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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 51 (Text)

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Interviewer Respondent
IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:35:57
Trish FitzSimons
Bev Barr
Griffith Film School
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21 June 2000
Timecode refers to tape 51_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 51
Accidents Education
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Bev Maunsell
Interview with Bev Maunsell. Part 4 of 5.
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 51
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51_BC_SP_MAUNSELL-plain.txt — 26 KB

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So this is camera tape 51, it’s DAT tape 19. This is the fourth camera
    tape with Bev Maunsell. It’s 21 June 2000 and the DAT is on 2421 and
    we’re in Bev’s kitchen in Jundah.                    51_BC_SP

    I think we’d finished that thing about medical isolation so tell me about
    Jundah. What year was it when you arrived in Jundah?

    03:01:05:10   We moved to Jundah during that pregnancy, when I was
    having Raelene, early 1977.      Ummm my husband had a truck driver’s
    position on the council and we lived in a council house for probably about
    four years before he started … he secured a job with Telecom. He was with
    them for eight years. We bought this house here. I started work at school as
    a teacher aide in 1978 and I’m still there. After having made jokes that I’d
    be there with my grandchildren, I’ve actually seen one go through the
    primary school and he’s now at St Brendan’s in Yeppoon, so yeah.

And did your kids go to Jundah School?

They did, yes. Yes, Trish, they completed their primary schooling here and
    the youngest girl Raelene, she actually did Year 1 to 7 here in Jundah.

And do you think that having taught them out on Currawilla gave you real
    qualifications for your job? I don’t mean in terms of bits of paper but did
    you learn lots about teaching, teaching your own kids?

03:02:24:00   Yes, and it was the reason that I actually secured the position,
    I think. That was the only experience I’d had, other than being a mother, but
    it most certainly was experience and, yeah.          So the home supervisor,
    obviously, then to work as a teacher aide for the principal who obviously
    thought that, you know, that was an asset for him.

So you would have seen a lot of principals come and go at that school.
    03:02:57:20    A lot of principals. How many? I’ve stopped counting. I
    stopped counting ummm probably around the 15 which was quite a while
    back and principals started to even leave during the year, during the school
    year. Once upon a time they’d stay around. I mean, during the sixties, early
    seventies, principals were staying three years, two years minimum, but then
    they, you know, it was very difficult for them to adjust for all of the obvious
    reasons, yeah. So I worked for a lot of principals.

Why is it, do you reckon, that you’ve done the job for 22 years and, I take it
    happily …

Yes, oh yes.

… and that the principals have come and gone? What’s your perception for
    the reasons for that?

    03:03:58:10    Ummm it’s much easier when you are a local. It would be
    probably more difficult for a principal to move from inner city to Jundah
    than it ever was for me to move from Windorah to Brisbane. Ummm quite
    often they would have families. Sometimes perhaps he may not ummm he
    may be prepared to stay but his wife may not, or vice versa. Then if you
    have a single principal, I think loneliness is an issue, so there doesn’t seem to
    be an answer to that problem. There are negative sides to both, single or
    married. With me, I often joke that it was quite easy to stay in a position
    when your boss kept moving on, which was what was happening. You
    know, changing of principals, changing of students. It is a wonderful feeling
    to go through an entire primary school life, or through a child’s primary
    schooling life with them from Year 1 to 7, which has happened three now,
    for three generations, and I found here, having done that, that they remain
    very close friends, those children. Some of them are married now and their
    children are actually at the school so … and yeah, so I wonder if my children
    ever wondered what it would be like to have some education without their
    mum being around. Yeah, probably different for them.
Did it ever occur to you to train as a teacher or was there just not that kind of
    space, I suppose, in your life?

03:05:49:06    Well, it was suggested to me actually, because one of our
    friends, a Telecom technician here, his sister did it and they kept saying to
    me, you know, ‘It’s only three years’. This was quite a few years back. I
    don’t really have the answer as to whether I was quite contented just to be a
    teacher aide, perhaps not have the responsibility. A lot of other things going
    on in our lives at the time might have been, might have even made it
    impossible, but I’m not sorry that I didn’t do that although you often think of
    the number of times you could have become a teacher many times over, I

So it’s been a good life as a teacher’s aide?

