SF        No, I don’t think …

IT        00:27:44:02     And ummm I believe that the companionship and the friendship and I
          believe … in some of my tapes that I … I’m still trying to write this book on my parents,
          on my Mum. Haven’t done it yet, but … all the tapes that I interviewed, non-indigenous
          women, and Pat Fennell was actually on Roxborough a long time and Mark Fennell, and I
          said to Pat, I said, ‘You know, what do you really think about Mum and how did you get to
          know her?’ and she said to me, ‘Isabel, when I was a young girl and I first married Pat,’
          her husband, ‘and he brought me out in the desert here with a brand new baby, brand …’,
          you know. She said, ‘When I saw your mother, your mother just said, “Give me the baby,
          you go an rest”,’ and this was in the desert. She said, ‘I’ll never ever forget your mother,’
          she said, ‘because I was …’. She was exhausted with just having this new baby in the
          desert, driving miles, no air-conditioning, nothing, and yet here was an Aboriginal woman
          at the end of the road ummm taking care, and I think this was the whole thing. There was
          that caring and nurturing that women do very well.

TF        Yet it wasn’t all so pretty, was it? There was at least one woman that … I seem to
          remember in that mining magazine article, there was at least one woman that treated your
          mother badly as well before she …?

IT        00:29:20:10     Yes. Yes, that was ummm I think that was at Coorabulka when Mum was
          flogged with a … because she kept running away to the camp. Every station had an
          Aboriginal camp, basically, because that’s where they were born and that’s their home, and
          I think – I’m not quite sure …

SF        Barkly.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                     12

IT        Barkly.

SF        Barkly or Lake Nash it was, one of those stations.

IT        She was flogged with a thorn tree.

SF        I don’t know what you’d call it – Parkinsinia it was …

IT        Yeah.

SF        Yeah, with thorns anyway. She used to ummm …

IT        Run away.

          Race Relations/Women Working/ Domestics

          00:29:58:00     … run away and ahhh as a little girl ummm Mum didn’t know, you know,
          anything and she wanted to go and play with the children but wasn’t allowed to. She was
          being cared for and had to do the housework for these white managers and that and then
          when they’d go away to the races and that, they’d lock her in the pantry and get, ummm
          whether it be the ummm cowboy or whoever does the cleaning, to feed her through a little
          pigeonhole. And, yes. But …

IT        That didn’t sour …

SF        That didn’t sour her, didn’t say a bad thing about anybody.

TF        It’s interesting, isn’t it, like those two stories, and I’m not disbelieving either for one
          minute.     They’re two sides of the same coin.       How do you resolve that kind of
          contradiction, if you like?

IT        00:30:54:18     Well you can see the difference, I think, Trish, you know just looking,
          analysing it from my perspective now, that station manager obviously just didn’t …
          because Mum could pass for, really, a very fair person, you know, and obviously that
          station manager really didn’t want her to mix with the real blackfellas and learn the
          language and be a blackfella and that’s something you can’t do. I mean, you’ve got to
          come to terms … and I think Mum did come to terms with it but she didn’t hate that
          woman. I mean, she eventually moved on to another place and ummm but she had enough
          experience in her from Grandma Brown and I think … I don’t know if that came after or
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       13

          before. I think it was before, actually, so you know, after Grandma Brown’s absolutely
          ummm affection, ummm you do let those nasty things go by. I mean, and Mum used to
          show us the marks on her back where the thorns were. She was flogged.

SF        00:32:05:00     And she used to tell us, too, that ummm she used to go away and ride
          Shetland ponies as a little girl. There were six of them one day on one of the ummm
          Shetland ponies and ummm she was on the back and when she fell off, she had that big
          mark between her throat and sort of middle part where he kicked her, and that was all
          bruised and that. ‘Course, and Mum could sit down and laugh about those things then, you
          know, to say she wasn’t no angel, she was just a little girl growing up.

TF        One of the things about race relations, after being out in the Channel Country for three or
          four weeks, finally struck me, and I’m interested what you make of this. It seemed to me
          that from what people were telling me out there, that certainly from the white perspective –
          and I don’t know how this relates to Murris, being not racist out there was associated with
          just not seeing colour, almost not noticing somebody was Aboriginal. Whereas it seems to
          me that in the city, reconciliation agendas or non-racism is more associated with
          recognising and respecting differences. Can you make any sense of that?

          Race Relations/ Reconciliation

          00:33:35:10     Yeah well, reconciliation, I mean, that’s one of the things, I mean, you just
          look at the photo with my Mum and Granny Brown. I mean, that’s reconciliation, that it’s
          … Well, it wasn’t fashionable, you know, you didn’t have to go up and say, ‘You’re my
          friend,’ and you know, ‘I’m black and you’re white,’ and ‘what have we got to bond?’ I
          mean, there wasn’t a need for that because that bonding was already there. And the
          bonding is through our kids and it doesn’t matter what colour you are, you know, out in the
          bush the kids get together anyway. They didn’t see a difference and nor did the men in the
          camps. They were there to do a job. They were there to be mates with each other. They
          had to get a job done. The women have to be in the stations on their own, so they have to
          come together. It’s not an issue and that is very true, Trish, I think. When we were
          growing up, we didn’t know, well I know, as the youngest of the family, there wasn’t any
          racist connotation and I still say that, that reconciliation’s a fashionable process now
          because we have to really work at something. Things aren’t going right for us. Ummm
          and that is a political process. So when you’re living in the bush and you’re driving miles
          ahhh you know to do things or go in and get some things for the station and things like
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                         14

          that, it’s not a big deal because (a) we all drive the car, (b) we all mustered, we all ate the
          same food, we all, you know, that’s towards my time, but even before that the old
          traditional people and the camps, they had to come to terms. But they didn’t like coming
          in to eat …     00:35:23:22

SF        No.

IT        … in with the others. I mean, sometimes when you get us together, we’d like to stay on
          our own, but there are … What are you …?

          Gender Relations/Race Relations/Alcohol

          00:35:34:00     Yeah, you’ve got like, on Glen Ormiston station there was only three
          women. That was our mother, Isabel and myself, and ummm you had three camps, all
          men. Then you had the big Aboriginal camp which was right down the back, walking
          distance, and you had the old ladies that … old                                     Mary and
          Mary that used to do uhhhh come up and help our mother do the housework. But other
          than that, everybody was one big happy family. There was no alcohol on the station back
          in those days. The only time they had the alcohol there is at Christmas and once that was
          over, there was no alcohol on Glen Ormiston station whatsoever. 00:36:28:14

TF        So this is Betacam no. 67, it’s still DAT tape 24, the DAT’s on 36 minutes 9 seconds,
          and this is the second Betacam tape interviewing Isabel Tarrago and Shirley Finn at
          Isabel’s house, 3 September 2000.                   67_BC_SP

          Another part of relationship between black and white, certainly reading things like Dawn
          May, who’s written about the history of Aboriginal people in the pastoral industry, talks
          lots about sexual relationships between black and white – a lot of it pretty ugly. She talks
          about a history of station gins and … but going back to the period that you’re familiar with,
          how did things go?

          Race Relations/Intersex

          19:01:28:04     Ummm on the station, we didn’t have that much problem, I don’t think on
          Glen Ormiston, but throughout the Channel Country you’d have ummm, you’d have
          people … you’d have big camps, for instance, in Boulia. We’d come in for the races,
          come in for the rodeos or whatever carnival you like ummm and a lot of people used to
          ummm talk about the managers from different stations going down to the blacks’ camps,
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                      15

          so to speak, just on dusk. They’d go down there to see one of the nice girls, fool around
          and probably stay there, and then just on sunrise you’d see them going. Ummm a lot of
          that happened and ahhh and when these girls had the babies and all that, weren’t helped.
          They were forgotten. They had to rear the kids up to themselves and ahhh you know a lot
          of people don’t know these things but there is a lot of people out there – managers
          probably, drovers, you know well-to-do men, that have been down that road, been to the
          blacks’ camps just for the young girls.

TF        And did that set up, then, a competition between the white wives and the black women in
          the camps, or was this more something that was when white men were out there single?
          Because I know, for instance, now some of the women, like the managers’ wives would
          talk about bad blood, bad feelings between they and young women now working in the
          stock camps. I’m wondering how that influenced relationships between women, black and

IT        19:03:48:08     A lot of the men were married men at the time. Ummm I think there was
          some ill-feeling there towards them but a lot of them, I think, just got on with their lives
          ummm and sort of forgot that it happened.

