Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Braided Channels Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 74 (Text)

Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 74 (Text)

Item metadata
Pam Watson Julie Hornsey Trish
IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:35:42
Trish FitzSimons
Pam Lukin
Griffith Film School
Photographic stills found in the Braided Channels collection have generally been contributed by external creators. Copyright questions about external creator content should be directed to that creator. When publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the Braided Channel's collection, the researcher has the obligation to determine and satisfy domestic and international copyright law or other use restrictions.
4 September 2000
Timecode refers to tape 74_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 74
Gresley Lukin Race Relations
Some water damage evident. Some cuts during interview.
Recorded creative work created by permission of the copyright holder. Copyright in individual works within this collection belongs to their authors or publishers.
Pamela Watson
Interview with Pam Watson. Part 3 of 4.
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 74
Document metadata

74_BC_SP_WATSON-plain.txt — 21 KB

File contents

So this is Betacam No. 74 which is the third Betacam of an interview with
      Pam Watson. It’s still um DAT Tape No. 27 and it’s 1 hour 2 minutes
      and 25 seconds and this is the 4th September 2000 for the Channels of
      History project.
      74_BC_SP missing t/script 03:01:16:20 – 03:08:06:06
      Some written notes on the printed transcript
That those ideas are hard to under – er er questions because they’re so general.
Yes. I know.
Oh um.
03:08:12:08       When I asked David about why it was that you know,
      Mooraberrie having being thickly populated with Aboriginal people they then
      had all disappeared by the time Alice went back, he said it was because the
      family could then get finance. Which is a very – if it’s true, you know, it
      suggests that -
I know.
That early on the Duncans were absolutely dependent. You know David said
      yeah, couldn’t have existed without Aboriginal people but –
But once they were established and could get finance, then it was like there
      was a preference for white workers.
Which, I mean Alice is not necessarily – Alice is speaking from her
      perspective, but it throws an interesting light –

4 September 2000
… of an interesting life
On that pastoral Aboriginal, the nature of the, the exchange I guess.
Race Relations/ Pastoral Industry
     03:09:05:02    Yes.     Yes.     Um certainly properties that did not have an
     Aboriginal population were worth more and they had – it was easier for them
     to get white workers. Ah one of the stories was the, the ah manager of
     Collins’s property which was next door to Morraberrie, there’s a letter from
     him saying um you know, don’t tell us not to shoot blacks. You know as well
     as I do that everyone else is shooting them and ah you’ll face economic ruin if
     ah you’ve got too many blacks on your property so I said ah I conceded it
     might have been easier to get a loan if you had none because you were more
     likely to get into overseas investment or very other, other sorts of investment if
     the property was known to be completely trouble free.
     Because am I right that in the 19th century, um, I mean, would you, would the
     word of war ever be an appropriate one or, or how would you characterise that
     early um period of contact between black and white. Going back before the,
     when the Duncans were running Mooraberrie.
Gresley Lukin
     03:10:17:00    Right.      Well that’s an interesting question because if you
     looked at um Gresley Lukins’s editorials, he talks constantly about the war of
     extermination that’s going on and I’ve in fact just been looking at that, that um
     in his replies, you know these 18 replies he got, nobody queries that it was a
     war of extermination and um ah and some people agreed that it should take
     place and some agreed that it shouldn’t. And also a Mary Durack when she’s,
     in her book, she talks about by 1874 the white pastoralists all decided to get
     rid of the Aboriginal people by bullet or by bait. Now which is a terrible thing
     isn’t it? And ah you know she’s such a respected figure that every time I hear
     John Howard talking about no rules were ever broken or, I get very annoyed.
So we were talking to a descendant of the Hammonds, Tullys and Duracks
     yesterday and she felt that there had never been trouble between her family
     and Aboriginal people. Not, not serious trouble. You, how do you respond to
Ah, she’s a Costello relative?
Hammond is her main -
Main. Ah.
Is her main um line. Yes.
Um, well I would –
Race Relations/ Pastoral Industy
     03:11:47:02    You know, he, they’re the dominant group aren’t they? I think
     you have to ask, ask the minority groups what happened really to get the
     picture. But the very fact that they bought their cattle in and drove the
     Aboriginal people off the land meant that they weren’t getting food any more.
     Um they lost their homes, their sacred places. I would, I would think that it’d
     be very unlikely that there was no trouble.
So –
You know, did you see, when you were up in Boulia, did you see their
     Centenary of ah of Foundation booklet?
No, I have the McGlinchy clan booklet. Maybe I, actually I think I – that’s the
     one Keith Donoghue did. I think I did.
