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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 66 - 01 of 02 (Raw)

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Shirley Isabel Trish
IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:13:47
Trish FitzSimons
Griffith Film School
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66 - 01 of 02
3 September 2000
Timecode refers to tape 66_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 66 - 01 of 02
Race Relations Alcohol
PTA refers to Part A of Tape 66
Copyright in individual works within this collection belongs to their authors or publishers. Recorded creative work created by permission of the copyright holder.
Isabel Tarrago Shirley Finn
Interview with Isabel Tarago and Shirley Finn. Part 1 of 4. Water damage evident. Break in timecode near end.
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 66 - 01 of 02
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66_BC_SP_PTA_TARRAGO_FINN-raw.txt — 12 KB

File contents

                           3 September 2000
                   Timecode refers to tape 66_BC_SP
                             Topics in Bold
                TF = Trish              IT = Isabel SF = Shirley


TF       This is Betacam no. 66, it’s DAT no.24, it’s time code 1800. Today is 3
         September 2000. Trish FitzSimons on sound, Julie Hornsby on camera,
         and we’re interviewing Isabel Tarrago, nee Hanson, and Shirley Finn,
         also nee Hanson, at Isabel’s home in Highgate Hill.        66_BC_SP

         Okay, so I want to get quite a picture as well as your two lives in the Channel
         Country, I want to know about your Mum. So what can you tell me about
         your mother’s birth, the circumstances of the birth?

SF       Race Relations/ Intersex

         00:01:21:20    Mother was born on Meetukka. She was the daughter of an
         Irish ummm Scots, was it a pumper, and her mother was a traditional
         Aboriginal from that area.

TF       And where was she born? All the way along in this interview I’m going to
         pretend that I know nothing because I want you to answer me as if I don’t
         know any of these stories, because I want to then be able to edit it without
         my stories in. Could you tell me about your Mum’s birth, about her Mum
         dying. I’d like to hear the whole catastrophe.

IT       Childbirth
         00:02:10:24    Well, Mum was born at Meetukka and during the birth ummm
         our grandmother died and Mother suckled on an old bitch dog that was there
         in the camp and when the old women come over they realised that the dog
         actually saved our mother’s life, and Granny was already passed on, I don’t
         know how long but that’s the story that’s been passed on from all the old
         people to us, and she was cared for in the camp from there on. And as a
         young woman, she learnt, she came up, as a baby she came through and was
         with the family and the traditional old people and from there on some of the
     old white people that were in the station areas there … at this time she was
     moved around many stations as a young girl and I think the age was, we were
     told, about eight years old, she was actually moving around ummm from
     different stations with the old people who worked on the stations doing
     different things. And a lot of station managers’ wives took her in ah and she
     was a very young girl when she was doing …

SF   As a housemaid. But then the ah, a lot of the old Aboriginals used to swim
     the flooded creek and steal her, take her back to the camp, and then you’d
     have the ummm the white station owners, they’d come and get her, and that
     went on for oh several, several weeks, because they expected her to stay in
     the camp with the old traditional people. But ah … and then the station
     managers and their wives wanted her to be a housemaid, to look after them.

TF   Her father being a white bore operator, was he claiming her at all, because
     she … to read that article in the mining magazine, it sounded like your Mum
     was a bit like a football as a child.

SF   Race Relations/ Intersex

     00:04:31:14    Yes. No, he didn’t have anything to do with Mum. She was
     brought up … he sort of disappeared out of the picture. He used to … I think
     he lived in Boulia when he first came out as a pumper. But no, she didn’t
     have anything to do with him.

TF   And had it been a long relationship between your grandfather and your
     grandmother, or was it a more casual relationship? Do you have a sense of
     the context that your Mum had come from?

IT   00:05:08:08     I don’t think ummm, you know Mum always said to us the
     only thing her father gave her was her name but from where I was coming in
     as being the youngest of the family, I mean, Shirley, Bessie and Georgie,
     they had a lot more to do ummm in that area because they were on the
     properties with Mum and Dad and that. But I think, this is just my own
     information on this. I really do think Granddad really wanted to know,
     because he did stay in some of the camps. He was in Dajarra with all the old
     people but he was so used to being in a traditional camp, I don’t think he
     ever came back at that time and was around when Mum was born because I
     just think he moved around all the pumping places, you know, round the
     stations and there was so many. I mean, you just wouldn’t get back to find
     out about anything that’s happened. And I think Mum really got angry.
     Mum was very angry about the fact that he didn’t give her anything other
     than her name. She was very adamant about that but I think, as a young
     person myself growing up, that I believe Granddad really would have wanted
     to stay around and I remember her taking me, Mum taking me to Dajarra
     when he was very, very sick and he was at the old Dajarra camp, and they
     actually had him in a little shed there because he wouldn’t go to hospital.
     And that’s the first time in my life that I saw my grandfather Arthur Daly,
     and he was very ill. Ummm and it wasn’t a very nice sight because I saw
     him when he was very ill.

TF   So he would have been cared for by Aboriginal people?

IT   00:07:06:10    He was there in the camp, yes, and I don’t know. Who was
     Punch, I think. Uncle Jack Punch. Ummm and Aunty Biddie and …

SF   Biddie, yeah, Aunty Biddie Punch.

IT   They were there. I don’t know if they were looking after him but he had a
     place at the camp and I just think he … you know, for him to actually be
     there at an Aboriginal camp gave him peace and, well Mum went and saw
     him so I don’t know what went on but I know that she needed to show us. I
     don’t think Shirley ever met him.