TF        So it was just accepted. It was just part of the …?

          19:04:18:16     Yeah, and I think, you know, what you’re talking about, Trish, I think there
          is some part of the ummm women in the stations who really can’t accept that their
          husbands did fool around and I guess that’s something, you know, that you have to come to
          terms with and, yeah, it does leave a nasty feeling in your blood, I guess. I mean, it’s one
          of those things because most of these job camps never had the women other than … black
          women were very good stock, stockwomen, and they were actually helping ummm the
          family too, you know, because you must remember that in those days they never got paid
          and it was family basically getting together in groups. And some of the women did go out
          and help and ummm you know, like my mother, for instance, but it wasn’t an instant there
          that she fooled around with the men and that but she was actually in a situation where she
          could have, could control the process, and well she was in a powerful position too because
          she was normally the cook. And, you know, when you’re in these positions, you’re in a
          powerful position like the cook. I mean, because if you didn’t cook, I mean, no one would
          get fed and …
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                      16

SF        I believe that …

IT        She had young girls working with her, our mother …

SF        She used to bring them over to, from Dajarra …

IT        Or Boulia.

SF        From the camp.

IT        From the camps and that and I mean …

          Gender Relations/Race Relations

          She virtually ran the station while the manager was away. He’d go away ummm to the
          bores. A bore might break down. He’d be camped out there for a couple of days and she
          was left on her own at the station with nobody.

TF        Where would the manager’s wife be?

SF        Well, he didn’t have one.

IT        He didn’t have one.

SF        He didn’t have ummm he was a single bloke ummm and ummm …

          Gender Relations

          19:06:23:20     And the companion … the wives, you know, managers start I don’t know
          when, but the managers started getting married and coming on stations, you know. It was
          a fairly lonely lifestyle ummm and managers started to bring their wives on board then,
          which really did impact on Aboriginal women because women were already at the stations,
          so the wives took over the jobs …

SF        As cooks.

IT        … as cooks, so there was, you know, not only ummm relationship processes sexually, there
          was a economic relationship that white women were taking over the role.

TF        So Granny Brown, having been out there much earlier this century, you’re saying would
          have been unusual, and that the standard practice of managers having wives came later?
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                        17

IT        Yeah.

SF        19:07:24:20     I think, in the early part when Mother was growing up there was a lot of the
          older ones, the older managers and their wives that were there and then down the line ahhh
          you got the single ones, the young ones, who ummm have just taken over from the older
          managers ummm and they’ve married ahhh people like … people from Boulia and the
          manager now on Glen Ormiston ummm yeah, well they do everything. There’s no need to
          have ummm Aboriginals out there working.

TF        What you’re talking about there, I think, is that the pastoral industry over the last five or
          six decades has come to employ fewer people.

SF        Yes, that’s right.

TF        Do you want to talk about how did the pastoral industry shift over the last fifty years?

IT        19:08:18:10     When we were on the stations, ummm they were dentured by an Act, you
          know. All the Aboriginal people that lived on stations were under an Aboriginal Act
          which is that that whole process of welfare, ah of money being sent in to your nearest
          police station, Boulia, Urandangie, whatever, and really those stations were built on labour,
          on you know free labour.

TF        Now what’s shifted that?

          Pastoral Industry/Aboriginal Labour

          19:08:57:04     What shifted that was the equal opportunities of wages, equitable wages for
          everyone. And what shifted there was what you’ve just heard in the last couple of weeks,
          Malcolm Fraser give the memorial speech on Wavell Hill, the Goorinji elder. Now he was
          the man, the Goorinji elder, that changed the face of Aboriginal people working on
          properties, on pastorals, and he challenged, because they were all … they all went on
          strike. So that history of Wavell Hill actually changed the face of pastoral employment,
          which meant that they had to pay Aboriginal people for their service. And that’s what
          Malcolm Fraser was talking about. He still didn’t realise that, you know, stations were
          under this process of Crown, you know, politician … oh, Crown what do you call them,
          Crown legislation. When that case came to fruition, it was evident that managers, these
          station managers, who own these stations, could not afford to pay all of us, you know.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                      18

          They      could       not   afford,   so   what   they   did,     they   removed   everyone
          ’65 we packed the old red Dodge.                    19:10:25:04

SF        Yeah.

IT        But we went up to Jimborella.

SF        That’s right, yes.

IT        That’s our new state place that we stayed and Arthur Price was there. An old station

SF        And Barrum Nathan.

          Race Relations/Aboriginal Labour

          19:10:37:00       And Barrum Nathan, so Barrum was an Aboriginal man and worked with
          our father and he sort of said … you know, because this was a shock to our family. Well
          my Mum and Dad worked thirty years and never got long service, you know, of all that.
          So we went to Jimborella, what, about six hours’ drive or … it’s on the other side of
          Roxborough. So we all arrived up there with our, just a truckload of things, and then my
          Mum and Dad stayed there but I think when that happened my father’s heart just collapsed.
          I mean, he was a man that worked all these stations and when equal pay, they couldn’t
          even look after him. Didn’t even make an effort to look after my father and mother. Not
          even an effort. So we moved.

SF        And from there we …

IT        We went into the … she went in as a cook, that’s what she learnt. As a cook, she took up
          all the hotels.

SF        Hotels. She cooked in Mt Isa, ummm …

IT        Boulia.

SF        Yeah, Boulia.

IT        Cloncurry.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                    19

SF        All that, all over. Went to Mt Isa and that’s where we sort of settled, there. We went to
          ummm Isabel from there she ummm …

IT        I didn’t go back to school.

SF        … she ummm went to Batoni’s chemist and worked in Batoni’s chemist. Both of us
          worked in Mt Isa Mines in the mess and ummm …

IT        ’65 I think, wasn’t it?

SF        I think it was the sixties, yeah.

TF        Going back, to understand this you’ve got to go back.          Where was your mother’s
          traditional country and where was your father’s traditional country?

          Traditional Aboriginal/Native Title

          19:12:24:00     Glen Ormiston. They were born and bred on Glen Ormiston.

SF        On Glen Ormiston station.

IT        My father’s down number six bore, down near Carlo, and my mother was born at
          Meetukka. So that’s our traditional ground. So, you know …

SF        Glen Ormiston is our home.

IT        That’s our home.

TF        And did your parents participate in any way in traditional ceremonies associated with that

IT        19:12:52:10     Oh, yeah. They were the leading … My mother was the leading ceremony
          singer and my father was a senior law man.

TF        So where was your parents’ traditional country? Your Mum and your Dad?

IT        19:13:07:07     Glen Ormiston station. Ummm my father is born number 6 bore, that’s
          down near the Carlo end of Glen Ormiston ummm where all the                     is. That’s
          our dreaming. And my mother at …

SF        Meetukka.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                         20

IT        … Meetukka. Old Glen Ormiston. So where Glen Ormiston’s sitting now, that’s the new
          Glen Ormiston.

SF        Because they had a big Aboriginal camp there.

TF        And did your parents, either of them, participate in traditional responsibilities for that Glen
          Ormiston land?

IT        Oh, yeah. Very, very … my father was a senior law man. Ummm my mother was a
          ceremonial woman who ummm did all the songs and danced and … yeah, we’re from very,
          very high law people and all our family, my Dad’s four other brothers, all law men, and
          ummm …

SF        Well respected.

IT        … well respected.

TF        So how did they manage to combine those traditional responsibilities with their work on
          Glen Ormiston?

          Pastoral Industry/Aboriginal Ceremony

          19:14:20:02     Well, they worked it ummm and these are all family in the camp. I mean
          they were all law men in the camp. This is how my father had his ummm mustering camp.
          He had all the law people and that there. They did all their station work and when the
          season finished they all went and did ceremony. And they were already there, you know,
          they were in the bush. They could just move and gather there for ceremonies and that.
          We’ve been, Shirley and I have been to a big ceremony there.

