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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 09 - 01 of 04 (Text)

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IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:26:30
Trish FitzSimons
Joslin McCabe
Griffith Film School
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09 - 01 of 04
3 June 2000
Transcript updated 16 December 2009. Timecode refers to tape 09_BC_DV. Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 09 - 01 of 04
Native Title Alice Duncan-Kemp
PTA refers to Part A of Tape 9
Image created by permission of the copyright holder. Recorded creative work created by permission of the copyright holder.
Joslin Eatts
Interview with Joslin Eatts. Tape 4 of 4 Footage starts with vision of calendar on the wall. Joslin is out of focus at the start. Ends with footage of Joslin's hands
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 09 - 01 of 04
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09_BC_DV_PTA_EATTS-plain.txt — 22 KB

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from Tape 09_BC_DV

This is DAT Tape 3 and camera tape 9 and both camera and DAT are starting out
      new and we’re with Joslin Eatts.

Now just end her off now with what do you want to know? Native Title?



So just to finish off with the Alice Duncan Kemp stuff, you think that Alice has pieced
      together lots of different people’s stories.

Yeah, she did write about other groups but she put them all in one place. It was probably a
      lot easier for her.

One way of viewing her books, it seems to me, is that just as in the way of instead of
      describing one particular trip, she put together all the trips she’d ever done, so you could
      say that instead of describing just her experience of Aboriginal people, she was putting
      together all the …

Alice Duncan-Kemp

      00:02:12:00     What she was putting together, she was putting together other Aboriginal
      people’s stories. Like a lot of those trips, she wouldn’t have been allowed on. There’s no
      way in the world she’d have been allowed on any of those secret journeys that she tells you
      she went to, unless they were forced with a gun, and I don’t think Alice would have done
      that. I don’t think she was that sort of person but maybe at that time, it was the early
      1900s, it was a very bad time, a lot of the old people were dying, starving, and they were
      chased off their land, they weren’t allowed in certain areas any more, so maybe they
      utilised Alice and used her too, and said ‘Okay, sister, you are one of us. You come with
      us’ because they knew they wouldn’t shoot her. So they probably used her so they had
      access to their sacred places. That’s my guess. And they would have told her what … the
      things that she wrote would have came from someone else, Mary Ann probably. And she
Joslin Eatts                                                                                          2

          was an educated girl, too. She was a half-caste because, as I said, William Watson was her
          father and he was the first manager on Currawilla Station that Costello bought, oh didn’t
          buy, he took it off, just took the land and built a shack up there and he was the manager.
          He was the first manager on that place. Well, that’s where they were born and actually
          their mother is still buried there. Which I found her grave too. And Moses Coen is called
          after Moses in the Diamantina area. Mary Ann is called after his sister. And they’re on the
          map today. Palparara, my great-great-grandfather, my Dad’s grandfather, Palparara down
          there, Waterhole. There’s Palparara Station. Our names are spread right throughout that
          land and they’ll never go away.                    00:04:14:15

What Pam’s thesis that she puts forward, essentially, in her book is that because Alice …
          you know the story of the tree falling on her head as a child …

Yeah, yeah.

… that she was seen by Aboriginal people as being somehow different from other kids.

00:04:31:20      She probably was. She may have been a quiet girl and maybe black people
          at that time had brains and they used the whites too, and they would have picked that up
          straight away. A way of getting access. They all did it. Probably my people did too.
          Because if you didn’t, what would happen to you, you’d be sent to a mission. So they did
          have brains and they used them too. They let the whites think that they were in control but
          they weren’t. So that’s how they would have done it. Just through using their brains.

I mean, it’s interesting to me from Alice’s work that I’ve read, one doesn’t get the idea that
          whites were strictly in control actually. I mean, stuff like the Aboriginal people telling the
          Duncan Kemps where to plant and where to put their house and which parts of the place
          you couldn’t go to. I mean, I get a strong sense of Aboriginal power, actually, from
          Alice’s books.

00:05:38:20      That’s right. Oh, yeah. There’s a lot of that in there, too, and some of it
          would have come from McKenzie, the second husband, because I think he’s got a little
          question mark up there too that I haven’t fully researched him yet, but I’ll let you know
          when I do. So he’s the other link.

