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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 32 - 01 of 02 (Raw)

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Respondent Interviewer
IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:29:56
Trish FitzSimons
Jeannie Reynolds, Katrina Cartwright
Griffith Film School
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32 - 01 of 02
16 June 2000
Updated 15/01/10 Timecode refers to tapes 32_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 32 - 01 of 02
Race Relations Pastoral Companies
PTA refers to Part A of Tape 32
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Katrina Reynolds
End of interview with Jeannie Reynolds. Part 3 of 3. Some signs of water damaged but footage generally ok.
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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 32 - 01 of 02
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32_BC_SP_PTA_REYNOLDS-raw.txt — 25 KB

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                              16 June 2000
         Updated 15/01/10 Timecode refers to tapes 32_BC_SP
                             Topics in Bold
                   I = Interviewer R = Respondent

I   So this is Tape 32, so the last one wasn’t 30 it was 31, and the DAT is
    now on 1 hour 2 minutes 25 seconds. This is still DAT no.12 and it’s 16
    June 2000 and this is the third tape where we’re interviewing Jeannie
    Reynolds on the property at Morney Plains.

    Okay, so we’re talking about the multi-purpose centre, it sounds a bit like the
    multi-function polis. Whose idea was it originally and what was the dream?

R   08:01:13:12    A museum for Windorah was the first step towards it and then
    we thought well, if we were going to build this building, we may as well get
    the most that we can from it. So it became an arts centre as well as an
    information centre that was missing in Windorah, and eventually housed the
    library that hasn’t got a permanent home at the moment.

I   The library’s at the Post Office.

R   08:01:39:04    At the moment it is, yeah. It was shifted from out of the
    school because they ran out of room for it and dumped in the Post Office and
    they don’t really want it. So we’ve got to find somewhere for the library.

I   From one perspective, one could look at Windorah - and I’m being facetious
    here – but one could say Windorah needs a café and Windorah needs a gym
    and Windorah … why a museum?

R   History
    08:02:03:00    There’s a lot of history. I guess there’s a lot of history in
    every area too and, again, I guess it should be preserved in all these areas, but
    at the moment ummm I guess we’re at the stage where the older ones are
    dying and the history’s dying with them. There’s no sort of written history
    about this area. Ummm, I’m not sure how other areas go, whether it’s just a
    forgotten area that no one’s done anything spectacular to be recorded.
    Ummm, but it’s important, I think, to the area and to the people left here, that
    it is preserved.

I   Actually, this is an area where there are books like Kings in Grass Castles,
    The Life of John Costello and Alice Duncan Kemp’s books. What else
    comes to mind? Pam Watson’s book. This is an area where there has been
    some history done but are you talking about the more recent history that
    hasn’t been recorded?

R   They’re books, I guess, that touch on years gone by but not so much a bible.
    I think they’ve made good stories out of things that have happened but, yeah,
    not history as such.

I   So if you were to define, let’s say, four or five things that seem to you
    essential in the history of this area, what would they be?

R   I guess the pioneering families. Ummm, different buildings or areas that
    were sort of, I guess, the foundation stones for the area. Ummm, the reason
    why Windorah’s there.

I   Which is?

R   08:03:57:08        Ah, I … in flood times there were the Whitman Brothers who
    were camped on the Stony Ridge and sold all their wares to the neighbouring
    people and decided it was a good place for a store. Ummm, that was, I can’t
    remember. They were there a couple of years before it was gazetted as a
    town as such. Ummm, and Windorah, population has gone up, population
    has gone down, but never really sort of got any bigger than it is so it’s sort of
    sustained for the last hundred or so years anyway.

I   It’s interesting the way Windorah is laid out because it’s like wherever you
    are, you’re almost looking at bush. And in that sense, it’s not dissimilar to
    Aboriginal communities I’ve been in in the Northern Territory, just in the
    spacial layout, you know, lots of space around. Do you know what I mean?
    Instead of all the … I’m not talking about other physical elements which are
    completely different, but I’m talking about the way that … if you were to put
    all the houses of Windorah close up to each other, you would have, what, one
    and a half streets?

R   City streets.

I   City streets. Yeah.

R   Oh, I don’t know. There’s no reason to put them on top of each other.
    There’s plenty of space. Ummm, but also I think country people have got a
    bigger bubble and need a bit more space. I guess.