03:06:38:06    It has been a good life, I think, and we ummm other teacher
    aides and myself have noticed that if we attend workshops, conferences or
    whatever, the work that we do in comparison to the work that teacher aides
    have the opportunity to do in other schools, we are lucky. We are much
    luckier as in the fact that we actually can supervise the children, take classes
    and ummm all work is set by the principal, of course, the principal …

I suspect the school’s been lucky too.

03:07:15:22    Visiting people from the Department often say that, Trish, that
    the small … and it is important that the small schools have some stability,
    especially when you do have principals consistently leaving the small
    schools in the west. It’s really important that they have a mainstay, or a
    couple of mainstays, which we have at the school now, so yeah.

Coming back to the … oh did you want to finish something there?

No, it’s just the permanency thing, you know, and probably direction for the
    incoming principals, too, assistance to them, you know. Yeah.

Coming back to Jundah as a town, what struck you about Jundah as a
    community compared to Windorah?                 Because they’re two towns of
    approximately the same size, 100km apart, you’ve lived in both. What’s
    Jundah that’s not Windorah?

    03:08:16:08    They’re totally different. We’ve had many conversations as to
    why. Windorah have now formed a Windorah Development Board, as you’d
    be probably familiar with. I believe myself that a lot more community spirit,
    that I believe that there’s a reason for that as in the fact that there’s more
    permanency in the town. Windorah residents are, you know, first and second
    generation or whatever. Jundah is the council town where you have the
    administration centre here for the Barcoo Shire Council, you know the work
    depot across the road, and we have a lot more itinerants here – people who
    are not permanent, who ummm and we don’t really have … and that is why.
    I mean, I think that’s why. Probably fifteen years ago, I think there was a
    stronger community spirit here, before we lost perhaps the older generation
    who have either passed away now or moved on for various reasons. Ummm
    I’m not saying there’s no community spirit but it appears to be a lot stronger
    in Windorah and I think that might be why. Jundah’s consistently dealing
    with people or ummm our community are a moving community where you
    do have those people coming and going. Ummm a lot of people move here
    short term, and they’re very interested, but they do move on as well, whereas
    Windorah you have that permanency where they’re there year after year and
    locals with a genuine interest in the local community. The whole shire
    ummm they’re very unselfish people.

How about race relations? How are race relations different in Jundah than
    Windorah, if at all?

Race Relations/History

    03:10:41:06    I’ve lived in Jundah for 22 years and we’ve only had, to my
    recollection, one Aboriginal family who lived here. Husband was a grader
    operator on the Barcoo Shire Council. They had three children that attended
    the school here and they probably lived here for eighteen months to two
    years. I don’t recall any other Aboriginal people living here. Some people
    will say to you that they’re not accepted. Some people will say that there’s a
    myth, you know, there are mythical beliefs as to why … I don’t really want
    to touch on that because I don’t know. As a story of a young woman killed
    here and some will tell you it was by a young Aboriginal. Some will say
    definitely not, so ummm and give you reasons for that, you know, why it
    would not have happened and how they, you know … so I don’t know. I’d
    … but ummm when I first moved to Windorah there were lots of shanties
    around the town, you know, the little shanties made of corrugated iron and
    ummm large families of Aboriginal people there, lots of small children, and
    yeah … but, of course, they’ve all gone now.

And why have they gone from Windorah, do you think? I mean, there’s still
    a number of Aboriginal people round Windorah but why is its Aboriginal
    population less now, do you reckon?

03:12:30:06    Probably … my first thought when you asked the question
    was opportunity, more opportunity, and this is with more awareness of what
    opportunities there are out there, and before not really been aware. But I
    don’t think that applies to any race as far as the west goes. I think the
    awareness came to a lot of people out here with improved communications
    and improved roads, you know, improved vehicles. I mean, once upon a
    time it was ummm a really big issue if you were going to Brisbane or
    somewhere whereas now, you know, people fly down in their own aircraft or
    whatever. It’s just not all just drive, it’s not a major exercise or …

Do you think it’s because the stations employ fewer people there was less
    work for Aboriginal people? Is that part of what you’re saying? Same as for

03:13:38:20    Yes. Yes I do believe that, again. I also think that ummm
    they quite often move as a family, even in adulthood, so that if the older
    generation leaves, if the mum and dad leave, then perhaps even the married
    children leave with their children, and that can wipe out a whole family of …
    yeah … or families, and even cousins and ummm yeah.                So that was
    something that did happen, from Windorah, yeah, years ago when, you
    know, when one family moved away and then the older children moved
    away, and of course they took their children, so … yeah, so I think that that
    has happened with the old families that I mentioned that were there in the

So the Gorrenges are the main Aboriginal family that’s continued to live in

They are, yes. Yes. And support the town and the functions and the school.