03:12:33:06    That might – but if you look there and they asked what
     happened to the Aboriginal people, when they died of starvation, grog and
     lead poisoning, the lead poisoning being by bullet, and that was often referred
     to in those days, that term.
Um –
Besides –
Um illness is another cop, you know, falling back before like the influenza
That’s another common um – explanation.
03:13:01:06    Yes. Yes. And that’s ah Jeffrey Blainey takes that up when he
     criticised the um the High Court for their talk about Aboriginal people being
     eradicated, he says nonsense. That the majority of them died of illness. They
     died in very large numbers from venereal disease but that’s a very different
     illness from flu. It’s got a very big social component and even in those days,
     people were aware if you had venereal disease and you slept with somebody,
     you passed it on and it was almost always fatal.
Although I came across a reference to stockmen. This, I don’t know if it was
     in the Channel Country but it was in rural Queensland, stockmen believing
     that if they could just sleep with a woman who didn’t have VD they would be
03:13:50:14    Yes. Yes. I think ah Ann McGrath brings that up in Born in
     the Saddle. But very often of course what happened, I think they believed that
     about gonorrhea. Ah the idea was you passed it on to someone else, lest you
     pass it on to the young woman you slept with. But very often you DID pass it
     on. You weren’t cured and you also passed on syphillis. But I mean it’s a
     very immoral act, whatever the, your reason for doing it.
What do you think accounted for that shift from like that state of war on the
     frontier to then the situation that we get in Alice’s books where, you know,
     black saviours, where the, where the pastoralists, they’re dependent upon –
Aboriginal people. What, what accounts for that transition?
Race Relations/Drought
     03:14:36:20    I sup – um I don’t really know the answer to that. I suppose
     that both existed simultaneously. You know certainly the Aboriginal people
     were willing to help when the pastoralists first arrived and they were willing to
     help Costello. It was only when the drought came and Costello wasn’t giving
     them cattle ah ah as food, that they ah were very hostile and attacked the
     homestead. So that may account for the transition, I don’t know.
How about like the Debney peace? Could you describe what Debney’s peace
     is and what um significance or otherwise you would give to it in the history of
     the Channel Country?
     03:15:20:18    I was very careful with Alice Duncan-Kemp’s books not to take
     anything for ah, not to automatically believe everything she said so I always
     checked if there are other accounts of things, if it fitted in with ah white
     cultural practices or Aboriginal cultural practices. Um, I could, the, the story
     of the Debney peace is that all these Aboriginal people were fighting amongst
     themselves and ah ah Debney tried to bring them all together to establish a
     peace. Now there are lots of reports about how Aborigine, how the whites
     coming into the area ah meant that the tribal boundaries were forgotten and
     people squabbled amongst themselves.         Um so that sounds quite valid.
     Whether in fact Debney actually made peace with all these groups or not, I
     have no idea. And whether in fact he got some land set aside for them which
     is another thing he says, I just couldn’t, I wouldn’t have an opinion on, but I
     know that it sounded like a strange practice for the police and the pastoralists
     to get together and have all these negotiations but I spoke to a friend of mine
     and he said, see if the policemen ah had a background in the Indian Army and
     I did, and it turns out that that was done very often amongst Indian groups in,
     in British India so ah you know, that’s consistent with the story. 03:17:01:20
Do you think it’s part of that process, do you think Debney’s peace is part of
     what sometimes gets called letting in?
I don’t know. I mean a lot of his um, a lot of the tribes he was talking about
     came from far away. There are, there was a guy there from um Lake Eyre and
     ah so, they wouldn’t be letting them in so much.
I, you know, I wondered whether the Aboriginal –
Race Relations
     03:17:37:16    That was 18, that took place in the 1880s. It was too soon for
     the letting in. See because I think ah Costello and Durack only came in about
     1860. In 1874 Mary Durack was saying they were out to shoot and poison the
     blacks. Um so I think to have the Debney Peace as the sort of letting back in
     is too soon.
Talking about Collins, do you want to just give me a thumbnail sketch of, of
     Collins and the Collins' family’s um economic involvement in the Channel
03:18:20:12    Right. I’m not sure I’ve got the fingers, figures at my finger
     tips but um Collins came in as a young man. He’d ah, he met Cos – the
     Collins' had properties all over the place and Costello arrived in the Dawson
     River area to buy cattle and he told Collins about all these wonderful
     opportunities to get land from Aboriginal people, and Collins went out there
     and in fact he did that. He got a huge amount of land and then later he went
     into the Northern Territory and did the same thing there and um ah they
     formed this big company, had lots of important politicians in it. Um it was
     called the North Australia Pastoral Company, and ah 37 of their descendants I
     think still own or have control over those Aboriginal lands and draw an
     income from them even today, all these years later. But the company is now
     huge. It, it controls ah a section of Australia as big as Sweden and, and
     Denmark I think it is.        It’s one of the top five pastoral companies.