I   Interesting. Boulia is similar too. They’re different from country towns I’m
    familiar with from New South Wales or closer in, I suppose. I don’t know,
    do you think there would once have been more houses that got burned down
    or something?

R   Women/Land
    08:05:50:10     No. No. Those blocks have always been that size. I never
    really thought about it like that but country people definitely do have bigger
    bubbles. You can tell if you’re talking to a country person or a city person as
    how far they back away from you when you’re trying to get up close to them.
    And I guess the further in your go, even though there are small country, oh
    small towns, closer to the coast, I guess their bubbles aren’t so big. I don’t

I   Is tourism an important part? Is that part of the nexus, like you’re involved
    in the museum and, I think you said, the Windorah Development Board. Is
    tourism an important reason for Windorah to have a museum?

R   Race Relations

    08:06:39:18     I don’t know about for the museum. I think tourism for the
    museum is secondary. Firstly it was to preserve our own history ummm,
    especially, I guess, how the Aboriginals and the white man learnt to live with
    each other. You hear so much how they didn’t, where I think in Windorah
    they always have lived side by side. Ummm, so tourism comes secondly to
    the museum. But it seems to be a growing industry. We’re lucky we’ve got
    Birdsville sort of the other side of us. Ummm, they all go through Windorah
    to Birdsville so we can catch them on the way through and in this day and
    age you need to find new areas to get some money from. I don’t know.
    There’s more and more people leaving the bush and I honestly don’t know
    the answer to bring them back.

I   That thing about in Windorah black and white have lived well side by side,
    you’re by no means the first person that’s told me that and I’ve heard it from
    black as well as white. What do you think that’s about? Do you have a
    historical understanding of that?

R   Race Relations: Reconciliation

    08:07:50:12    I guess as country people you’re friendly, like on stations you
    live and work together so it becomes part of life. I guess it started a couple
    of generations before we came along that black and white lived together. I
    grew up with black kids and never had a problem with them. They were just
    another kid to me and I think it sort of brought it more to the surface now
    that there seems to be the thing about Aboriginals and white people and the
    reconciliation and all the rest, where I think it gets our back up out here. We
    don’t need it. There’s never been a reason. We’re happy living together as
    we are. There’s no need to reconcile.

I   It was an Aboriginal woman that first said that to me. She showed me a
    picture of her mother and a manager of Glen Ormiston with their arms round
    each other, and said, ‘That’s reconciliation’. It’s also true, as I understand,
    the early history of settlement, like even just reading that John Costello
    biography, you’d be aware it’s full of murderous blacks or, you know, Mrs
    Durack holding the gun when the Aboriginal person came threatening her
    when the men were away or whatever, how do you relate those kind of
    stories of the early history of Windorah with your experience?

R   Race Relations

    08:09:35:22    That the same … that there were good in … there’s good and
    bad in all races. Ummm, okay Mrs Durack held a gun at an Aboriginal
    fellow but her best friend was also an Aboriginal. I just … the colour just
    doesn’t mean anything. There’s good and bad in all. Yeah, there were a lot
    of whites that did a lot of wrong things. There were a lot of blacks that did a
    lot of wrong things. Some of them are good people too.

I   When you say you grew up with Aboriginal kids. Where was that?

R   Around Windorah, yeah, sort of social events, etc. Yeah.

I   I must say Windorah feels to me like there’s a kind of a calm around race
    that you don’t always experience in Australian country towns. Have you
    ever been to Moree or Brewarrina?

R   Been through them.

I   Yeah, well you know what I mean.

R   Yeah.

I   And Alice Gorringe who we interviewed, Alice talked about that things were
    find round Windorah but when you got to Bourke you wouldn’t be allowed
    in the hotel and you’d be treated completely differently, and I suppose I’m
    trying to understand where this difference came from?

R   08:10:59:04    The difference, where it stops and starts.       I don’t know.
    Maybe it’s the different tribes. I’m not sure. Or maybe it was the way they
    were educated or the people that had respect for ‘em, I guess, their ancestors.

I   So now this is a question you don’t have to answer but a word like ‘boong’,
    would you have grown up with that sort of word?

R   08:11:21:10    Not ‘boong’, no. I remember Ashley when he was little and
    we were at a social thing, everyone was sort of talking nice and quietly – he
    must have been about three at the time – and he went up to this, one of the
    dark kids, and quite openly said, ‘Why are you black?’ and of course I just
    about fell through the floor and everyone else thought it was a huge joke and
    this poor kid couldn’t answer him. He didn’t know why he was black and
    why he was white. But it just, it didn’t mean anything, colour.
I   And does it mean anything now?