Up round Boulia I heard the story that Aboriginal people had worked on the
    stations less after the mid-sixties because the stations were forced to pay
    them cash wages for the first time but before that they would get part of their
    wages from the Protector, but that the stations didn’t have to pay them full
    cash wages. Do you know about that?

No, I don’t know anything about that, Trish. No. It’s an interesting point but
    no, I haven’t heard that.

Tell me about the role that you’ve taken in the Jundah community, other than
    being teacher aide.

Accidents/Shire Councils

    03:15:43:10    I probably played a much … I did play, both my husband and
    myself played a very active role in the community when we moved here and
    we had the three children in school, you know, with the committees and the
    Catholic church and the school, the P&C and the golf club and whatever.
    That’s gradually changed, I suppose, over the years, with your children
    leaving primary school. Ummm I think we go through … there is a
    difference, too, here where quite often things are left to just a small handful
    of people ummm and after many years, and if you’ve passed the stage where
    perhaps your children aren’t at school or whatever or you’ve been doing
    something … and like then I gave a lot of things away that also ummm I lost
    my mobility in 1993 ummm which slowed me down a lot, around here.

What happened?
03:17:08:02   Ummm we used to go skiing every Sunday, out to Ramulla, a
    property out here, and my son-in-law owned a boat, a speed boat, and at the
    end of the day, just before we were ready to take the boat out ummm I was
    hit by the boat, by the propellor, which severely damaged down the front of
    my left leg and my left foot. Ummm so it was twelve months before I was
    walking again, although I look back now and realise I wasn’t walking, I only
    thought I was walking. I was virtually shuffling along. Ummm so I’ve
    gradually … it was only a couple of years after I started to walk again that
    my husband passed away, so I mean we did get out of the community ummm
    fundraising and things like that. We weren’t sort of going and playing tennis
    any more or sort of participating in sport and … as I used to, and he used to
    play golf.    So, I mean, circumstances have changed my role in the
    community, and they do change as it goes along, too. Ummm for the past
    three years until March this year I was a councillor at the Barcoo Shire
    Council. So I think that all permanent residents in a town are playing a
    consistent role in the community, whether it be to go out to a truck that’s
    broken down or to, you know, you’ll quite often get a phone call telling you
    that somebody needs some help or there’s a problem somewhere, or asking
    you to do, you know take off somewhere and do a little job. Once again,
    kilometres aren’t an issue. The distance doesn’t matter. Ummm so … and I
    was saying to you before that I think that everybody’s always in readiness to
    play a role, even the unexpected, as happened the day of my accident and
    you know, all of a sudden … we didn’t have an ambulance driver, we didn’t
    have paramedics. We … my friends and relatives that were there at the ski
    hole had to take total control – and did, with much competence.

So in that twelve months, like I ruptured my tendon so I know what it is to …
    who was really here for you in that whole accident …?

The community. I think, professionally or …


03:20:03:12   … personally, or humanly. Ummm I think the town. I spent
    two months in hospital so ummm and then when I came home … it was
    difficult to come home because you’ve become dependent on the fact that
    you have all services in the hospital and yet, even before I left the hospital,
    ummm services were being put in place and the doctors were contacting
    Jundah to ensure that the matron here would do twice daily dressings for,
    well it was six months or so, but for as long as that was needed. Ummm the
    kids at school, I mean, if it wasn’t for their heel to toe, heel to toe with me, I
    couldn’t walk into school without they weren’t singing ‘Heel to toe, Aunty
    Bev’, I probably would have never learnt to walk properly. Wherever you go
    people care and they help you and they might adjust a situation to
    accommodate you to get in there or whatever.

When you were describing early in your marriage your husband was working
    all the time and you were looking after the kids and helping him, did your
    accident really change your relationship with your husband, and if so, how?

03:21:21:10    It certainly changed his role in the home as far as ummm
    helping in the home. Ummm it changed dramatically, I suppose. He had ... I
    was in hospital for two months. I mean, he was taking care of the home and
    whatever. He was in total control for the whole two months that I was away
    so when I came home, that was ongoing, and he continued to assist with all
    chores around the place until he passed away.