00:06:28:10      Just that one bit. But that’s only my private view. I don’t know. Alice
          herself, as I said, whatever her life was, however she lived it, was something that helped
Joslin Eatts                                                                                         3

          her through her life and no doubt because she was a quiet, isolated girl out there, and
          friendly with the black people, and that was a no-no in them days, you weren’t supposed to
          be on equal basis with them, you had to keep them down on the ground all the time. And
          maybe Alice, and maybe even her mother, were different. They treated them equal. And,
          of course, they probably would have been rejected by the rest of the whites. I mean,
          they’re all people like Milsons, the Shaws, they’re all come from big places, or made out
          they did. They were just ordinary people, really, just with a bit of money backing, like
          McIlwraith. He owned the bank, the National Bank, he owned just about, he had interests
          in everything. Also an Aboriginal daughter, too.

And what were you telling me about Debney?

Race Relations – Intersex

          00:07:40:00    Debney was the same. He had an Aboriginal son and that was hid. Alice
          brings it up but she puts it in a different perspective, but that was his son, but I think he
          was killed. They all did. But I mean, if you went down, see one of them is still down there
          now, managing it, one of the ancestors. Oh, God, he’d probably have you arrested. But
          they don’t want to know their history.       They don’t want to think that they’ve got
          Aboriginal connections and I don’t know why. Why? Just because they’ve got different
          colour skins, or … they should be proud.

I guess it’s that history of rape and, you know, that’s what I would say …

00:08:29:20   That’s right. That’s what I reckon. And most of it was rape too. When you
          read authors, even Reynolds too, there’s quite a few of them actually. I’m just reading that
          Hothouse’s books, Hector Hothouse. My God, that’s a lot of crap. But what he does, he
          does write the stories, see. But they dramatise it and make everything look good for them,
          like they blame the black trackers for the Hornet Bank massacre. They blame the Cullen la
          Ringo massacre, they blame the blacks for that. It wasn’t their fault. They only reacted.
          The same as anybody would. If a bloke come up to you and pointed a gun at you, what
          would you do? You’d react, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t just stand there and say ‘Okay,
          shoot me’. It’s a natural human procedure. You just react to it and you try and survive and
          that’s what most of them did. And they survived in all sorts of ways and, as I said, they
          befriended Alice the best way they could do it, probably the only way they could do it,
          where they knew the whites weren’t interested and the whites had no understanding, so
Joslin Eatts                                                                                          4

          they used her for their own protection and their own way of getting across the country free,
          without being shot.


00:09:50:10    Yeah, well that was their way of survival, I guess, and able to look after
          their places. And most of her work is all about mustering camps and their travels to
          different areas and checking pegs and naturally the blackfellas want to go along. They
          want to go see their country too. So, as I said, they just used their brains. But there could
          have been a genuine friendship. [knock at the door] Go away! Oh, I’ve got visitors love.
          A little mate of my grandson’s.

          But whatever the real reason we probably will never know.            As I said, Alice did a
          wonderful job putting it all together. She’s kept it, because if she hadn’t the Native Affairs
          would have got it and destroyed it. But she didn’t write it. She wrote it, actually, typing it
          out and that sort of thing. She could have changed some of the verses, but not very much.

So you’re suggesting that Moses or Mary Ann …

Yeah, both …

… wrote stuff and sent it to Alice.

Both. Give it to her, yeah.

Do you have any direct evidence for that?

00:11:08:20    No. Just the words. The way they’re written. And common sense. You’ve
          only got to read her books, they’re so different than anything else anybody else has ever

But you’ve seen handwritten notes that are part of her private papers?


With different handwriting?

Yeah. And Yvonne picked that up too. She’ll tell you.

So who’s Yvonne?
Joslin Eatts                                                                                       5

Yvonne. Not Yvonne, Yvette.


Mmmm. She picked it up.

Whose handwriting do you think it is?

00:11:37:10      Moses. Have to be. Yvette picked it up and she’s an educated person, so
          she’s probably the only one but that’s because of the interest that she has, see? Anybody
          else just reading it wouldn’t. They wouldn’t want to go any further than just to read the
          book and say ‘Oh, yeah, that was a good book. Different, but good’ and just put it back on
          the shelf. But because Yvette is interested in the history and she wants to write her own
          style and she’s looking for that special thing that Laura put there.

What special thing?

Not Laura, Alice. The spiritual. The spiritual thing that gets inside a woman’s, or a man,
          or anybody. The special thing. The spirit that is in that country.

And you’re now drawing on Alice’s work …

Not all of it.

… in your Native Title claims?