SF        19:14:52:10     Big dances when we used to go up to Jimborella for ummm Christmas
          ummm not often we used to go away because ummm at Christmas time on the station, one
          year all the ringers and that, they’d go away to their homes because you had jackaroos
          there who’d come from Sydney, Brisbane ummm that couldn’t even ride a horse, and Dad,
          our father used to teach them shoeing, mustering ahhh getting to know the country. And
          many a time you’d get jackaroos out there that would go off on their own, get lost and
          ahhh you wouldn’t be able to find them and Dad would go out and find them and they’ll
          tell him, ‘Oh yes, we’ve killed a cow, ate the raw meat, killed something else, ate that
          raw’. Had no matches or anything like that. Then, of course, you couldn’t light fires either
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                    21

          because it’d … sometimes there we’d ummm it wouldn’t rain and you’d have bushfires
          and everything like that. But yeah, we’d go down the big camp, watch the ceremonies
          down there, and ahhh we’d always … the old ladies would walk us half way because it was
          really dark. They wouldn’t let us go on our own. 19:16:12:22

TF        What you’re saying is there’d be times of the year when the pastoral industry didn’t need
          the labour?

IT        19:16:22:14     Yeah. It stopped on certain areas because you had to have time for the
          cattle to fatten up, so you don’t, you know, you don’t muster all year round and certain
          times of the year, you know, cattle would just be on grazing and everyone would just leave
          and just, you know, get your break, have a break.

TF        Dawn May has had instances where stations have actually given Aboriginal people big
          carts to go off for ceremonies. Did you ever hear anything like that?

IT        No, we had the sulky. We had our own sulky.

SF        Yeah, we had our own big wagon.

IT        And that dray, it’s there at Glen Ormiston. It’s out the front. That’s my father’s …

SF        Big wagon.

IT        … big wagon out the front.

TF        So how would they have bought that without cash wages?

IT        19:17:14:18     That was ummm … this was that exchange program that I call in the bush.
          And Dad used to do a lot of work for a lot of managers and people like Sandy Anderson,
          his father, old Bill Anderson, wasn’t it?

SF        Billy Anderson.

IT        Billy Anderson who owned Tobermory, now Sandy would confirm that. Like Bill would
          say to Dad, send word over to Dad to say, ‘Come in, we need some help with all these
          cattle,’ and he’d go in and, see, people like that would give. Dad had his own, you know,
          own horses, his own stock, and ummm I mean I don’t know where the sulky came from
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                         22

          but I’d imagine that it was given to him ummm in exchange of him doing some sort of
          work for them. Because they weren’t allowed to pay him.

SF        See with that wagon, big wagon they had, was a ummm he used that for brumby shooting
          and they were both, Mother and Father were both drovers as well. So that was a way of
          getting around because they didn’t have cars.

TF        When you said your mother was a significant … I don’t know whether you used the
          expression ‘law woman’, but you said … what did she have particular responsibility about?
          I’m wanting you really to just explain about

          Traditional Aboriginal

          19:18:42:04      Well, her significance, my Mum is from … she’s a rainmaker and that’s her
          dreaming and she started the ceremonial songs.          Someone has to start them, so the
          ceremonial song is your first place of entry, and that’s an important process because you
          really have to do a lot of work for, you know, the songs and these are ceremony songs so
          it’s only heard for ceremony and you’ve got to know a repertoire of songs. And our
          mother could just, you know, she spoke five languages, so she had such a ummm an
          intellect of language and yet she couldn’t write English. I mean, that’s irrelevant. But this,
          you know, woman was the pinnacle for any ceremony.

TF        And she had responsibility, was it

IT        No, that’s my mother’s father.

TF        Right, what is

          19:19:57:10      Pituri is a narcotic drug. That’s in the white terms of reference because Pam
          Watson told me. I didn’t know that. Pituri is a narcotic drug but pituri is also a ceremony
          drug and it’s my grandmother … my father’s mother’s dreaming, and it is our dreaming
          now, and we are the holders of that law. And I know for a fact that people do go down and
          try and cut pituri. When we last went down to the pituri place, there was nothing harvest
          because no one’s using it now ummm and I know Pam went down there to try and get the
          seeds to try and propagate it so, you know, it can be grown out of the area, but it just didn’t
          survive. So it must need that whole sand dune, you know …
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       23

SF        Sand hills.

IT        Sand hills to grow but it also needs a harvest. We’re not doing that ceremony any longer.
          Shirley and I have got the song. My mother sang my grandmother’s songs. We’ve got it
          on tape. We know the songs. It’s on tape, recorded, so you know. The people can’t claim
          that area because that’s our area and it’s the significance of that.

TF        The Georgina River was very important to the pastoral industry but could you explain. It
          had significance too for the trade in pituri    didn’t it?

          Channel Country: Water

          19:21:30:20     Oh yes. Pituri was traded across traditional boundaries and in our ceremony,
          we have two dreamings -            and the Arepa. Arepa’s a dog and the dog actually carries
          the pituri in its mouth and it travels the sand dunes right up to Lawn Hills. And that’s
          where that dreaming track goes. It goes along the sand, the old Simpson Desert rabbit
          fence, right along the sand dunes, right up to the Lawn Hills National Park, and the
          significance of that is dreaming pathways. Now for the white people, the Georgina never
          dries. It’s always a water that passes through there and it runs into the Mulligan, it runs
          into many other, Diamantina, many other rivers that it goes into but it’s a significant place
          for pastoralists because it’s always the watering hole for their stock. But it was also
          significant for us because it was our survival. We travelled the Georgina to do our
          ceremonies and ummm it’s that, you know, where’s there’s water there’s food. So it is a
          pathway of two cultures.

TF        So white and black have valued the same places.

          Race Relations

          19:23:04:24     Yeah, for different reasons. And once the pastoralist takes the reason that
          their stock is more important to human, well then that’s where the rivalry starts. But it
          hasn’t because we’ve all used it and I think we can still use it if we understand our
          terminology of how do we learn to handle the landscape in which we live in. Because
          that’s the fundamental reason why pastoralists, in our time, got on so well. Because they
          could understand the reason. When our family wanted to go and do their ceremonies and
          be very proud Aboriginal traditional people, we were allowed to do it but it’s when
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       24

          someone says you can’t do that is when they overstep the mark and says that my, you
          know, the white culture is more superior than the black. It’s when we get into trouble.

TF        The picture I’m getting in my head, and I’m interested whether you agree with this, is
          we’re not talking progress here, we’re talking with complex mixture, like when your
          parents were working on Glen Ormiston they were under this horrific Act, they weren’t
          getting cash wages, somebody could hit your mother with a bough switch or whatever, and
          yet on the other hand, they were living on their traditional country. Now, there’s wages,
          there’s legal rights or whatever, and yet you two don’t go to Glen Ormiston.

IT        No.

TF        How do you understand that passage of history, positive and negative?

          Topsy Hansen

          19:24:49:14     With sadness, I think, but it … the thing that really helped us was that they
          allowed ummm like the company stakeholders, or shareholders … Glen Ormiston’s
          shareholders actually allowed, because Bill Fraser was on the managing board of directors
          then and I said to Bill, ‘We’ve got to take …’ well Mum actually told Bill. Mum knew
          Bill very well because Mum actually gave Bill the history, you know, he’s a young fellow
          ummm that didn’t know much history of the stations and Mum said to Bill, ‘You make
          sure my ashes go back home, Bill,’ and he said, ‘Topsy, I’ll always do that’. So that’s
          when we went, when Mum died. I think that was ummm something that allowing her
          ashes to go back to her birthplace was a very significant ummm process for us, but even for
          her. But I think our, you know, with the new managers and that, you can’t go back. They
          can’t go back into that history because they don’t know it, they didn’t live it, they don’t
          know it. And I don’t even know if it was safe for them, you know, the new managers. But
          ummm …


TF        Let’s go back a bit. Who owns Glen Ormiston? Legally owned, leaving aside traditional
          owners. But when you were kids, who owned Glen Ormiston?

IT        19:26:17:06     Mrs Fraser from Muldoolin owned Glen Ormiston, owned it. So that’s
          where the Fraser family ummm but Bill senior, because he was the, he was one of the
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                     25

SF        Yeah, I think it was Collins and White.

IT        Who they married into.

SF        Yes.

IT        That reign of ummm will give you the history.

SF        Yes it was Collins and White Company but then it was broken down into a pastoral …

TF        NAPCO took it over, I think, didn’t they?

