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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 65 - 02 of 02 (Text)

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Trish Sylvie Julie
IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:17:16
Trish FitzSimons
Griffith Film School
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65 - 02 of 02
30 August 2000
Timecode refers to tape 65_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 65 - 02 of 02
Inheritance Duncan-Kemp
PTB Refers to Part B of Tape 65
Recorded creative work created by permission of the copyright holder. Copyright in individual works within this collection belongs to their authors or publishers.
Silvie Duncan Kemp
Interview with Sylvie Duncan-Kemp. Part 2 of 2. Water damage evident. Some cuts during interview.
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 65 - 02 of 02
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65_BC_SP_PTB_DUNCAN-KEMP-plain.txt — 13 KB

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Was your Mum - like in, in the ‘30s and ‘40s there would have been the
     beginning of kind of political organisation by Aboriginal people for rights and
     so on. Did –


Your Mother ever comment about the ….. …..

17:19:19:00    No. No. No. Um, I think she was always very sympathetic
     towards them but I think she was of the opinion, um, for as long as I could
     remember, she said the, the real Aborigines are no more. They’ve died out.
     And she said she doesn’t, you know, the rest that – the ones that are left, she
     didn’t really know what was going to happen to them.

And what’s your understanding of, of what happened? Like your Mother’s
     books writing about Mooraberrie up to the end of the first World War, there
     are Aboriginal people everywhere –

Mmm. Well, what happen, what happened to them?

What happened to them?

Race Relations

     17:20:03:20    Influenza. Measles. The influenza epidemic wiped out um
     thousands of them. Thousands and thousands, and um, the children also
     caught measles. My Mother had a daughter, Bunty Alice Burnett. She’s
     buried in Richmond. She’s, she came in between Bill and the next boy,
     Duncan, whose name really is Frederick but my father was also Frederick so
     he was called Duncan. And he’s not Duncan Duncan-Kemp. Ah yeah. And
     she was in hospital with whooping cough and they put a child into the same
     ward as Bunty. This, this other kid had ah chicken pox. And it killed her.
     Mmm. So it’s as easy as that.
There’s also um Dawn May has done a lot of history of the pastoral industry.
     She indicates that certainly disease is important –


But there is also – and I’m not talking about Mooraberrie specifically here, but
     on pastoral properties it had to do with wages and that, that when wages were
     to be paid – um – that the properties no longer wanted to employ Aboriginal
     people. But do you know how that played out?


It would’ve been after your Mother left Mooraberrie.

17:21:33:18    No. I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t think that ever – that – I
     don’t think that sort of thing would’ve gone on.           Um – especially if
     grandfather was still alive. Because he was a great friend of the Aboriginal

I’m talking after your grandfather had died actually –

Mmm hmm. Mmm.

I think – as I understand it, it was like over the ‘20s and ‘30s this, this

17:21:58:02    Well Grannie, Grannie kept Mooraberrie going and she
     certainly kept employing the Aboriginal, the, the, the gins in, in the house, and
     I know she had um some of their husbands I suppose they were – um – also
     working on the, on the property. But as, you know, just after the war I think,
     they had this dreadful influenza epidemic and a lot of them were wiped out.

So when you went there say in ’39 –


Were there Aboriginal people working on Mooraberrie?

Race Relations
     17:22:32:10    Yeah – um – no. I think there may have been one. He was a
     sort of a horse boy and he lived down in the – he had his own little room there
     near the saddle room I think but – um – and I think he was, somebody was still
     there in 1943 but apart from that, no there were no Aborigines. They were
     still coming to the camping on the other side of Mooraberrie Creek in ’39 but
     they’d gone by 1943. Mmm. Yes, it’s very sad. Yeah. They’d either moved
     away or they’d just died out because they had no – um – no um – they just
     couldn’t cope with all the diseases that the white man brought.

It’s been – um, one person that I interviewed for this project put forward the
     notion that, that your Mother was, was only partially the writer of her books.
     That she was writing up kind of Aboriginal law that Moses would have written
     her letters. That she would have – they’re not quite transcribing but – what do
     you, what do you make of that kind of assertion?