Native Title

          00:12:37:00      Only the names because we have to show proof of things written about our
          ancestors, so I had to use … it actually mentions a lot of my ancestors. And Native Affair
          records. So that’s it. No one else has ever written about our family. No one. And we
          were probably … there’s only just a few of the older people that were sent to missions but
          there’s no background history on them. Not a thing. All it’s got on poor old great-
          grandmother’s grave is the year she died. Buried in Taroom. And that’s it. Taken away
          from her country and she’d never had no one with her probably.           A few other old
          Aboriginal people from other areas. So she would have died very lonely. And my
          grandfather’s other sister’s buried over in a police paddock in Hughenden. Her husband
          was with the black police. When they died of the flu epidemic, too, and they’re both buried
          there. That’s another one that I have to look into. So I’ve got evidence of where they’re
Joslin Eatts                                                                                            6

          all buried and they’re all from records. We have to show proof so the Native Affairs
          records is the closest.                             00:13:54:10

So what’s the process? From your end, what’s the process of going through a Native Title

00:14:01:16    Well, it’s the connection to your land as well as your genealogies. Our
          connection to the land. Well there again, it could be a little hard for us because with us it’s
          spiritual. I could tell you things about that country you’d never believe, so I don’t tell
          nobody because they don’t believe them. No one believes in the spiritual things any more.
          But they’re there and they’re still alive. Everything you read in Alice’s books is still there.

Yammacoona and all of that?

00:14:33:20    Yeah. She’s there more than ever and only lately it’s getting stronger. So
          there’s lots of strange things happening out there. And it’s … I used to worry about it but I
          don’t any more now. Maybe it’s bigger than all of us. Just like going to church, see,
          finding God. Same thing.

Now at the moment, as I understand it Joslin, and I’ve got what I would call the foggiest
          notions of this, but there’s tricky politics opening up …

Oh, yes, definitely.

… for Aboriginal people between people with, let’s say, descended relationship from the
          land and then people who lived in land but for whom it may not be there traditional
          country. How do you understand that? Do you think that the Native Title system, that’s
          been set up by Mabo and Wik and the Native Title Tribunals, what do you think of that

00:15:42:10    That system was good from the WIK and the Mabo and the WIK, and when
          it first came out it was good until Howard’s 10-Point Plan moved in and created so much
          problem. So he is the blame, just one man, with a stroke of a pen in the Senate.

So do you want to explain that, give specific examples?

00:16:03:10    Well if you know anything about Howard, I mean look at all, if you’ve seen
          his 10-Point Plan, they’re absolutely ridiculous. They’re just plain ridiculous. I’m sure in
Joslin Eatts                                                                                           7

          any other country they’d have shot him by now because it’s just way out of proportion, you
          see.   He’s still English.   He’s still living in the English atmosphere of their rules,
          regulations, their customs, their all of that hierarchy stuff from England, and you’ve only
          got to look at the man, listen to him. He’s not even an Australian. He’s pure English. It’s
          simple. And not early English, I mean, late English. It’s early stuff. All that royalty stuff.

Can you explain specifically Joslin? Like, in what way has the 10-Point Plan complicated
          your Native Title claim?

Native Title

          Well, for one thing, he stopped us from using traditional boundary lines. We have to go,
          lodge land claims now on station boundary lines, which is way out of Aboriginal
          perspective altogether.

So you can’t …

That’s just one of them.

You can’t draw the line down the middle of a station and say ‘That was my traditional
          lands, that isn’t’. You have to use the station boundary lines?

00:17:34:18    That’s right, yes. So that’s one of the most idiotic things. I mean, that’s
          right against Aboriginal culture, Aboriginal history, Aboriginal anything. That, for a start,
          should tell you the rest of it’s just crap too. But we have to go along with the guidelines
          and most of us are just getting through there the best way we can. I don’t know the results
          of all my hard work in there but I’m hoping that it’ll … they tell us it’s okay but he’s likely
          to go in there and add another amendment and we’re gone. They’ll never take the land off
          us and I don’t really care what he says, and I don’t know about other Aboriginal groups but
          I’m pretty sure it’s right across. It doesn’t matter who is there. It’s always be our country.
          And I think you would have heard that right throughout. It doesn’t matter if they say
          ‘Okay, that’s my land. That’s …’ you know, it’s not. It’ll never be theirs because they
          don’t have the feeling that we have for our lands. And that’s the way it’ll be forever.
          Nobody will ever own it and plus the fact, you’ve only got one life so you never really own
          it anyway, do you?

So when you’re seeking Native Title …
Joslin Eatts                                                                                           8


… what is it that you actually want?

The land. That’s what we go for. The rights to it.

And what rights, specifically …

Everything. We can go there when we want to. We can do what we want to and we need
          to protect everything that’s there.