R   Yes.

I   So that’s interesting. What’s shifted?

R   Race Relations

    08:12:01:04    Not so much with the people involved. Ummm, I think the
    government has sent a lot of people racist. I’ve still got no problem with
    dark people.

I   When you say the government’s sent a lot of people racist, what do you

R   08:12:18:10    I guess the way they’re treating them differently. Give the
    Aboriginals everything and not the white person, or feeling sorry for the
    Aboriginals. Yeah, we should be treated equally.

I   They’re huge questions for this country. And so as you’re getting this
    museum together, how are you working out what bits of the history will go
    into the museum? Is that a committee or are you going to employ a historian
    or it’s who donates what? Tell me what your vision for the museum is.

R   08:12:59:14    Well, we’ve got that little bark hut in there ummm that was
    originally a Rabbit Board home. Also one of the pioneering families, the
    Costellos, were the people that lived in there so the pioneering family are
    also related to the building itself, and we’ve moved that building into
    Windorah and, hopefully, restore it as ummm an 1800’s homestead around
    here to, I guess, show the next generation how they did live a hundred years
    ago. And, at this stage, beg, borrowing and stealing whatever we can find
    that sort of belongs to that era.

I   So that’s the heart of it is that the hut will be …

R   The centrepoint, yeah.
I   And when you were talking about, one of the strands where you talk about
    how black and white came to live together, how do you imagine that
    happening in the museum?

R   08:13:53:14    Ummm, well there was a little humpy there that we’ve sort of
    set up ummm with the Aboriginal stones. There’s a lot of stones been given
    to the town by an old fencer, he used to collect as he went around fencing
    everywhere, so there’s a stack of Aboriginal stones, and have got the
    Aboriginal people sort of explaining these stones and that to us. But it’ll be
    in the museum side by side, the same as the, I guess, the pastoral history
    beside the storekeeper’s history. It’ll all be there together.

I   That’s another interesting thing. I find class confusing in this area. How do
    you understand class functioning in the Windorah district in the year 2000?

R   Class
    08:15:31:22    I think it’s breaking down. Ummm I know what you mean by
    class. It used to always be the town versus the country. I think it still is to
    some extent but because, yeah, there are townspeople moving out to the
    stations and vice versa, stations moving into the town, it is breaking down.
    There was also the difference between managers and their wives than owners
    and their wives. Ummm, again I think it’s breaking down, more because you
    don’t keep up appearances any more. You just be yourself. You’re either
    accepted for who you are or you’re not.

I   And is that particularly a shift in actually the women, do you think?

R   Well, I don’t think it ever existed as much with the men as it did with the
    women. Women are definitely more bitchier and classy than what men ever
    were, in my time anyway.

I   I suppose what I mean by that is, like I’m talking about Patricia
    Hodgkinson’s mother saying ‘You’ve got to keep up standards’. I suppose I
    think maybe those class distinctions were partly expressed in what your
    china was like and whether you put your milk container on the table or put it
    into a jug or whatever. I’m interested in how things are functioning here.
    How is class difference to how it works here now than it did, say, when you
    were a kid?

R   Pastoral Company/Class

    08:17:07:10    Yeah, that’s … it’s not there. It’s breaking down. The class
    distinctions aren’t there any more. I guess, ummm, in days gone by, as a
    manager’s wife I would have to be called ‘Mrs Reynolds’ and be spoken to
    politely and my place was in the home and that was it. Where today, if I
    want to, I can get out there and be one of the boys and they can abuse me the
    same as they abuse anyone else if I push the cow the wrong way. And I
    think that’s how it’s breaking down.

I   Although it’s interesting, when we were setting up for the interview you
    made a joke. What did you say? ‘I wouldn’t know what the cows were like.’
    I forget what you said. How do you define your role on this property?
    What’s the heart of what’s your bit here?

R   08:18:06:20    To me, I guess, ummm, domestic’s probably the wrong word
    because that also covers, I guess, a bit wider areas than the normal domestic
    household things, but I think to run a smooth place, to keep it running
    smoothly, and harmony and those sort of things, and I guess be there if
    anyone needs you.

I   And the community? Is your work in the community part of what this family
    gives to the region or something like that?