17:23:58:14    I don’t think it’s true. I have never seen anything written by
     anybody else that Mum would have copied.

And the letters? Would – yeah.

17:24:18:02    I think they may have been the figment of someone’s
     imagination. Um – they would have spoken to her because they taught her all
     – and made sure she knew what was right. What she could do when she went
     out on the trips with them and what she couldn’t do and why. And they used
     to chastise her very severely, I know that. If she did anything wrong. I don’t

Yes. ….. …..

17:24:48:12    I don’t know that they actually whacked her or anything like
     that but yeah. I think enough – the tone of voice was enough.

There’s that story when she interrupts –

She feels attacked by a young black man but then Moses says, you know, no,
     you did the wrong thing.



17:25:05:04    Mmm. Mmm. But – um, no I don’t – I know of no letters or
     anything like that. And I don’t think she would have been as – um, not stupid
     but um, I think had there been, she would have acknowledged them. And she
     was very fair. Extremely fair. And I mean she wouldn’t have done that and
     they wouldn’t have related the way they did to her if she had. I’m quite sure
     of it.

Do you remember – were there like Aboriginal people when, when your
     Mother’s books were published. Do you remember Aboriginal people around
     Brisbane or wherever you were living, responding? I mean they –


May not have known of the books but –

No. No.

So it was all really going back to these intense relationships –


She’d had in her childhood?

17:26:03:16    Yeah. Because – um, she was an initiated member of the tribe
     and um she behaved as such.

Did she ever talk about the Yamacoona ? stuff? I, I know little of this but as I
     understand it Yamacoona was a – like an Aboriginal goddess, for want of a
     better word. But when your Mother got hit on the head – um, she was said to
     have come under Yamacoona’s protection. And, and there’s, there’s some –
17:26:42:00    I’ve – yeah – I don’t know. I don’t remember the, the word
     Yamacoona but um she used to tell me about all the different – um, the names
     they had for the various, various – um for want of a better word Gods and
     things like that. Yeah. And – um whether they were good people or bad
     people, bad spirits or good spirits. Mmm.

And so she took all of that absolutely seriously and respectfully?

17:27:08:12    Oh I think so. I think so. Because I don’t think she would have
     had the – would have been able to heal herself. Because quite often, when
     she, when she was sick – when she even had a cold or, or a touch of the flu,
     she would just quietly go to sleep and you couldn’t wake her up. Mmm.

And do you want to tell me the story of, of how Mooraberrie came to, to pass
     out of the hands of the Duncan family?

Inheritance/ Laura Duncan II

     17:27:41:20    Oh, it was simple. When Aunt Laura died – um, she left it to
     Arthur. On the proviso that when he died, he left it to the three – at the time,
     unmarried nieces – Judith and Robyn and myself. It was Arthur who added
     the fourth person, his nephew Tom, and – um, Robyn since married but ah
     there was no change made in the, in the provisions of the will. I don’t – well
     nobody could change them. Mmm.

And why do you think your Aunt had made that provision, like around the
     unmarried daughters. Because typically country properties go to the men
     don’t they?

17:28:30:00    Yeah. But I think – um, please God. Save my soul if I say the
     right – the wrong thing. Um – I don’t think she had much faith in either Bill
     or Charlie Gallagher. Charlie Gallagher would have been the only one who –
     who would’ve been in a position to take over Mooraberrie at the time, and I
     know Aunt Trixie was hoping that this would be the case. But – um – I think
     she was really derogatory about Aunt Laura’s – um wording of the Will. And
     – mmm.
So Laura did it the way she wanted it.

Yes. Very much so. Typically. Mmm hmm.

And do you want to tell me the story of – you, you had a provision written in.
     Do you want to tell me what, what led to the sale of Mooraberrie and what
     terms of that sale did you negotiate?