SF        Yes, but it …

          Race Relations

          19:27:02:12     Yes, but that’s after she died. Mrs Fraser owned it. In her will she said
          never to remove the blacks from here. They are always to have a place in their, Glen
          Ormiston, because I think that she realised way back that, you know, when somehow
          through that whole history of families when they bought it, and when, I think when she
          died – she was killed at Muldoolin just down here near Beaudesert in a car crash – not long
          after that, I think they kept it on for a while but then they sold it and shareholders took
          over. I don’t know the history all that much.

TF        She was a relative of Malcolm?

IT        Yeah, she was Malcolm Fraser’s aunty and that’s how Malcolm came out to Glen
          Ormiston all the time because Mother kept saying, you know, when Malcolm was Prime
          Minister ummm …

SF        He was only a young fellow then.

IT        Yeah, when he came out.

SF        Actually I didn’t know that until I read it in the book.

          Topsy Hansen/Malcolm Fraser

          19:28:09:18     Yeah. Well Mum used to show off with him because I used to work in
          Foreign Affairs in Canberra and I said ummm … he’d say, ‘Bring your mother around,’
          because he was Prime Minister, and she’d go to Parliament House and he’d be showing off
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                      26

          like a, you know, prized peacock in the House, at Parliament House in Canberra, and he’d
          always acknowledge Mum. And he took her to, you know, the very posh dinner place up
          there, Parliament House dinner, you know, where they have the … Mum would be
          welcome and see one of the things, Trish, when Aboriginal women looked after these
          young charge kids, young kids, they spoke language too. There’s another friend of mine
          that, who’s the major of Burketown Shire Council, she had an Aboriginal woman working.
          All of her kids speak                           so it’s nothing unusual for the young white
          kids to come out and talk language with all of us, because they weren’t ostracised, you
          know, they were embraced, and I think Malcolm felt very, very ummm at home with my
          mother because he was always very fond of her and so did Bob Katter senior. Mother
          looked after his kids and, you know, Footes from Mt Isa Mines, Batoni. These are all the
          people …        19:29:37:10

SF        Tony, Tony McGrady.

IT        Not Tony, we didn’t have Tony McGrady.

SF        Oh not out there but she worked with him in Mt Isa.

IT        Yeah, she worked in Mt Isa but didn’t look after his kids. But old Bob Katter senior …

TF        So how was it, if Malcolm Fraser’s aunt has said the Aboriginal people are always to stay
          here. That wasn’t what happened.

IT        19:30:32:08     I don’t know, Trish. That’s what my Mum told me and I think, in the end,
          you know, the Fraser family ummm I mean these stations are so huge and so big and I
          guess, you know, they’ve got a business enterprise to think about and it’s quite hard to
          maintain the stations as they were and, you know, the beef I think too, at that time, that
          things … the dynamics just changed. I mean, I wasn’t very interested and I don’t suppose
          Shirley and those, we all went our different ways.

          Pastoral Industry

          19:31:11:10     And I think, too, you have ummm ummm the old station manager, old
          Martin Hayward, at that time, when he left he knew all the Aboriginals like the people in
          the camps, they moved away. Ummm everything sort of changed with new managers and
          the way they managed things. Helicopters took over. Motorbikes took over. There was
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       27

          no need ummm for the Aboriginal stockmen, or any stockmen. Maybe just the odd
          jackaroo who wants to come out and learn how to ride a horse, you know.

TF        So the pastoral industry came to need much less labour in total?

SF        Yes, I think so.

IT        19:32:05:00     I think you find that everywhere. But it was very sad, Trish, that, you know,
          our parents couldn’t even get long service and …

SF        Yeah, Dad worked there thirty years                         Mum was the cook. Our mother
          was the cook for twenty-eight years.

IT        And you have got that and, you know, that’s what I keep saying to Shirley that even our
          sister Bessie, I mean you know you don’t hear much of us talk about Bessie because she
          was already gone …

SF        Yes, she was …

IT        … and moved on into another station. She was at Roxborough with Mary Robbins …

SF        Mary and Bill Robbins.

IT        … and then moved into …

SF        Then after they left there, she went to Cloncurry.

IT        … Cloncurry. You know, so she had another life.

SF        And our brother, he – George – he went, he lived in Boulia because he was one of the first
          Aboriginal jockeys ummm to do the country. He never rode metropolitan or anything like
          that. He was out in Boulia, Dajarra, riding horses there.

TF        And you said, Shirley, that you went off to boarding school when you were little but you
          ended up doing stock work as well. How did that work?

SF        19:33:20:14     Well, I used to … when we used to go, went to boarding school, I’d go
          home during Christmas and ummm help Mum in the house doing odd jobs and that for
          pocket money and things and ummm we used to just … every time Christmas came, we’d
          just go horse riding, you know, mustering cattle with Dad and things like that.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       28

TF        So what year would we be talking now? Approximately.

SF        Probably back in the fifties. Fifties and sixties.

TF        Was this riding just for pleasure or was it part of the work of the property?

          Physical Hardships

          19:34:08:12     Pleasure and part of the work ummm and helping Mother ummm in,
          because she was the cook. She was the only woman other than the camp that ummm was
          in charge of the station and ummm to help her out and … because in those days you didn’t
          have washing machines and it was a big boiler that you put all the clothes in, stoke the fire
          up and you’d starch everything. You’d starch sheets and all those years they weren’t
          coloured sheets, they were white sheets and, you know, in the red dust you’d be racing
          around trying to shut the house up to stop the dust from getting in. But, yes, I’d help
          Mother on the station many times at Christmas time. But then, of course, we’d only come
          home at Christmas time. We wouldn’t come home three times a year. 19:35:13:20

TF        Were you paid for that work?

SF        Yes, a little pocket money. We’d get … that would be our Christmas … we’d go into town
          then and buy ummm our Christmas, do our Christmas shopping.

TF        And how was it, you were at private schools, that obviously took cash. Where did the
          money for your education come from?

SF        Mum and Dad worked.

IT        And then we got …                                    19:35:43:18

TF        So this is Betacam tape 68, it’s still DAT tape 24 and we’re on 1 hour 11 minutes and
          7 seconds.     This is the third Betacam of an interview with Isabel Tarrago, nee
          Hanson, and Shirley Finn, nee Hanson, and we’re at Isabel’s house. 68_BC_SP

          So how was it, given that your parents didn’t get any cash except what went to the
          policeman, how was it that you two went to private schools? Because that would have cost
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                         29

IT        20:01:13:10     Well, I often said this to Shirley too. It’s a mystery. I really don’t know the
          answer, Trish, but I tell you what, there’s more to it. My brother and my sister went to
          Brisbane Grammar School and that’s the most elitist school you could possibly go to and I
          think, from when we were talking, that my sister was the first Aboriginal girl ever to go to
          Grammar School, and my brother. So all of us went to boarding schools. So somehow,
          with … I don’t know. I can’t answer it. Our parents never told us. They wanted us to
          have the best education that they could possibly give us. They said, and it was very clear,
          we had to live in the white man’s world now and you had to use the tools that they use.
          And, you know, our father was a very ummm very astute man, and our mother, very hard-
          working, and they did have, you know, they had a lot of friends in the pastoral industry, a
          lot of friends. So I don’t know. I mean, we were there, we were all educated, we were
          very well educated. We’ve all had jobs. Never unemployed.

TF        Do you think it might have been that the fees were paid … because the station owners
          couldn’t have paid your parents without upsetting other station owners, could they? Do
          you think it might have been the station owners paying your fees? What do you think?
          Where do you think the dough came from Shirley?

IT        20:02:56:18     Collins and White? I don’t know.

SF        I really don’t know. I think it’s just a mystery, you know. It’s hard to say.

IT        One would hope that it is remuneration for the hard work that our family did.

SF        That they did on the stations.

IT        And I think, if that’s the case, then we’re pretty happy with that, you know, because four
          kids got highly educated out of a process where education was not the flavour of the
          month, you know, because we weren’t really into all that but …

TF        And why were you two educated in Charters Towers, whereas your elder brother and sister
          came to Brisbane, do you think?

SF        20:03:42:06     I first went to … first of all, before we were sent away to school, we were
          taught correspondence and then, because Mum couldn’t read or write but managed to keep
          us sitting at the table and did a bit of correspondence at the beginning, and I think it just
          got sort of hard for her and ummm with the help of the managers and ummm I think just
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       30

          sending us away was a lot easier. But, of course, then I went at six years old but Isabel
          didn’t go until she was …

IT        Five.