Do you want to just tell me a little bit about your husband? Sounds like you
    got a great schmack of bad news in the mid-nineties, Bev. Tell me a little bit
    about your cancer scare and then your husband dying.

Health/Gender Relations

    03:22:12:00    Mmmm. Yes, it did continue but, you know, it does that for
    many people. It’s a sad thing. Ummm probably the years that we were
    looking forward to, as in that the children were reared and we discussed
    travel and we had a son in the Territory at the time so we’d been over there
    enough for my husband to finally get the travel bug, and ummm yes I had a
    call up, a cancer scare in the September of – my accident happened in ’93 –
    ummm in September ’95 and, of course, it was clear but Graham insisted that
    he take a week off and accompany me to Rockhampton and ummm and all
    the while he actually had brain tumours and we weren’t aware of that fact, so
    that’s a sad point for me. Ummm and it was just two months later, yes, in
    November and he came in from work and he had a back pain and a headache
    and ummm he actually had a stroke here, just he and I that night, at midnight.
    And we flew to Toowoomba the following day to have the, you know, to find
    out what caused that stroke and they told us about the brain tumours, and
    they were inoperable and Graham chose to come home so we did that. We
    brought him home to here and eight weeks, eight weeks later he passed
    away, and ummm I think there was an example of strength and ummm the
    fact that the specialist in Toowoomba actually thought my husband was,
    Graham was transferred from Longreach Hospital to Toowoomba.                    He
    couldn’t believe that he worked on the Monday and just arrived after having
    been bogged and whatever, arrived home that night around eight or
    something, and sort of suffered the stroke at midnight. So I suppose now I
    wonder if there were signs that he didn’t speak of ummm because, yeah, not
    … I don’t think that people even go to the Flying Doctor as they probably do
    attend ummm doctors’ surgeries, you know, in less isolated places. I think at
    times, or I suspect that they might just think, ‘Oh, I’ll be okay’, you know.

This next question, Bev, I hope you won’t find it an offensive one. It’s my
    perception that a lot of men in this community are not very healthy compared
    to their wives. I feel like I’m seeing a lot of salt, a lot of fat, a lot of
    overweight, and I’m clearly overweight, and I know that the health statistics
    for men generally in rural Australia are very low. Do you think that’s a big
    issue? Do you know a number of young widows in this community?

03:25:46:10    Ummm I do know, yeah, and I have two friends from
    Windorah who were widowed young. I don’t … neither of those cases were
    related to what you just mentioned but I do believe that in the past there
    wasn’t an awareness and perhaps that some of the men, or a lot of the men, if
    not all of the men, many years ago thought that emphasis on eating salt
    ummm and things like that, healthy eating was hogwash, for want of a better
    word, and I think today you would see … I see a big change in that area
    where perhaps corned meat and damper have been replaced by fruit and
    whatever, and yet I have seen a lot of old people, and including men, who’ve
    lived extremely hard lives in this country, have worked out in the hot sun
    from very early morning until late at night, seven days a week, no holidays,
    ummm roll their own cigarettes, drank alcohol, and did all the wrong things,
    and not even having access to fruit, and not often veges unless they were
    grown on the property, so … and they’ve lived till their eighties. So I mean,
    you know, you do have that ummm I’m not suggesting for one moment that
    that’s a healthy way to live but it is interesting to observe that and be
    probably in an area where you can, because I admire old cowboys or ringers
    or station workmen who are aged anywhere between 65 and 80 because they
    really had it tough and paid very little, and you know.

What is it like for you? You’re 47, you’re a year …

53. I’m 53.

You’re a year older than my eldest brother …

Uh, uh. Right.

… which is an irrelevance …


What’s it like to be a widow in Jundah? How has it shifted your life and
    what do you see for yourself in the future?