17:29:38:16    I didn’t. Um – when Arthur died, it was up to the three, four of
     us to decide what should be done with it. Um – I think – um, I was of the
     opinion that it should be sold because I couldn’t see any way that any of us
     could keep it going. Um – I didn’t have much faith in Tom Churches. Um –
     he was always, I think – I got the distinct impression that it was his wife who
     wore the pants and Tom did as he was told and she was very much a – um, a
     Mrs would be if she could be. Yeah. So the other two – Judith and Robyn
     didn’t want to sell first off. And Tom and I did. And the more I think of it
     now, I’m glad we did but I’m sorry that it went to Kidman. Grannie – as
     David – David was extremely disappointed and ah, he was furious. But there
     was nothing much we could do about it.

And what did you have written into the terms of the sale – or was it you –
     about being able to visit? Do you want to describe –

Oh to have – to be able to visit the graves whenever we wanted to. Yes. Yes.

Do you want to tell me that story? How did, how did that –

Well –

Part of the Will arise? Not the Will. The terms of the, the sale.

17:31:35:10    We wondered.        We wondered whether, because of the
     animosity between Sydney Kidman and my grandmother – and there was a lot.
     He was always – um, doing things and she would end up having to take him to
     you know, say she would threaten to take him to Court and she was a
     Solicitor’s daughter and she knew exactly how and what, how, how, how to do
     things and what to do. And he invariably backed down – at the last minute.
     Which annoyed her no end, I think. And um – yes, so we decided amongst
     our – well I, I suggested to Judith and, and Robyn that we – if it were possible,
     we could have this proviso put in the, in the sale document that we, we could
     visit the graves at any time and um yeah. And, and I think ah we, well we
     would do it anyway but all we had to do is to notify the people that we’re
     coming. Give them notice. But David just told me today that the fellow
     who’s the manager now, is extremely interested in the graves and he’s keeping
     them free of sand. Because the sand hill at one stage they – grandfather’s
     grave – where the graves are, was just obliterated because the sand hill – as
     you know, the sand hill moves.        17:33:05:34

It was – we stayed with Jeannie and Peter Reynolds –


And Peter said we must dig out the graves or something – yeah.

Mmm. Yes. Yeah. Which is nice. Yeah.

So it’s interesting Sylvie – being in – I know you’ve been here just a short
     time but being in Robyn and Maurice’s house and being in David and Dawn’s
     house. They’re both kind of festooned with images of Mooraberrie.

Oh yeah. Well I’ve got some but they’re in the garage. Yes. I’ve got one of
     Margaret um Stephenson’s pictures. It’s only a tiny little one. But it’s perfect,
     because it’s got the colour of the sand hills. Yeah.

So what does Mooraberrie mean to you then?

     17:33:50:02    Um – I suppose it means – well it was my Mother’s home but it
     was, was um – where we had good times. Good holidays. Um – I love the
     country. And – um – yeah, I think if I were ever given the opportunity, I
     would live out there. It’s so quiet you can hear it. It roars sometimes – the
     quietness. Yeah. But it’s just the colours. The colours I love. That burnt
     orange and the, and the sagey greens and yeah. Just lovely.


So is there anything I haven’t asked you about Sylvie, that you think’s
     important to understand kind of –

About my Mother?

About your Mother and through your Mother, and about women of the
     Channel Country.

17:34:48:20    I think my Mother was born about – 40 years too early. Had
     she been writing now, I think she would have been a great success. How she
     would have taken that, I don’t know. I don’t think she would have liked it.
     She didn’t like fuss. Yeah. She just liked getting on with what she had to do.
     Yeah. And I – you know, it’s funny. There are days when I think you know,
     she’s never been in this house because this house was never – this part of the –
     this was a farm when she was still alive. But there are times when I know
     she’s here. Mmm. I can smell her. Smell her Ponds cold cream. It’s stupid
     isn’t it? Yep. Dad – my father was, was totally different. We had no – um –
     yes. He was, he was brought up in the old school that you didn’t cry. You
     didn’t make a fuss. And kids were sent to boarding school when they were 8.
     Yeah. 17:36:20:10

But you had a close emotional connection to your Mum?

I think so. I think so. Yeah. Towards the end anyway we did. We used to
     talk a lot. Yeah.