SF        … oh, yeah. Probably seven, I think, Isabel started.

TF        But why Charters Towers?

          Topsy Hansen

          20:04:31:20     Oh, because it was closer, because Brisbane was really a bit hard. Because
          Mum used to like bringing us back and I think she didn’t like … well, the train, you know,
          the station manager used to drive us into Dajarra and we’d get the train together. I think
          she enjoyed that, the train ride, because she actually was able to take us back to the school
          and settle us in and then do her other thing, because she was a great gardener, and she
          enjoyed … because the train, I know sometimes when she’d go home she’d have all these
          plants, all the cuttings and everything, people used to give her. But I think because our
          brother and sister went away to Charters Towers, it was a bit hard for her. Ummm

TF        You said when I interviewed you before that you thought it was because Granny Brown
          was in Charters Towers.

IT        Yes, she was.

TF        That’s probably what I’m fishing for.

IT        Yeah, yeah. Granny was. Yes.

SF        She lived in Charters Towers, old Grandma Brown. But also the climate …

IT        Yeah.

SF        20:05:34:04     … too, probably, and a lot of ummm, a lot of kids from Boulia and the
          stations went to Charters Towers as well, because you’ve got ummm old Mr Katter’s sons.
          They both went to Mt Carmel College and I think, you know, they were from Cloncurry. I
          think it was just a close-knit where others were going.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                        31

IT        Yeah. And, yeah, I think Granny Brown had a big influence because we used to go there
          for weekends and …

SF        Yeah, and she’d come down to see her and, yeah, and you know take us out for the

IT        Aunty                 Yeah, and Uncle Doug, that’s the other eldest daughter.

TF        I went to boarding school at eleven and I bawled my eyes out for three months but I can’t
          imagine doing it at five. Did you feel cut off from your parents and the land, or did you
          accept it?

IT        20:06:38:08     Well because Shirley was there, I was all right. I had an elder sister at the
          school so I felt comfortable but I think when she left it got, you know, it got a bit hard for
          me too, because it’s ummm you’re on your own and then you just don’t get home or go
          anywhere, and I think one stage there I got so ummm anxious that I think Shirley and Mum
          had to come to Charters Towers and live for six months, which I remember.

SF        Yes.

IT        Because I just fretted so badly.

TF        You said that your Mum didn’t read and write English but spoke five Aboriginal languages
          and was highly educated in traditional ways, do you think there’s a way that you got a
          white education at the expense of an Aboriginal one, or do you feel like you managed both
          bits? Do you know what I’m saying?

IT        20:07:37:08     Yeah, I know what you’re saying. Ummm they were very strong traditional
          teachers. We, I mean, this façade that you’ve got in front of you now, it’s very traditional.
          My mother spoke, and we learned a lot. Ummm we can’t practise it here but still today our
          aunties and that come from Boorooloola. At                         they came down and they
          just ceremony and that in the house and we can, we can move into cultures very
          comfortably. Because we don’t speak the language all the time, but if you’re sitting
          around long enough, it comes back. Not as fluent. It’ll come back because we learnt it as
          small kids, small, and you don’t forget that. But, yes, I regret that I can’t sit down and
          speak a fluent language and ummm that’s a compromise, I think Trish, we had to do
          because that’s what my father was talking about. We have to live in the white man’s world
          now and he always said you’ve got to be twice as better than them. And we’ve always
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                        32

          been like that, you know, you have to strive but that didn’t sacrifice our traditional values
          because I think Avalina is very, very instilled and Shirley’s young girl, Jackie. I mean
          there’s a choice there as well because there’s so much that you have to hang on to and it is
          very difficult because you’ve got to step in two worlds.

TF        Clearly your parents were both skilled at stepping across those two worlds.

IT        Mmmm.

SF        Yes, that’s right.

TF        One argument could say you two are doing it just with a different balance and I’m
          interested in that.

IT        20:09:36:20     And I do regret, but I do think that Shirley and I are heading back home. I
          mean, we’re just down here, and I always say I’m down here on someone else’s ground. I
          don’t feel comfortable, Trish. I need to go home where my spirit and my soul and my
          beliefs are stronger. And I think that’s coming because … it’s taken us a long time but you
          don’t have a choice in your process, I think, if you really want to get somewhere today.
          You have to really educate your kids and yeah, but I think that I can learn the language
                        like my Mum and Dad. You know, I can get back there because my family is
          still speaking it. We haven’t lost it. It’s still, ceremonies are going in the … you know,
          women’s and men’s ceremonies are going, it’s just that we haven’t attended. But they
          don’t forget us.      Ummm but you still can gain it.       It’s when it’s lost, completely
          demolished, that you can’t go back to anything, but I guess that’s what keeps us going
          because we’re very strong black women.

TF        I’d like to hear now, from each of you separately, the story of your family leaving Glen
          Ormiston. What you remember, what stage you were at in your life, what you remember
          hearing. And we talked a bit about it before but I think it’s important. So Isabel, you first.
          How did your family come to leave Glen Ormiston?

          Race Relations/Women

          20:11:10:04     Well I believe that ummm when Martin Hayward, the manager, brought in a
          woman by the name of Mary Robbins to take over the role of my mother, my mother
          politely said to Martin, who had been with my Mum for a long time, ummm ‘That’s it’.
          She saw the writing on the wall.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       33

SF        Yes, that was virtually it. Ummm you, Mary Robbins came ummm, ‘Topsy you take a
          holiday now, I’ll do the cooking’ and Mum turned around and said, ‘I’ll be taking an
          extended holiday’ and we packed the truck up and away we went. They never looked

TF        Did you know at the time? I’ve got goose bumps. Did you know at the time that this was
          a really significant event?

SF        Well, I thought ummm …

IT        I was too young.

SF        20:12:30:10     After cooking on a station for twenty-eight years ummm and running the
          station when the manager was away that a woman should come in and say to the person,
          you know, ‘You take a holiday’ and, as Mum felt then, she wasn’t wanted.

TF        And why wasn’t she wanted? Why do you think that happened?

IT        20:13:09:06     Well, there was a relationship building with this manager who didn’t have a
          wife and this woman who left her husband. I mean, don’t forget that we knew the
          background history – well not me – but my family knew the background history because
          this woman was the woman that took my elder sister away in Roxborough and left her in
          Cloncurry, so there was no love lost with my mother and her, because she wanted to come
          back to a station life and Martin, I thought, did a very dishonest thing there and just said,
          ‘Well, Topsy, if that’s the case …’

SF        ‘And you take a holiday.’

          Gender Relations

          Yeah. And it also, it didn’t even get … it wasn’t only my mother, it was my father who
          really had never lived in a city, whereas my Mum was a very flexible person, very flexible
          woman. But my Dad was never. He lived all his life on a cattle property and the minute
          we brought him into a town situation, he just crumbled. So they really destroyed ummm a
          life ummm very quickly.

TF        So did your Dad … I mean, Mary Robbins was coming to take your mother’s job but did
          your Dad, would he have still had a job?
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                   34

SF        20:14:42:02     He went back. He left with us ummm and then he went back to Glen
          Ormiston but could not work there under the conditions, whatever those conditions were.
          Ummm and he came to us, he came back to Mt Isa to us there, and then he went to a place
          called Marquar Station and …

IT        Uncle Davey Brown.

SF        Dave Brown.

IT        Granny’s …

SF        That’s one of the sons. And ummm he worked there right up until he died.

TF        So in the end for your family, then, do you think it was more … how did the equal pay
          story relate to the Mary Robbins thing, do you know?

IT        Didn’t come into it.    Didn’t come into it.   Ummm I would say, you know, Martin
                                           She ended up with, he ended up with her eventually when
          he retired in Charters Towers, and he was a great friend of, you know, our Mum’s.

SF        Yeah, he was a great friend of the family.

IT        Family. Great friend. But, I mean, they didn’t want to do anything. I mean, you could
          have probably taken it further but what’s the point? Ummm it was one of those things that

TF        And all the Aboriginal people in the camp at Glen Ormiston?