R   08:19:16:10    Yeah, I guess subconsciously it does. Ummm, a marriage out
    here, I guess it’s more a partnership than husband and wife and wife has her
    role and husband has his role. I guess your best friend is your partner and
    therefore you work as a team and if he can’t do something, well she does, or
    vice versa. Yeah, we usually take turns in different community functions,
    etc. Ummm, and I guess in Windorah, with such a small community, it
    works the same as what the stations do. I think, yeah, people work together
    in trying to keep harmony amongst the little town.
I   And when you were talking about your kids, Jeannie, I think you said you
    went away to boarding school and came back but your kids have gone away
    to boarding school and not come back. Do you want to talk about that a bit?

R   Depopulation: Younger Generation

    08:20:11:10    Well they didn’t come home. They left home at the age of 13,
    never to be seen again. Ummm, it’s hard, I guess, yeah. You’ve only got
    your kids for 13 years. Ummm, to think that they’re down there in the city
    going through all those teenagey things on their own, as well as learning to
    be very domesticated, etc. The three boys are living together in a house in
    Brisbane and one week with them sent me grey overnight. Ummm, but I
    don’t think I want them to come back. There’s nothing out here now for the
    younger ones. They’re probably better off … number two wants to. He’s
    doing boiler …

I   When you say there’s nothing out here for them, why’s that?               What’s

R   08:21:01:06    I don’t know the answer to that one. Ummm, I don’t know. If
    we knew, we’d fix it. Ummm, but I guess today’s young people are out for
    the adventures, do everything today. You definitely don’t wait till tomorrow
    to do anything. Ummm, the second boy, he wants to come back to the land
    but, hopefully, he’ll spend his teenage years in the city where there’s more
    than just the pub. They’re into sport. He’s just bought himself a speed boat
    which I try not to think about. But, yeah.

I   So how old are your kids now?

R   23, 20, 19 and 14.

I   So the 14-year-old, presumably …

R   Is still at school and wants to be a racehorse trainer.

I   And so when you say there’s nothing out here for them, is it that that’s the
    attitude they’re reflecting back to you, or is it that that’s what you see?
R   08:22:05:18    Both, I think. Both. Although the eldest one, he’s a city boy
    and it’s funny, it wasn’t, I guess, until the second and third one came along
    that you realised that his heart wasn’t in the land. You could see it at the age
    of five that he just didn’t have the interest there, but number two had. He
    was always, sort of had an eye for a woolly sheep or a bore that was broken
    down, where Ashley would drive around with his, off with the fairies, I
    think. But, yeah, so it’s, I don’t know, it’s something that’s just there.

I   And you’ve got a daughter?

R   Yes.

I   And so what does she want for the future and what do you want for her

R   08:22:5:08     I want whatever she wants. I don’t really care what the kids
    do as long as they’re happy and achieve what they set out to do. As I said,
    I’m hoping boarding school will teach them that there’s a little bit more to
    life than horses but, at this stage, she just wants to be a racehorse trainer.

I   So that’s interesting that you never liked horses and your daughter adores

R   Yeah, well two out of the four kids are horse-mad. The other two take after
    their Mum.

I   So if you’ve got two of your four kids that adore horses, and one wanting to
    come on the land …

R   Four strange kids, yeah. Individuals, put it that way.

I   So when you say there’s nothing for them, are you talking economically or
    … what bit of it is yours? What bit of you doesn’t want your kids to do what
    you’ve done?

R   Gender Relations
    08:23:40:20    Yeah, economically. There isn’t the jobs out here. There isn’t
    the variety out here. Ummm, I guess when I left school, you were sort of
    fairly limited to what females were allowed to or expected to do, ummm,
    where today there are just so many more jobs that weren’t even thought of
    when we were going to school and I think even Shannon, there’s probably
    jobs haven’t even been sort of invented that she’ll probably end up doing
    when she leaves school. The eldest one’s into computers and, as for the
    second one, he’s boilermaking but wants to come back to the land. Ummm,
    the third boy, he’s an apprentice chef at the moment so there’s sort of really
    not that much that they can do out here.

I   So is it that actually it’s not that diversity has gone from here but that it’s the
    city has become more diverse?

R   08:24:44:20    I think so. I think, yeah, like technology, ummm I guess kids
    today are more aware of the world, not so much in my time but, say, my
    father’s time. This little bit of the land was the world. There wasn’t any
    access to the outside world in his time, where we’re sort of slowly getting
    more, I guess. And communication breakdown is just, it’s not there. There’s
    just right through.