SF   No, I’ve never met him.

IT   But I noticed that, you know, in the end Mum took us, took me there, and I
     think that that was a very good process for me and for Mum because that was
     the last time I saw him.

TF   You may find this next question offensive but I’ve been interviewing white
     people throughout the Channel Country and I’ve had said to me five or six
     times this thing about ‘Stolen Generation’. Babies with white fathers, black
     mothers. The blacks wouldn’t have anything to do with them. They’d leave
     them, left them to die, so therefore there is no ‘stolen generation’. White
     people were saving babies that otherwise would have died.             So your
     knowledge of your family history, how would you respond?

IT   Traditional Aboriginal/ Race Relations/ Intersex

     00:08:33:10    I think that’s rubbish, Trish. I think it’s absolutely rubbish.
     Pauline Hanson stated that as well in her, you know, political agenda, to say
     that you know half-castes weren’t accepted and, you know, we ate their
     babies. And I actually gave a talk not long after that and I know Shirley
     actually tried to ring Laurie Kavanagh about it as well, who never responded
     to us, because he was on these stations and what he saw obviously was so
     different to what we saw through our eyes, and we happen to be black. He
     happens to be white. Ummm they’re the sort of things that I think is a whole
     race connotation behind it. Now I wouldn’t … you wouldn’t call me full-
     blood because my grandfather is Scottish/Irish background, you know. And,
     I mean, I have no bitterness for that, and my mother was very fair, but I tell
     you what, she was accepted. The traditional camps really wanted her. She
     spoke five languages, traditional languages. I mean, you don’t get that rite of
     passage of you know that whole connotation, so it didn’t happen in our
     family. Our family took in a lot of what the so-called, the derogatory term of
     ‘half-caste, quarter-caste’. Ummm Glen Ormiston we had so many families
     mixing, you know, falling in love with each other. I mean, for goodness
     sake, you know, what do we do about that? You can’t do anything about it
     and it’s not a racial connotation and there were, in some of the areas, Stolen
     Generations because the Assimilation Act in this state makes that happen.
     You know, we weren’t allowed … I mean, that’s how you get your
     Woorabinda Missions, your Palm Island, your Cherbourg, ummm you know
     those sort of things is to divide us up on colour. Only by pigmentation of the
     skin. Now if that Act would have taken place, Shirley and I, just by sheer
     colour, would have been separated. She would have gone to Woorabinda or
     Palm Island and I would have gone to Yarraba, and that’s how this Stolen
     Generation really was enforced. It was set up by a policy of the Crown and it
     is real.

TF   Obviously that statement is a really convenient one. I didn’t realise Pauline
     Hanson has said it but it doesn’t surprise me remotely and it has its echoes
     out there.

IT   00:11:11:18    Absolutely, absolutely. And we responded. As two members
     of the family here, we responded to kill it in the water because no way in the
     world would my family kill me. We were loved so much and dearly loved
     right through, you know, and it’s just another form of politicising a statement
     of people and I just think it’s so … if they haven’t got a mentality to run on
     general intellect, and then you run on class, and you run on race, well I’m
     afraid that they’ve just got no substance, those human beings like that.

TF   Going back to your Mum’s life then, tell me the stations that she worked on.
     And this thing of going from station to station, how did that function?

IT   Race Relations: Act / Pastoral Industry/ Aboriginal Wages

     00:12:04:18    Well, this is part of that whole process of the state. Now if
     you look in the state, we have got policies there going back ah in the 1920s,
     that Aboriginal men and women were dentured out to do work on properties.
     Those who were found on properties actually moved in, because we had …
     we were under the Act, and we are all ummm in that process of … I’ve got
     files there that I can show you where my mother and father were actually
     under an Act and when you’re under an Act in this state, you have to do what
     the state tells you, so the police of the day controlled your movement around
     the state. You had to have a card, an exemption card if they could give you
     an exemption card, to move to different properties. And, you know, this is
     why I always say the cattle industry in this state, and in many other states of
     Australia, made their money on the backs of blacks, and we are no different.
     And my family really did make the cattle industry a very profitable industry.
     But they didn’t get a cent. They got flour, water, tea and bread, you know.
     That’s the ration system. And ummm they’re the sort of things that a lot of
     people don’t understand. I mean, the station managers on Glen Ormiston
     would never have understood that and once the equal pay came in, we were
     all removed because they weren’t going to pay us.

SF   00:13:44:04    But before that, when people … when you were under the Act
     and you worked for ah different stations and that, you wouldn’t get paid. All
     your money would go to the police. Like, for instance, Glen Ormiston, ah
     you were under the Act there. Boulia, ah the people in Boulia. All their
     money went to the police. Then, if there was race meetings or carnivals and
     that, they’d go down the local store and say, ‘Oh, well, here, you go and buy
     a …’. You might have four children. ‘Go and buy an outfit for each of those
     children,’ and then they’d give you ummm if you had the food and things,
     they’d give you a list. You would not see the money at all. A lot of people
     worked there, worked for twenty, thirty-odd years and when they lifted the
     Act, people thought oh well they had plenty of money to buy a house, deposit
     on a house, buy a car. They didn’t even have a deposit for a car, let alone for
     a house. So nobody knows where that money is today.

TF   There’s big cases going on, isn’t there?

SF   There is.