SF        20:16:10:00     They had gone. They had gone prior to that. They were just ahhh some of
          them were just moving away and not coming back. Eventually there was no camp at all
          and you only had the Aboriginal workers ummm in the ummm in the camp there – the
          ringers ummm all the stockmen.

TF        And what was driving that process from the Aboriginal end, do you think? Why …

IT        Why me?

TF        Were they being made less comfortable or …?
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                      35

IT        20:16:39:00     Yeah, equal pay. They would have had to cater, under the Human Rights,
          from the Wavell Hill, under Human Rights and Protection on equal pay, they would have
          had to, you know, either organise social security … it was just a minefield. So there was a
          lot of connotations to keeping Aboriginals on properties. They would have had to feed
          them and administrator, you know, the money and do all that sort of thing. So it became
          such a minefield. It was a lot easier under the Act. The station, you know, the police
          stations could manage that but under real issues, it was best to have any, you know don’t
          have any of them there. And I think that made a big change. The dynamics changed
          ummm for Aboriginal people and we started, I guess, you know, started talking about how
          indigenous people made the pastoral industry because there’s a big gap between ummm
          what they were paid in ration, and I think some got paid as a wage, but not many. I think if
          there was an evaluation done around the ridges, you know around the communities now, to
          see exactly how many people did get it, there’d be very few.

TF        Well I remember in a book by Ruby de Satge she talked about being paid as a drover but
          then told that when she was on stations she mustn’t let the station Murris know she was
          paid or it would create trouble so you can get the sense of …

SF        Yeah.

TF        … a lot of subterranean stuff.

SF        Yeah, yeah.

TF        So this is DAT tape number 25, we’re still in Betacam number 68. This is the second
          DAT, third Betacam, interviewing Isabel Tarrago and Shirley Finn.

IT        I’m amazed I’ve done pretty well without coughing.

TF        So Isabel, from your end, you weren’t at home, were you, when your family left? What’s
          your memory of …?

IT        Oh, yeah. I had just come home from school, didn’t I?

SF        No, I don’t think you were.

IT        Yeah, I remember packing that red Ford.

SF        Oh, okay.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       36

IT        The old truck.

SF        Yeah, the red truck. Yes.

          Race Relations/Aboriginal Labour

          20:19:15:14        The red truck. And I remember the … I’ve got a photograph, we’ve got a
          photograph of that. And Mum … we didn’t have very much and I remember I was all
          excited because I didn’t know all this other stuff was going on. I was too young, basically,
          and I just thought we were going for a holiday, and I thought Jimborella, wow!

SF        Big swimming hole.

IT        Big swimming hole. We had big fun because that’s where all the corroborees, ceremonies,
          were and I had a ball because see all the women used to look after me and I could just have
          … it was just paradise for me. And I thought, ‘Oh, we’re going up’ and all I was worried
          about was my old dog. The old black dog.

SF        Yes.

IT        I can’t even remember her name now.

SF        Poossum.

IT        Possum.

SF        Poossum.

IT        20:20:07:20        Poossum. That’s all I wanted, to make sure she could travel on the truck,
          and she was a lovely old dog, and we got up there and old Granddad Barrum, he was …
          because he had a lot of goats and I used to love to go down and milk the goats with him
          and I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be fun’. So I had this as a holiday but ummm yeah, I
          didn’t even look for, but I realised then it was no holiday because we …

SF        It was for real.

IT        It was for real and by the time we got into Boulia … we left Jimborella after Christmas and
          we went into Boulia and they moved us into this old house. It was an old shop front,
          wasn’t it, where you and Mum …
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                    37

SF        Yeah, it was an old shop front.

IT        20:21:00:20     Old shop front, and there was no houses so Mum actually got … Dad and
          Shirley and Mum and Dad, they set it up and ummm I had to go back to school and I think
          Mum got a job at the …

SF        Australian Hotel.

IT        … hotel.

SF        Cooking there for a while. She cooked there and then from there she ahhh we moved to
          Mt Isa and stayed there and Dad went back to the station ahhh …

IT        We lived in Dorothy Street then.

SF        20:21:29:06     Yeah, and ummm worked there for a few months but I think nothing was the
          same. Everything sort of changed. Ummm he wasn’t doing much, he wasn’t going out,
          sort of just doing things around the station, and that wasn’t him. After being a head
          stockman with horses, you know, and cattle for thirty-odd years, you don’t ask a person to
          do the yardman or, you know, or round the station. So he left ummm came back to Mt Isa
          and then got a job at ummm Marquar Station and ummm we had gone to, we had moved to
          ummm to Townsville then.

IT        Well you got married in Mt Isa.

SF        Yeah, got married in Mt Isa.

IT        She got married in Mt Isa and her and her husband went to Winton, didn’t you?

SF        Went to Winton to live.

TF        And did you go back to school and complete your education?

SF        Yes.

IT        20:22:34:16     No, I left. Ummm I started working in Mt Isa Mines then, Batoni’s, because
          I knew I couldn’t leave Mum on her own. Shirley and Teddy, her husband, went and I was
          with Mum. Mum was working and I stayed with her as long as I could ummm and we
          were in Mt Isa when we found out that her father had died at … oh, I was back at school,
          wasn’t I?
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                    38

SF        20:23:03:20     No, you were in … you were in Sydney at the … we’d left. We had all
          ummm all left. Mum had gone to ummm Townsville to live, Isabel had gone back to
          ummm Sydney but it was ummm really very funny because ummm Mary Robbins, who
          was the partner of Martin, his daughter came up, Heather Mills. Heather and John. And
          ummm they were university students, or teachers, at the time and ummm I still don’t know
          how it ever happened because Isabel was only 16 at the time when she left with Heather
          and John to Sydney and ummm she ended up working down there ahhh became very good
          friends with ummm Yvonne Cawley, Goolagong Cawley, ummm and I went and lived at
          Winton. And I had got a phone call, then, to say a Mr Hanson had passed away. Then I
          thought, ‘Oh, it must have been a brother’ but when I had rung Mum, she had said it was
          Dad who ummm he always ummm said that if he ever passed away, he wanted to do it
          riding horses and mustering cattle and we had sent a telegram to Isabel. Isabel flew up to
          Townsville. We drove from Winton across to Townsville and ummm he had passed away
          mustering horses and ummm he must have got a pain in the chest and got off his horse and
          lied down under a tree with his hat and boots on, and the horse was tied up under a tree.
          They didn’t find him, I think, for three days.   20:25:21:10

TF        So your Dad did not last long after leaving Glen Ormiston.

SF        No.

TF        And how about your Mum? Can you just sketch briefly your mother’s life from then till
          she died.

IT        Oh well, she ended up with … she was with Shirley and the kids because that basically
          kept her going.

SF        Kept her going with the three children.

IT        Yeah, so ummm …

SF        And then we moved. Isabel was still in Sydney at the time and I moved down here and
          virtually Mother was between Brisbane, Mt Isa and Sydney, and she was just probably a
          Madame Butterfly, fluttering here, there and everywhere.

IT        And enjoying it.

TF        She continued to cook in Mt Isa?
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                          39

IT        Yeah, and in Sydney, and here. I mean, she worked for the …

SF        20:26:23:00     She worked for the Bethany Home at Morningside and she worked for Opal.
          She’d done cooking here for hostels and everything but for a lady who couldn’t read or
          write, she could catch a bus from South Brisbane all the way to Morningside.

TF        So your Mum, it sounds like she could adapt in a way that your father couldn’t. Is that …?

          Topsy Hansen

          20:26:47:16     Yes and I think that’s one of the things … I guess that’s a strength that
          ummm that she had. You know, the character that she had, because she was the driving
          force. Ummm she was the outgoing, you know, she got in there and did things, and made
          things work, and I guess that’s where … and yet our Dad, you know, he was very strong as
          well but the life, you know, from the bush to come into even Mt Isa, to Townsville was
          really … he hated it. He really did hate it. It is a different lifestyle and you’ve got to cater
          to different things and ummm it’s just one of those things. So I guess overall Mum, you
          know, she died at 85 here and she was strong as an ox but I think she had done everything
          she possibly could have and left a legacy of ummm you never give up, you know, and I
          guess that’s the thing, too, because you’ve got to keep challenging whatever. And I
          believe she challenged the system of living in two cultures and she was a winner every
          time because she could adapt to the white philosophy as well as living a traditional
          lifestyle, and she didn’t sacrifice that.           20:28:10:02

TF        Tell me the story of what you did with your mother’s ashes because you said before that
          she’d always said to Bill Fraser, ‘Take my ashes back to Glen Ormiston’.