So in talking to Isabel and Shirley, Isabel Tarrago and Shirley Finn yesterday
They were a bit hazy about the details of Glenormiston’s ownership but it
     would seem that their family worked there mainly when Glenormiston was
     owned by Collins and White and the Fraser family.
Was very significant –
And they felt that they, that the Frasers were going to protect them and then,
     because NAPCO, then NAPCO I think according to that, You Can’t Make It
     Rain, the – about ’68 that NAPCO buys Glenormiston and I know even that
     book talks about the sort of the interlocking shares.
This, this company pastoralism is very complicated.
Oh yes.
Do you have any sense of, of Glenormiston’s ownership structure at all, or is
     that too, too detailed to ….. ?
No that’s too detailed. I don’t know. I know there was originally a family
     called Coglan who owned it, or who managed it, and it was after that um that
     ah NAPCO got it.
You mentioned -
Race Relations: Chinese/ History
     02:20:46:02    And, and, and they were an interesting family Coughlin, the
     Coughlins, because he was terribly interested in Aboriginal life and ah he gave
     all these wonderful things to the museum and for a while the Queensland
     Museum had a Coughlin Pavilion and there’s a very interesting story um about
     um one of the Coughlin wives, I think it’s, was the mother of the person who
     told me and this woman had married very young and she was very
     inexperienced and ignorant and she was out on the Mulligan River on, on this
     property all by herself. Her husband was away and she had two small children
     and it was the only the Aboriginal people for company which, you know if
     you, if you take Alice’s point that it was a very alien ah and complex group,
     you could see how a stranger would feel. And one day this guy arrived ah and
     wanted to work as a cook and she thought there was something just a little bit
     odd but she couldn’t, you know because she was very naïve, she couldn’t
     really pinpoint it but he was wonderful to the children. He’d take them down
     to the lake and draw things and um tell them stories but he was also interested
     in their mother. That made her a bit nervous. He’d touch her hair and feel her
     clothes and he was always asking her to come to his cabin so she found that
     quite horrifying but eventually this guy got ill and she had to go to the cabin
     and there was this huge ah Buddha there so she realised he was Chinese and
     then he got a lot worse and he, they had to take him to Mt Isa I suppose, and
     when ah they got there he died and they discovered it wasn’t a he at all. It was
     a Chinese woman. So, you know, I found that an interesting story. I’ve, I
     always think the early history of Australia is fascinating and …..’s boring.
     Strayed pastoral memoirs had’ve spoilt it all.       03:22:53:00
Where do you think a pastoralist memoir like the Costello one, it is very - self-
     serving is the first word that comes to mind.
Oh yeah. Yeah.
Where do you think that, that tone comes from?
     03:23:06:16    Well I, I, I have a certain sort of sympathy for those kind of
     memoirs in the sense that I think um at the turn of the century, you know the
     whole sort of view of life changed and we began to try and get away from our
     convict roots and we set up this, this alternative view of the wonderful noble
     pastoralist and by the time that view had been set up and written about by
     Banjo Patterson and all these people, if you were writing a memoir, you
     almost had to conform to that pattern that had already been set down.
And do you think part of that pattern, part of that whole way of thinking was
     to um what’s the word? Not talk about con, convicts or –
Oh yeah.
Or kind of –
Yucky things.
Gresley Lukin
       03:23:59:04     Yes, absolutely. I mean um Gresley Lukin faced a tremendous
       amount of pressure and he was ah it was said about him that ah talk about a
       white brutality. The blacks is just a cover for an affair with a black woman
       and that he was disloyal to his country and disloyal to his caste and all these
So how –
03:24:20:04     And I mean Vogan had a bad time too.           He was another
       journalist. He um he worked for the 'Illustrated National Times' and he was
       their correspondent for a, for the whole of Australia I think and then he, he
       wrote a book. It was a novel but he says that it was based on ah the truth and
       ah it went to two or three editions. It was the first Australian novel but it was
       a horrific picture of what pastoralists were doing in places like Glen Ormiston
       and others. And the 'Illustrated London Times' dropped him and ah for ten
       years or more he couldn’t make a living out of writing. Mind you, his boss, ah
       Lord somebody or other, was part-owner of ah a lot of properties that he wrote
       about so in a sense you could say he cut his own throat.
Do you want to describe the process of producing your book? I’d like you to
       tell me about the, the trip to the Channel Country and then we’ll, I’ll, we’ll
       talk about um, um, you know responses to it, because it seems to follow out of
       talking about the responses to, to Lukin’s book.