I   Somebody’s here?

R   No, it’s only Gina.

I   She’s the stockman’s wife?

R   Yeah, I don’t know what she’s prattling on about.

I   So are you and she, like she’s the closest woman, does that make her
    important to you or does that make for trouble?

R   08:25:39:20    Ummm, my husband always says three women on a station is
    always trouble but I guess Gina and I are a lot alike. He worries about her
    because she’s quite happy living in her own little area, inside her own little
    fence, like most people do. Ummm, and he worries about that, that she’s
    going to get too lonely, etc. but I think she’s a lot like me and quite happy
    living in her own little world and she comes over when she wants to and I’ll
    wander over there if I want to, but we don’t live in each other’s pockets.

I   So, really, is there anything that you think you miss, being out here? You
    say your husband wants to retire to Toowoomba for all the things he’s
    missed out on. What, if anything, have you missed out on from the life out

R   Depopulation
    08:26:28:20    My kids, I guess. Having them longer, yeah. I would have
    liked to have had ‘em around a little bit longer. I would have liked to have
    seen them, I guess, change from children into adults. You miss those years.
    Ummm, not that I’ve got any complaints of the job that boarding school did
    with them, but just the little things you miss out on. Peter can’t wait to go
    down there for sport. He’s always been a sort of keen sports person, where
    at the moment I guess, yeah, in our teenage years there were more people
    around. Ummm, you’d have football matches against neighbouring stations.
    There were enough people for a football team or a cricket team, where now it
    seems to be tennis or horse sports and that seems to be about the only sport
    there is at the moment.

I   And that’s that there’s fewer people around on the stations?

R   Yeah, definitely.

I   So what’s the dynamic of that? What’s shifted?

R   08:27:27:04    Ummm, companies buying stations. Even in the ten years that
    I’ve been here, we’ve lost Cuddapan, Arrabury, Palparara. We’ve lost three,
    three stations have closed down since I’ve been here.

I   So that’s because the companies put together different stations, like you
    would virtually run Mooraberree as well?

R   Pastoralism
    That’s right, yeah. Yeah, well even Mooraberrie, see, used to have a team of
    its own. Well now we’ve only got sort of a couple over there and one man.
    Ummm, where before they’d have a full team there.

I   What’s the impulse? That’s essentially about the economics of the pastoral
    industry getting bigger and bigger. What’s driving that?

R   08:28:17:14    Economics, I guess. Same as it’s not just the companies,
    either, it’s the little places the other side of Windorah who used to always
    have one or two men. Can’t afford to have those one or two men now. They
    just sort of have casual labour, bring him in when they’re doing their muster
    and then sort of goes to the next place when he’s finished there.

I   So if I’m trying to understand the travel, not just of your life, but the travel of
    women’s lives in the Channel Country, what impact do you think that kind of
    getting bigger and bigger pastoral aggregations, I guess is the first word that
    comes to mind, how is all of that impacting on women’s lives out here?

R   08:28:59:24    Further between neighbours. Ummm, yeah, you’re getting to
    the stage where, yeah, you are on your own. You are lonely. I was lucky
    when I had the kids. There were always other families around where, you
    know, there’s now some of these kids are on their own. They don’t have
    neighbours or … families are getting smaller too. Before they’d all have sort
    of seven and eight kids, well now they’re down to one and two kids. It
    doesn’t take many before you start losing population quickly doing that.

I   So if your daughter married a bloke and was going to live a couple of
    properties away, would that be a life you would embrace for her?

R   If that’s what she wanted, fine.

I   Is there anything I haven’t asked you about, Jeannie, that you think’s

R   Important to what? Living in the Channel Country?

I   Important to women living in the Channel Country and you living in the
    Channel Country.
R    08:30:05:12    Not really. You learn to adapt, or make do, I guess. Or
     substitute. If you haven’t got something, you substitute something else. You
     learn that very quickly out here.

I    Give me an example.

R    08:30:29:08    Oh, don’t ask me for examples. I don’t know. I guess people
     in the city, if they were in the middle, or wanted to make some recipe, if they
     didn’t have an ingredient, they’d race straight down to the shop. Out here,
     you don’t panic, you just throw something else in or leave it out. You can’t
     go to the shop and buy take-aways so you just eat it anyway.

I    Okay. That’s terrific. Thank you.

R    There’s an atmosphere of Morney Plains Station.