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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 26 - 01 of 02 (Text)

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Respondent Interviewer
IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:29:35
Trish FitzSimons
Dorothy Hood
Griffith Film School
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26 - 01 of 02
15 June 2000
Updated 15/1/10 Timecode refers to tape 26_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 26 - 01 of 02
Native Title Alcohol
PTA refers to Part A of Tape 26
Copyright in individual works within this collection belongs to their authors or publishers. Recorded creative work created by permission of the copyright holder.
Dot Gorringe
End of interview with Dot Gorringe Part 2 of 2. Some signs of water damaged but footage generally ok.
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 26 - 01 of 02
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26_BC_SP_PTA_GORRINGE-plain.txt — 21 KB

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Okay, so this is Tape 26 for camera, with Tape 11 for DAT, it’s 15 June and we’re
    with Dot Gorrenge and the time code on the DAT now is 3250.

    So Dot, what made you and Johnny decide to stop working on the road plant? Or was it
    that the job finished?

No, the job finished.

And so what became Johnny’s job then?

02:01:38:10     Oh, what was it then? No, we went to ummm, I think we went to Lake
                    , that’s the property, ummm down on Nappa Merrie, and then after that we,
    we ah … Johnny went on the oil rigs then, gas company, oil company, then.

And so what did you and the kids do when he was working on the oil rig?

Oh, we just stayed home. I had to stay home with the kids and put them to school.

So how was that for you?

Oh, it was good. Yeah.

Would there have been some of the wives that went with the oil rigs or were all the
    families in town?

02:02:48:10     No, no. No, Johnny, he just worked with oil rigs, yeah. There was hardly
    any others in town worked on it. He worked down at Jacksons down there where the oil
    field is, for years.

And so would he go out just for the day, or he’d be away?

No, he’d be away for, oh, probably two or three weeks, and come home for ten days or

So was that lonely for you after being with him on the road early in your marriage?
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                       2

No. No, I got used to it. You get used to them things.

So how did you see your role in the family, Dot? Like, what was your job when your kids
         were young?

Oh, well, I was just the mother. I had to look after ‘em. Yeah.

And was cash pretty tight or was this a fairly good town to bring up kids on one wage?

         02:03:42:00     No, it was good. Yeah, it was easy to bring up the kids, yeah. No, I used to
         work at the pub, too, for years, at the hotel in Windorah.

And who was the publican in those years?

Joe and Nancy                   was the publicans then.

So what shifts would you work at the pub?

02:04:06:00     Oh, I used to do the cooking there. Just the one cook. We used to do the …
         I used to start about six o’clock and go home and come back and cook the dinner then at
         night. Finish about half past seven or eight o’clock.

So who would be looking after your kids?

No, the kids used to be with me at the shop, at the hotel I mean.

And were there other Murri families in town or were you the only Aboriginal family in

Oh, no, there was a few Aboriginal families in town, yeah.

And how about now, Dot?

Yeah, there is a few there, yes. A few Aboriginal families.

Have you ever been involved in traditional Aboriginal ceremonies?


How about your parents or grandparents?
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                             3

Oh, they probably have, yeah. Yeah, they would-a-done but I don’t know nothin’ about
         that, yeah.

And have you ever been interested in that or does that feel like the far past?

Oh, it’s the past but I’m, like lately I’ve been interested in it, yeah.

So do you want to talk about that a bit? What’s made you interested in that kind of
         traditional side of things?

Oh, I don’t know, I just like goin’ out and takin’ photos of different things and, yeah.

Somebody told me, and I can’t even remember who it was now, and I’m interested that
         some of the council workers would make                               Aboriginal traditional sites.
         Do you think there’s truth to that? You know, almost for fun.

Oh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t know because I haven’t heard of it.

You know, like, this was …

You never, you know, you don’t know. They probably would and some mightn’t. You
         wouldn’t know what to believe.

But you’ve never heard of that going on?

No. No. Well, you’d know what it was anyway, I think, if you were … if they did do it.

Have you ever known Aboriginal people in this area whose families have had long, long
         connections with this land?

No. No, not … oh, there was a few families in town that would have connections with it.

Who are you thinking of?

02:07:19:02    Oh, well most of them have shifted away now but there are the
                            and the                       and                               and Johnny’s
         family, they used to all live around here but most of them’s gone now, shifted away.

And why do you think that happens, that there’s fewer Aboriginal families around now?
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                        4

02:07:49:00    Oh, I don’t know, I think they just, when they grew up, they just shifted
         away and got jobs somewhere else and, yeah, but there wasn’t much out here for ‘em then.