          Topsy Hansen: Ashes / History

          20:28:26:18     Yes, she sort of said to Bill that she wanted to go back home. She said,
          ‘Don’t ever bury her in someone else’s country because she’ll come back and haunt us’
          and she died, it’d be twelve years last Thursday, 31 August. In ’88 she died and ummm
          ummm Shirley’s eldest girl Avalina, Ray my husband and myself took her ashes back to
          Glen Ormiston and ummm along the way, you know, we stopped and told everyone and
          they were pleased that, you know, she had her wish to go back there. It wasn’t a very …
          going back to Glen Ormiston, we hadn’t gone back there for so long and I thought, ‘Oh,
          well, this is not … we can come back and speak to the manager’ and that, and Bill Fraser,
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                      40

          Mrs Fraser’s son, organised everything so we didn’t have to do a thing and I didn’t even
          know … I knew the managers were there but he organised everything and said, ‘That’s
          fine’. And the board of directors, obviously, I don’t know, the word didn’t get through or
          something, so we arrived at the station, the homestead, and we wanted to get some water
          and they just didn’t want to know us, really, and we said, ‘Well, we’re taking Topsy’s
          ashes back to Lake …

SF        Wanditta.       20:30:07:08

IT        … Wanditta, and Ray had to ask several times, ‘Well, you know, we’ve camped and we’ve
          used the water, can we just top up the water’ and so, because Avalina was only five, so we
          were just mindful … we knew water was on the way but ummm all the creeks and that, but
          we needed water just to have.       And they were very reluctant to even engage in a
          conversation and my husband got very angry and ummm he actually got a little bit cranky
          because he reminded them who, you know, that this woman was one of the women who
          really made an impact on this station. So it’s really sad to see that … and I think,
          analysing it, if you don’t have the right history or information there, ummm and you hear
          about all this Aboriginal process going on, if people don’t know and they don’t want to
          find out, it makes it very difficult. But the same thing that, as Shirley said, acknowledges

SF        Acknowledge.                                      20:31:20:12

IT        … acknowledgement has to happen.

SF        Yes, they have to acknowledge all the ummm the Aboriginal people that made all these
          stations to what they are today. You know, it’s a sad …

TF        Did you know the managers that were there?

IT        No. I never heard of them.

SF        I did ummm yes. Jim Dwyer, when he was there ummm …

IT        The ones now?

TF        No, the ones when you took your mother’s ashes back.

IT        Yes, the new ones.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                         41

SF        Oh, no. No, I didn’t know them.

IT        20:31:55:02     None of us knew them. And we just thought, because Bill, you know Bill
          said to us, ‘Go ahead, you take your mother’s ashes back home’ and I suppose maybe he
          didn’t explain to them either, you know, so I don’t know what the breakdown was but we
          had to be fairly blunt and ummm Ray just said, ‘Well, we’ll just get the water and move
          on. Thank you.’ Didn’t even ask … they didn’t even ask us in for a cup of tea or, you
          know, and that was against Mum’s …


IT        … anyone that came to the station …

SF        Was welcome.

IT        … the policy was for my mother, you come in, you have a feed, we’ll give you some
          things to take with you. It just turned upside down and, you know, that’s the way it was.

TF        What were the names of the people that were there?

IT        Oh, I can’t even remember. Liz and …

TF        Was it Liz Debney and Mal?

          20:32:59:04     Yeah, Liz and Mal Debney. And, I mean, they were just so young and so,
          you know, I thought, wouldn’t have known much of our history anyway. But, you know,
          not even to be offered a cuppa tea, which is a … it’s a recipe of entry. It’s a bush entry and
          no matter who you are, and I just thought, ‘Oh, well, I got a message’. A very distant
          thing. And I thought, ‘Well …’. I just said to Ray, ‘Get the water, let’s go. We’ll have a
          cuppa tea down the road’. So it was very sad but I had a feeling.

TF        Going back in time, your Mum had offered a cup of tea to Edna Jessop’s family. Do you
          want to tell me that story?

          Race Relations/Women/Topsy Hansen/Edna Jessop

          20:33:46:22     Yes. Well, when Edna and her father came across droving ummm and
          Martin Hayward was the manager then, said, ‘Oh, well, don’t worry too much about the
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                        42

          Jessops’ and my mother said, ‘Martin, I’m the cook. They are welcome to come and have
          a feed and have something to eat and, moreso, I’ll cook some food for them to take on the
          road,’ so my mother was a very, very ummm humanitary person and it doesn’t matter who
          you are, the policy for her, any visitors that came to Glen Ormiston you were given …

SF        You were made welcome.

IT        Made welcome to sit down and have a cuppa tea, have a break. If you wanted a shower
          and freshen up, you could do it. And Mark and Pat Fennell actually commented on my
          mother for doing that when they brought their first baby back. So, you know, the rules and
          that have really changed on management.

TF        Did you try to explain to Mal and Liz the kind of history your family had there?

IT        20:34:53:18     I don’t know whether … I think I just said to them, you know, that my
          mother and father made this station and left it at that and I didn’t really feel like engaging
          because I thought if you can’t do it from the bottom of your heart, in respect ummm, well
          there’s nothing I can do. And I really didn’t feel like engaging with them after that so it
          left a pretty well ummm sour feeling in my mouth because that’s not how you treat people
          in the bush. It doesn’t matter that I happen to be Aboriginal. You just don’t treat people
          like that in the bush. That whole ummm management of the old style has gone forever and
          I said to Bill when I came back, and he said, ‘Well, there’s nothing … what can I do?’ He
          was sorry but he did his job. Bill actually did his job to get my mother’s ashes back, and
          that was it.    20:35:57:20

TF        And where did you leave your mother’s ashes?

IT        At Wanditta.

          At Lake Wanditta. Yeah. See, once again, like the ummm title of this book. Is it No More

          You Can’t Make it Rain.

          You Can’t Make it Rain. Like the process of that, what they should have done, like the
          author of that, they should have came and asked people, you know. What did they do?
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                        43

          They only asked the managers that’s there now, the past managers. They didn’t ask the
          people that made that station.                      20:36:30:18    END TAPE

TF        They didn’t talk to Aboriginal people?

IT        Aboriginal people.

SF        No.

TF        This is good stuff to be talking about. I want to go on to talk about Land Rights. Often it
          seems to me when those things go wrong between people, often there’s not intention so
          much as ignorance.

IT        See, I don’t know their background. I don’t know where they come from.

SF        See, like for instance, when I went and done that workshop at Bedourie, down there, the
          policeman come back and said the …

TF        This is Betacam tape 29, we’re still in DAT tape 25, the second DAT tape of the
          interview with Isabel and Shirley and the DAT is on 2028 right now. 69_BC_SP

          About You Can’t Make it Rain.

          21:01:13:16     Yeah, what I was saying is, like the author of that, I get ummm really
          annoyed when you see these books that come out and they don’t bother asking ummm the
          Aboriginal side of things. It’s only the managers and the managers then are only people
          that are made look good because of the workers, of the Aboriginal workers. They should
          be asking the Aboriginals ummm for their input, not just take managers’ side.

TF        So you think as the history gets written, the Aboriginal side of the pastoral industry doesn’t
          always get written in?

SF        21:01:59:10     That’s right. Maybe it’s too late now because the old ummm the Aboriginal
          stockmen and that have gone, passed on, but I’m sure they’ve got relatives that ummm on
          near stations that know the history just as good.

TF        I’ve come to know a bit about the Debneys and, in fact, Mal’s family came from Arrabury
          Station and it was his great-grandfather, I think, that did this thing called Debney’s Peace
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                     44

          which was when, from what I can understand, this is going back to about the 1880s, was
          when white and black having been basically at war on the frontier, Debney was apparently
          much respected by Aboriginal people and there was a kind of a peace that brought
          Aboriginal people into working in the pastoral industry. So you would expect somehow
          that he would know some of the background.