Is it ownership in the way that whites understand it, that you’re seeking? Like the right to

00:19:22:08    No, no. Whites’ ownership, standard of ownership, is nothing compared to
          Aboriginal ownership. Never will be either, because Aboriginal people don’t need Deeds.
          They don’t need documents. They don’t need nothing written either. It’s all up here and
          in there, and that’s the difference. As I said, it doesn’t matter who says they own it, they’ll
          never own it. It’s not their land anyway. Never will be.

I know, for instance, that when Moraberry got sold three years ago, I think it was Sylvie,
          Alice’s daughter, and one of them got the right for them to be able to go and visit the
          graves and look after them, and visit Moraberry when they want. Does that describe the
          kind of thing that you’re seeking in Native Title?

00:20:14:00    No, we go deeper than that. We go deeper than that. But we won’t tell
          them. We keep a lot of things secret and it’ll never come out because you can’t push one
          another’s culture onto another. It can’t be done. Even though we live in standard things
          like this is modern culture here now. We mightn’t have posh homes but they’re still
          homes. We live in modern society, we drive cars, TV, mobile phones, phones, and we eat
          from the grocery shops, we don’t have to kill any more, and all that sort of stuff. But we’re
          just here. The rest of us are all out there in our lands and they’ll always be there. And the
          only thing that I can do is to protect what’s there now and that’s what I do, and document
          them, because down the track somebody’ll read about it later.

As I understand it, there’s quite a lot of conflict between Aboriginal people who have the
          capacity to put in a Native Title claim …
Joslin Eatts                                                                                         9

Oh, yeah.

… because they have descended from people who had traditional connection …


… and Aboriginal people that might live in that same area but not have that traditional

00:21:31:14   Yeah. Oh, yeah, well there is, and that’s because they don’t have a culture,
          or they have a culture but they’re not aware of their cultures. It’s like some of the people
          in Boulia, there are very few really traditional Pitta Pitta people down there. Most of them
          live here. Mum lives in Brisbane. I live anywhere and the rest of my family live
          anywhere. Oh, no, they’ve got homes. They’re not like me. But most of the people are
          the same. They don’t go far away from … I’m never far away from my country.

I guess what I’m interested in is whether you think this system that both … I mean, both
          the Labor and the Liberal government have set up in a certain way the system that gives
          potentially Native Title rights to Aboriginal people with traditional connections and
          doesn’t give Native Title rights to Aboriginal people who, for a whole complex of reasons,
          lost that traditional connection to land somewhere along the way.

          00:22:33:00   Yeah, well I think they’re problems that’s going to be faced for a while,
          simply because a lot of people don’t know their culture. They were taken away from their
          lands. They grew up in a different area, had no idea of where they came from, and later in
          life when you do get older, you start looking for your roots because your whole body and
          your soul craves for it. You crave to want to know where you come from. And I don’t
          know about European people but I think deep down everyone’s the same. They crave for
          that feeling of belonging somewhere, their ancestors. Must be. And we’re all human, we
          must all have that same thing there, that’s inside, and we’re the same. We know where our
          lands are. It’s just that we can’t get on a bus or get on a plane and go out to our land when
          we want to. But other people can. So I guess that’s probably it but in all of our minds,
          Aboriginal people, it’s up here and we’re always there. I’m always there. My Dad was the
          same. He was always there. And he used to tell us, you know, my brother used to get
          Stanley and Grandfather to ‘Oh, come on, I want to go and see this place’, but it wasn’t
          that, it was going back. And in his mind he would have seen his               the whole area
Joslin Eatts                                                                                        10

          in just one brief trip. But I was unaware of these things that went through my Dad’s head
          and Stanley would have been the same. Because we didn’t know the deepness that they
          felt because they were there. We’re only the kids. We didn’t go through what they went
          through and we didn’t live on the land as long as they lived there, so we have to try and
          reach into their minds and hearts, and that’s why they tell you stories. That’s why oral
          history is so important in Aboriginal structure.   00:24:36:20

And that’s why digging out the history …


… for you, presumably, is important.

00:22:42:09    That’s right. Yeah. It’s so I can latch onto it and I can spread it out in a
          different way to my kids, by writing, and computer use or typewriter, or whatever. And
          probably later down the track, they’ll have videos to watch, or something. Who knows?
          But it’s an advancement, has been right from the very beginning. We just had to grow
          with the country, it’s as simple as that. If we didn’t grow, we were just left like the river
          bed mob down here. They’re lost. And some of the smaller groups in different areas,
          they’re lost. But people like us, I guess, we’re just always one step ahead to survive. My
          Dad did it, my grandfather did it and I’m doing it and probably my kids will too. It’s
          something just a little bit better but never forget where you come from. So that’s basically

I’ve got no more questions. Do you?

How’s that?