03:28:32:22    The future is probably something that you don’t want to look
    at because you thought you had that all worked out ummm but the word
    ‘widow’ is probably a word that I didn’t even associate myself with because
    you don’t think about it and somebody mentioned in Longreach … and it
    was actually Jeannie that said to me, ‘You are’, and made me really face that
    fact. The community, and I’m not just saying the Jundah community, most
    certainly foremost, but not only the Barcoo Shire but many, many people in
    the Diamantina Shire and Quilpie supported me through that time. The
    support was incredible and I will probably write a book on it alone, and
    that’s the case if anybody loses anybody in this country. And the support is
    ongoing. I found that too. It wasn’t something that they just forget about in
    a week or two weeks or three weeks, then go on with something else. It’s
    still there now but … and I’m fortunate enough to have children here, and
    grandchildren. At the same time, the loneliness is a different loneliness
    because it is for your husband, it is for your mate ummm and probably, you
    know, to keep myself busy I realise in hindsight was what I focussed on to
    try and help me through that. I had no thoughts of leaving here because I
    wouldn’t even consider leaving the security of the home. It’s as if you’re
    hanging on to the only thing you have left. I’m not including my children in
    that statement. Ummm but at the end of the day you are on your own and I
    know that nobody can change that. I know that the children can’t even take
    it away, or the grandchildren, but it is really lonely, and ummm I think
    sayings like ‘Time heals’ ummm there’s times when I don’t believe it is, of
    course. There’s other times when I realise I’ve let go of things like, you
    know, I’d hear the truck coming up the road and I’d, you know, someone
    else was driving it, of course, and I’d sort of put the kettle on and go to think,
    ‘Oh, what will Graham have for lunch?’ and all of those consistent
    realisations that, ‘Well he won’t be in for lunch,’ whatever, I think, yeah,
    they don’t happen now. That’s the difference that I can talk about four-and-
    a-half years later but I think it does get lonelier ummm and there are times
    when I still can’t believe it, you know, and I know that that probably sounds
    silly but I just cannot believe that, yeah …        03:31:38:00

When we just arrived, Bev, a little kid came to the door and had an
    invitation. Does that kind of thing happen a lot? Kids that you’re not related
    to calling you ‘Aunty Bev’ or whatever. I’d like you to talk about that kind
    of side of your life.

Braided Channels

    03:31:54:00     Yeah, I think that, yeah that’s ummm that has always been the
    case that we were very close to, you know, when you think that we moved
    here all of those years ago – 1978 – and there were even children like at the
    high school then who later had children while we were here and their
    children ummm, as they were old enough to speak, started to call both
      Graham and I Aunty and Uncle, which is quite common in this area, or in the
      west. It continued on at school. There was probably half a dozen of them
      that called me ‘Aunty Bev’ from when they could speak. It spread ummm
      and the children called both teacher aides at the school ‘Aunty’. Ummm yes,
      I quite often have children in here after school and they do activities or
      colouring in, or we make things from cardboard or whatever it is they want
      to do. We just make a mess sometimes. Ummm and I’ll quite often get little
      notes or letters and they’ll just pop in and drop them off or … and, as you
      said, the little boy next door, yeah, he came in with an invitation. He was
      just going to prepare a party or organise a party. Ummm I think they’re the
      things that keep you here. Ummm they’re the things that you would most
      certainly miss if you did leave. Yeah. So, I mean, they’re not related but
      ummm I often wonder what impact you have on their lives, especially, you
      know, we often recall teachers that, perhaps one we may not have been that
      fond of, in the classroom, and I quite often will be at a function and just catch
      somebody’s eyes and think, ‘What was he thinking when I caught his eye?
      Was it something that happened in the classroom ten years or more ago?’
      you know, sometimes that happens, but when you receive these little, like an
      invitation, just to a little party that they’re organising for no reason, just to
      have you over, ummm you start to hope then that those thoughts are all
      positive, or mostly positive anyway.                03:34;19:16

2 – SIDE A

You’ve lived in this town through the years of Mabo and WIK and Native
      Title. How have those kind of big national policies and court cases and so on
      influenced life on the ground in the Channel Country? And I guess really,
      race relations.

Native Title

      03:34:37:22       Ummm in general, I think they’ve had a very large impact
      ummm across the spectrum, as in whether it be Land Rights ummm there’s a
      whole host of issues, as you could imagine, that come from Land Rights
      alone, ummm you know with the oil companies and the councils and
development of any type. So you open up a whole can of worms there, so
there has to be a very large impact. I fear ummm that people may be
influenced without, through ignorance, ummm I often feel that I’m listening
to politicians speak about these things and I don’t believe that they know
what they’re talking about. Ummm I think it’s a delicate issue. I’m a little
reluctant to speak about it, I honestly feel that it’s so delicate. I also believe
that it would be sinful to have people … Aboriginal people influenced
ummm encouraged to ummm become something they’re not, or to have
opinions that aren’t really theirs, to change their personality. They’re the
things that I fear about it, and that might happen. 03:36:31:00