IT        21:03:05:15     Yeah. He wasn’t there. I don’t think I actually saw him. I saw Liz, who
          came out, so I think she might have been a bit, I don’t know, I mean what can you say?
          But one would think, if there was slight ummm partnership somewhere down the track,
          that there may have been a courtesy call there but it was definitely no go zone and …
          which really, because many times we sat around the table and enjoyed the company of
          others coming in and we grew up on that. So it really stunned me ummm to go back and
          see that the doors are closed forever, basically.

TF        Have you put in a Land Claim for Glen Ormiston?

IT        No, we haven’t.       We’ve talked about it.    Ummm some of our neighbouring ummm
          traditional groups ummm have asked us to think about it very seriously and Shirley and I
          have ummm I guess have the respect of ummm the Frasers, you know, just that respect of
          thinking about what had happened, and there’s no one … there’s only us two basically …

SF        Yeah.

IT        21:04:33:18     … that’s around. So it’s in our minds at the moment ummm of what we
          should be doing but we’re sort of not pushing towards that way because I believe that we
          could always have access to go through those places. And that’s one of the things that Mrs
          Fraser had said, that she would always want access to that because there’s been a lot of
          good partnerships. So I don’t know what, you know …

SF        What will happen now.

          … what will happen. But I’m hoping that … these managers need to really understand,
          and I’m quite frank on that, they need to understand that they are only managers. They are
          only managers of a station that is caring for a station that has been built upon our family
          and I think we’ll go down fighting to reinstore ummm the position of our parents because
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                      45

          they really made that station. And we need to have that acknowledgement, not for us but
          for what our parents did.

SF        21:05:44:08     And what other Aboriginals ummm have done on the station. The hard
          work that they’ve put in, and the toil and ummm thing. I think that’s the whole thing.
          They need to be acknowledged, not just ask, you know, past station managers and present
          one. It’s the young ones that have come out here and think they know it, you know.
          They’ve got to really sit down. I’m sure there’s a list of names and that that have worked
          on the station. It’d be nice for them to acknowledge the work that the Aboriginal people
          have done on many a station.

TF        When you say, well I want to tease this out, you said you had respect for the Frasers. Is
          there almost a sense that to put in a Native Title claim would show some disrespect for the

          Race Relations

          21:06:44:02     No, it’s not only that. It’s what’s happened ummm you know, in the times
          when the crunch was really, really a crunch time for pastoralists. I mean, what I say, I
          have a lot of respect for Mrs Fraser. She could have gone in there and had a gun and shot
          the lot of us. I mean, that’s what I’m saying about respect. We could have been decimated
          like any other station. I mean, that’s the disaster of it. But she didn’t do that. She had a
          vision ummm dealing with the Aboriginal traditional group camps that were there and she
          embraced that. So that’s what I talk about. I mean, it could have been a slaughter room
          and neither of us would be here today to tell the story. But that just didn’t happen and
          that’s the respect that I have for the Granny Browns and, you know, the earlier, the earlier
          pastoralists. We’ve got some really good ones, not to say we haven’t got any …

SF        Pat and Mark Fennell?                             21:07:48:14

          … good pastoralists now. I’ve been around the state, you know, and we’ve got some really
          fantastic … but we’ve got a big gap because we’ve got people who don’t understand the
          history of this country. They’re the ones that really have to get their knowledge of the
          history of this country right. And understand it. And from there on, I mean, we can move
          on. But, yeah, I think Shirley and I, I mean, I’m not quite sure if I want to live back on
          Glen Ormiston.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       46

SF        No, certainly not.

          Native Title

          21:08:20:08     You know, I’ve done that life.     We’ve done it.     Ummm we’ve got a
          wonderful history there, you know. We can talk about it, our kids know about it, but it’s
          nice to drive through and say, ‘Oh, well, let’s go and camp,’ you know, ‘we’ll go and camp
          at Meetukka’ or something. If we’re allowed to do that, well then we don’t have to do the
          other thing by putting legislation to it and claiming Native Title. I mean, we’re pretty well
          clear. We know who we are. We don’t have to have Native Title to tell us who we are.

TF        Tell me, how would you summarise your life now, Isabel? Life and work.

IT        Oh. My life and work, I believe that I’ve had a very privileged life. Ummm our family,
          you know, we are traditional people, we haven’t lost that. We can work within a white
          structure, a white system. Sometimes I don’t like it ummm but it’s the life we have to lead.

TF        So what’s your working role now, for instance?

          21:09:28:16     I work with Premier and Cabinet. I’m doing the ummm on a task force,
          indigenous task force for cultural heritage review. I work with Main Roads but I’ve been
          seconded over to do the legislation. Ummm I’ve found it really interesting. Ummm I’ve
          worked in, you know, most of the areas. I’ve been able to go back to some of the areas
          that we’re talking about now and … I haven’t been back to Glen Ormiston but I’ve been
          down to Birdsville and there, and the Channel Country down that end, and it’s wonderful
          just to smell the earth and touch the soil. It does do things for you. Ummm but I can do it.
          So really, we’re carrying on the two cultures that our parents established and enhanced
          and, you know. It ended a sad moment but I don’t think so. I think they gave us a lot of
          forward thinking and you can’t go forever but you can get it right.

TF        And you, Shirley, how would you kind of thumbnail sketch your life and work now?

SF        21:10:38:14     Oh, I’ve had a great interesting life. Ummm worked in the public service
          also, have worked in the community. Now I’m employed by the Queensland Police
          Service as a Police Liaison Officer to try and bridge that gap between the Aboriginal and
          Torres Strait Islander community and the wider community and the Queensland Police
          Service, and I’ve been doing that for six years.
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       47

TF        How long since you’ve been back to the Channel Country? What does the Channel
          Country mean to you now, living and working here in Brisbane?

SF        21:11:17:16     I’d like to ummm to go back there. I haven’t been back to Glen Ormiston
          for probably ten, fifteen years. I’ve been back to Boulia and it’s great to go back there and
          see old faces and talk to the people, different things, to meet old people, mmmm.

TF        Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you think is important to understanding
          women in the Channel Country generally, and your family in particular?

          Race Relations/Women/Work

          21:11:57:06     Trish, I think there is a myth out there that Aboriginal people, you know,
          really have not rewarded the country. I think one of the biggest rewards that Aboriginal
          women have played in the pastoral industry, and it’s not talked about, is with the children.
          I mean, as you see, you can ask many of the pastoralists, older pastoralists, I mean their
          kids were either taught by an Aboriginal woman or, you know, cared for. They fed them,
          they washed them, they bathed them. They did everything and there was this bonding and
          I think this is something that women have really played a major role, and still playing a
          major role. Women, Aboriginal women today have really bonded with non-indigenous
          women at many walks of life but I think the pastoral industry has been really neglected and
          this is what, I think, in our area, you know the women who have been on their own, talk
          about a … inspired. I mean, you’ve got to be a self-generated operator to really survive
          and you know this is what the women have never been given. Because we’ve worked in
          the industry, cattle industry, for so long and yet people say, you know, we seem to be down
          the lowest of the echelon and I think that has to come up and we’ve got to start embracing
          that because the stations wouldn’t have been, and the people and the women have really
          gained so much together.

TF        I’ve just remembered one more question I want to ask you and then I’d like to … how did
          you meet Pam Watson?

SF        21:13:55:20     Well, when I was doing my university degree at University of Queensland
          and Pam was actually sitting in one of the tutes and she was very interested in Aboriginal
          issues and that and we became talking and she sort of came up to me and said, ‘Can I
          interview your mother because I am a bio-chemist and I really want to know more about
          pituri and there’s a chemist place that really wanted to investigate more’ and I took Mum
Isabel Tarrago & Shirley Finn                                                                       48

          up to meet her. So we started getting together then and talking about the issues and she did
          tell me that she was going to do a book, you know, some time with all her … she did a
          PhD, and consequently she had time to go out and see places where the pituri was growing
          and all that. So we just became acquaintances then.        21:15:06:20

TF        I think Pam said that the very first time she met you was she’d written her Honours thesis
          about pituri and had said that there were no traditional owners left and that you had pointed
          out to her that she was wrong in that.

SF        Oh, I probably did too, Trish. I probably did too. You know, and I think that’s that
          educational process too, you know. Ummm it’s probably just a passing thing and I haven’t
          even thought about it but yeah, I probably would be, I probably would have done that
          ummm and being that of a significant …             21:16:18:15