OK, but I’ve got a sore eye and I have to put drops –
(pause in taping)
This is still Betacam No. 74 and this is DAT tape 28, the beginning of um
       so we’re in the third Betacam second DAT of our interview with Pam
       Watson. No transcript 03:23:54:08 – 03:30:24:20
Something important and relevant and ah you know, having little afternoon
       teas or fancy lunches wasn’t one of them. But I don’t think I was guided off
       being very say pro-Aboriginal. I never was and it just sort of, I got interested
       in the questions and I followed them through and I became much more
       sympathetic to that point of view.
Do you, it had never occurred to me until I spoke to Alice’s children the other
     day, but after talking to Alice’s children, a, a certain kind of um I guess it’s
     really the, the, a certain similarity, some, some points of coincidence between
     your life and Alice’s life um struck me. Most obviously with pursuing a, a
     passion for anthropology. You’re not and look, you can, there are as many
     differences as similarities –
Yes. Yeah.
But, but do you feel you identify with Alice at all?
03:31:18:10     No, not a bit to be honest. Ah since you’ve raised the question,
     I’ve thought I can see parallels in, I think of myself as an incredibly focussed
     person you know, and that if I pursue a course of action, nothing else ah sort
     of intrudes on it and I think she must’ve been very like that. And I think she
     was also very visual, you know, and I also think that is true about myself. Um
     but no, I didn’t, I didn’t relate to her at all.
It’s interesting –
I certainly think she’s wonderful but -
It’s interesting you, when you were talking about how say the Costello
     biography was, was of its time because it needed to be written um within that
     kind of Australian –
Legend context.
Yes. Yes.
And then you were talking about how you came to write Frontier Lands and
     Pioneer Legends and it being um connected to Australian politics and I forget
     it is who says ‘all history is contemporary history’. Um but what am I trying
     to say? I’ve lost my thread. I, I suppose – no, I’d better come back to that one
     when I’ve thought – um, um I’m kind of interested in, in how you look at your
     book from standing outside it but I’ll, I’ll come back to that. Can you describe
     the process of um of reception to your book, you know? How, how did you,
     how did you launch your book and what kind of responses have there been to
Ah you mean trying to find a publisher? That kind of …..
03:33:04:14       I had no trouble getting a publisher actually. Um I submitted it
     to Allen & Unwin which I, I was keen to have them publish it because they’ve
     done so many good books on a white/black contact. Um at first they told me
     they didn’t have room for it and then they called up later and said yes, they
     had. Um so it was very effortless and ah compared with my work on Pituri it
     was just such a pleasant experience, the whole thing. Although we didn’t have
     a bits of fights and things.
And then following through to when it was actually published. What kind of
     response did you imagine there would be to the book and how did that actually
     03:33:47:04       Well I thought it’d be a very controversial book and it hasn’t
     been. I mean, it hasn’t got enough attention to be controversial I would say.
     Um there was no local review in the 'Courier Mail'. Um 'The Australian' gave
     it a very good review after it’d been out about six months.
That was in 'The Australian' review of books?
Of books. And it was the lead story there in about three pages. So that was
And how did you understand that, because I mean I think it is, the things that
     you write about are indeed apposite to our current politics. How do you
     understand that there wasn’t more reviewing of it, attention paid to it?
03:34:32:08       I really can’t explain that. Um the 'Courier Mail' makes very
     strange choices about what it reviews I think. I mean it’ll review books on
     strange potters. You know potters of Sweden or something like that. Um I
     think probably for the Sydney papers, the idea that this is about an isolated
     section of Queensland probably wasn’t ah attractive or appealing enough.
And what do you, I mean that was certainly the feedback that I got in my first
     application say to the Commonwealth Centenary Federation was Channel
     Country is, is an isolated part of rural Queensland. What, how do you respond
     to that notion?
     03:35:20:14       Well I think that’s a shortsighted view actually because each of
     those five people, or at least four of them, were very significant. They owned
     properties almost everywhere. Ah the Collins family is so important now.
     They currently own 0.7% of um Queensland land or they have a lease on it I
     should say. Ah they’ve properties all over the place. The same was true as
     Costello, ah De Satge made a fortune out of it. Um Durack of course died
     young so um not Durack um Duncan. So we don’t know how he would’ve
     turned out. Moreover all the conditions ah that generated those contradictory
     memoirs, existed almost everywhere over Australia. I mean the pastoral um
     the pastoralists had the same problems with Aboriginal people everywhere.
     That was problems over access to women and ah white misuse of Aborig –
     access to water and white misuse of Aboriginal women and children. Ah the
     same people were often involved elsewhere. You know they went from one
     place to another.    03:36:32:00
….. …..