So are you saying, has the population of the town got smaller in the last 40 years?

Oh, yeah, it’s got smaller but there’s still, you know, still a lot of people around here,
         mmmm. Oh, we used to have a two-teacher school. Two teachers used to be here but now
         we’ve only got the one.

When did that happen?

Oh … oh probably about ten years ago, I suppose. Yeah, it must be about then.

And was that because the stations are employing fewer people?

02:08:47:00    No, it’s just, oh well there was a lot of main roads, like the roadworks goin’
         and there was a lot of families on then. When it got close to town, they used to live in
         town with their children, and even the properties, they had kids. They used to come into
         town. There was a lot of kids around. Well, we had two teachers.

So it’s just town has been getting quieter and quieter?

Yeah, yeah.

So tell me when you started to get interested in history, Dot. Like, for instance, where did
         you hear about Alice Duncan Kemp’s books?

Oh, I’ve always been interested in books.

Did you have many books when you were a kid?

No. No, I never. Never had many then. Probably the last ten years, yeah.

So do you remember where you heard about Alice’s books and how did you come to get
         hold of one?

Alice Duncan-Kemp

         02:10:19:00    Oh, I just seen ‘em in the bookshop and bought ‘em. Yeah, bought a couple
         of ‘em and one, oh what do you call him, one anthropologist gave me, gave Johnny and I a
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                        5

         book to read, and … he knew we were interested in the country a bit so, in this country, so
         he picked up a book for us while he was, you know, down in Brisbane, so brought it home.

You have a bookshop you go to quite often in Toowoomba. Do you want to tell me the
         story of getting Alice’s books?

No, well I just bought it in a shop down there one day when I was lookin’ through the new
         … ah, the bookshop.

How much did you pay for it?

Oh, that one come from a second hand shop, that was $60 that one, yeah.

So it’s a lot of money for a second hand book. Had you heard about it?

Yeah, yeah. Well, there was only a few of ‘em made at that time. Yeah, there was only a
         few of ‘em left, or you could buy ‘em, so if I wanted it I had to get it.

There’s been quite a lot of debate about Alice’s work, about how accurate it is and whether
         it’s a true picture of relationships between white people and Aboriginal people, that sort of
         thing. What do you think about that? What do you think of Alice’s work?

Oh, well, I don’t really know because I wasn’t around in them days. Yeah, you wouldn’t
         really, you know, I couldn’t say much about it but I like the books and I know some of the
         country that she talks about.

And does it seem that she’s accurate in the way she talks about the country?

Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Did you know Alice’s sister Laura at all?

Yeah, yeah.

Tell me what you remember of Laura.

Oh, well, I don’t, you know, I wasn’t really, oh I don’t know … I didn’t know her that
         well. I’d only seen her a few times, mmmm.

She probably didn’t come to town much.
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                        6

Town much, mmmm.

And how about with the museum in town, Dot? Are you involved with that?


Tell me what you’re doing with that.

02:13:10:10     Oh, well, they’re trying to get up and runnin’ for an information centre and,
         oh we have our arts and crafts there too, so I suppose it’d be a bit of everything when it
         gets goin’.

And is it going to have a lot of stuff about Murri history?

Oh it probably will when we get around to getting’ something, yeah, yeah. It won’t have a
         lot but it’ll have something there, mmmm. Yeah. We’ll have to put somethin’ in there.

So am I right, Dot, that all this talk about black and white, to you it hasn’t seemed so
         relevant? Is that …?

Oh …

Like, how would you describe relationships between white people and Aboriginal people?

Race Relations

         Well, I can only talk for meself, but here it’s great. Like we all just mix in together out
         here. It’s not like down in the cities. Yeah, no. It’s all right out here. It’s good.

And why do you think it’s different out here?

02:14:32:00     Oh, I don’t know, it’s just different. Like, a lot of the people have been
         brought up together out here. They probably have down there too but it’s more politicians
         down that way, mmmm. Yeah.

So are you saying that Aboriginal politicians haven’t helped you, or are you talking here
         about white politicians?

Oh, no, they do help you but oh, I don’t know how you’d put it. I just don’t, I don’t know,
         not just into that, that’s the thing.
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                       7

So say when people talk about a Treaty, what do you think about that?

Oh, don’t know. No, I don’t like talkin’ about them things.

And reconciliation? What do you think about that?

Oh, well, I don’t know. Well, oh I don’t know. They … oh, I don’t know what to say
         because I rarely …


Yeah, but see it’s not … I don’t know. I wouldn’t like to remark on it because I never,
         never really had anything to do with it, you know, with the … like now they’re talkin’
         about the Stolen Generation, well that’s had nothin’ to do with us so, you know, I wouldn’t
         remark on it. Yeah. So.

One of the things Isabel Tarrago said to me … she showed me a poster where her mother
         Topsy Hanson, so a Murri woman from Glen Ormiston, and a white woman Mrs Brown,
         had their arms round each other. And she said, ‘That’s reconciliation,’ you know, black
         and white used to live together, and if you’ve got to have a big name for it, then something
         must have gone wrong. Would that make sense to you?

Oh, mmmm. Yeah, I suppose. But I don’t know, I don’t                          much into that

So what are the things that you’re into in your life now, Dot? Describe a typical day for

02:16:58:00     Oh, I don’t know, just sittin’ at home doin’ things, I suppose. Yeah. Or
         goin’ drivin’, campin’ out somewhere.

Would you go camping with Johnny? Where will you go?

Oh, anywhere.

Like where?

Oh, well, I couldn’t just really say because we go everywhere, or anywhere.

How long will you head out for?
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                          8

Oh, a couple of days, I suppose.

And so if you were to describe how you felt about this land of this area, how would you
         give words to that?

Oh, I don’t know. No, I wouldn’t know.

Yes, sometimes it’s hard to give words to things.

Yeah, yeah. No, I wouldn’t know.

What do you reckon are the most precious places around here, most beautiful or spiritual or

02:18:06:02    Oh, well, there’s a few places but I wouldn’t like to say. No, there’s a few
         around but … no, I wouldn’t like to say where they are, because I think there’s only a few
         of us know where them spiritual things are, you know, yeah.

And so do you want to tell me a bit … do you have a land claim, Dot? Do you want to
         explain a bit about that?

Oh, yes, it’s over round Quilpie area there. Yeah, I don’t know much about it over there.
         They’ve got, the other families got all that under control. They do all that so …

And in your understanding, if you got Native Title over near Quilpie, what would that
         mean to you? How would it change your life?

02:19:14:20    No, it wouldn’t change my life. No, it wouldn’t change it. No, it wouldn’t
         change my life. It might change the rest of the, you know, a lot of the other Murris but it
         wouldn’t change mine.

Why is that?

Oh, well, it just wouldn’t. You just keep on livin’ the way you’ve been livin’.

Some white people I’ve spoken to, their picture of Native Title is that it would mean them
         giving up ownership of their land. Is that as you see it?

No. No, I don’t think so, not over there, not in that … not for that lot over there in Quilpie,
         I don’t think. No, I don’t think they’d have to give up their land.
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                         9

So what do you think it would mean, say, for your sisters? If they got Native Title, what
         would that mean?

Oh, I don’t know. Just go on livin’ the way they’ve been livin’ I suppose.

But would it mean being able to visit that land, for instance, more easily?

Native Title: Intra Aboriginal

         02:20:38:10    Oh, probably, yeah, but I don’t know. I don’t think they … oh, not my
         sisters, they’ve been out there for years. But I don’t think the others, the other ones who
         put in the claim, I don’t think they’ve ever been out there, so they wouldn’t know what the
         land or the properties look like, you know, wouldn’t know. A lot of ‘em live in the city
         and they just put in the claims, yeah.

So why do you think they would put in the claim?

Oh, well, that’s where their mother or father come from, yeah.

Alice put               of you, that she wished you were able to make a claim around here,
         that this was the, not you as an individual, I guess she was talking about herself and for the
         Gorrenges. What do you think about that? Do you think that the current Native Title
         system is a sensible one for your family, for instance?

Oh, yeah. Yeah, well I think they are puttin’ in a claim for it but I don’t know what
         they’ve done about it yet so, yeah. So I don’t know.

And from your end, it doesn’t sound like you’re very involved in your family’s land claim,
         but what’s involved? What do you have to do if you have a land claim?

Oh, gee. There’s a lot of things involved in it but I haven’t, you know, I haven’t had that
         much to do with it. It’s a corporation thing and they’ve got their committee set up and they
         just go ahead and do it all, yeah.

You go across sometimes for a meeting?

Sometimes, yeah, not very often, no. I haven’t been across there for a good while now so I
         don’t know what’s goin’ on with it.
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                      10

A woman called Mary Graham, whose traditional country’s round the Gold Coast, she’s a
         Murri woman in Brisbane, she said that it seemed like Native Title was creating divisions
         between Murris about land that hadn’t been there for a long time. What do you think about
         that? Is that your experience?

Native Title: Intra Aboriginal

         02:23:11:20    Yeah, well … yeah, well it is the experience because, I don’t know, you get
         people that have lived out here most of their lives or another one’s come back from Sydney
         or Bourke or somewhere, and they come back to claim the land too, so you don’t know
         where they come from. If they belong to the country or not up here. So, you know, it’s a
         bit confusing sometimes. The only thing they’ve got to … what they want, what some of
         the ummm, the what do you call it, some of the, like they’ve got to trace their family trees
         back to see where they come from, and it’s a bit hard. But that’s the only way they can,
         you know, trace their trees, I suppose, their families where they come from.

So how do people go about tracing their family tree?

Oh, well a lot of ‘em go to the archives in Brisbane, or John Oxley Library down there and
         find out different things, yeah. Get a lot of information from down there.

And when you talk about belonging to the country, what would that mean? Like, do you
         belong to this country, for instance?

No, not here. Round Quilpie. Yeah, that’s where I come from, there, originally, but I
         suppose you can call it country now, you’ve been here for so long, yeah. A couple of
         fishermen over there, must be fishin’.

How often do you fish here?

Oh, we come down every now and then when we get a chance or when we feel like it.

Get a good feed here?

Mmmm, yeah. Yeah, you get a good feed.

So is there anything I haven’t asked you about, Dot, that you think important for me to
         understand your life here in the Channel Country?
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                  11

No, I don’t think so. No.

Do your kids come? How many of your kids live round here now?

Oh, I had two families.      Two livin’ here in Windorah, two in Quilpie and one in
         Toowoomba. Yeah, so, and the kids love it out here, so …

So you imagine there’ll be Gorrenges around Windorah for a long time to come?

I don’t know. Oh, there could be and there couldn’t be. See, I don’t know.

How about for you and John? Like, what do you see for the future in your life?

Oh, I don’t know. The same things, I suppose.

So what’s John’s job now?

He’s still with the oil company. He’s workin’ out of town at IOR. Yeah, he works out

So he just goes out for the day or he still goes out for days or weeks at a time?

Yeah, he does three weeks on and three weeks off. Goes out there, stays out there.

And you’re completely used, now, to having the periods when he’s away as well as the
         periods when he’s back?

What’s that?

Well, you must be quite used to having John here and then John away?

Mmmm, yeah, yeah, that’s right, yeah.

Does your life shift a lot when he comes back?

No. No. No, it’s the same.

On a completely different matter, how do you define the Channel Country? What does that
         word ‘Channel Country’ mean to you?

Oh, I don’t know. Don’t know how you’d put it.
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                           12

Well, where do you reckon it begins and ends, for instance?

Oh, well, it begins up north here and ends down Lake Eyre.

So would you see somewhere like, say, Stonehenge, would that be part of the Channel

Oh, I don’t know. Yeah, it’d start up there ‘cause it’s … yeah, it would be, yeah, yeah. It’d
         start up there and finish down Lake Eyre.

Have you ever been down to Lake Eyre?


So what’s the furthest south you’ve been following these rivers down?

Well, it’d be Innamincka. Yeah. Yeah, down at Innamincka, that’s the furthest I’ve been.

And when, in terms of history going way, way back, like there was the big massacre of
         Aboriginal people, I think, at Battle Hole, near Jundah, is that something that you would
         know about or that people would talk about very much?

No, they don’t talk about that much.

So which are the bits of the history going way back from round here that people talk about
         a lot?

         Well, I don’t know if people do talk about it. I haven’t heard anybody talkin’ about things,
         you know, what’s happened.

I thought maybe because there’s a new museum here in Windorah, isn’t there? And there’s
         a new one going in in [Jundah?] and it looks like there’s a new one in Quilpie. Like,
         there’s probably quite a lot of interest in history at the moment?

Yeah, well there’s a lot of interest in history but you don’t hear people talkin’ about it.

Is that partly for the tourists, do you think?

Oh, yeah, tourists probably want to know about the history and that of a town and different
         things, yeah. 02:30:27:00
Dot Gorrenge                                                                                       13

Okay, is there anything you wanted to ask, Julie?

Anything else we haven’t covered, Dot?

Ummm, no, I don’t think there’s anything else.

Okay. Thank you very much.

About what?

About whether cotton should be allowed to be grown.

No, I don’t reckon it should be.

Why not?

Oh, well, I suppose there’s a lot of chemicals and things that they use, yeah. No, I’m not in
         favour of cotton so …