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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 75 - SP (Raw)

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Julie Hornsey Trish Pam Watson
To be confirmed from missing mpeg4.
Trish FitzSimons
Pam Lukin
Griffith Film School
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75 - SP
4 September 2000
Timecode refers to tape 75_BC_SP Topics in Bold
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 75 - SP
Moorraberrie Race Relations
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Pamela Watson
Interview with Pam Watson. Part 4 of 4. Some water damage evident.
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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 75 - SP
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75_BC_SP_WATSON-raw.txt — 12 KB

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                     INTERVIEW WITH PAM WATSON
                                 4 September 2000
                       Timecode refers to tape 75_BC_SP
                                  Topics in Bold
            TF = Trish     PW = Pam Watson         JH = Julie Hornsey

TF   So this is tape 75? So this is Betacam tape 75, time code 04. We’re still in
     DAT tape 27 I think. The DAT is just at 7 minutes 20 seconds and so this
     is the fourth Betacam tape in an interview with Pam Watson on the 4th
     September 2000.        75_BC_SP
     Um, where was I at? We were, you were just in the middle of something I
     wanted to go back to –
JH   The importance of –
TF   Oh yes.
PW   Yes.
TF   I’ll ask you that again.     Yes.     When I put, first put in my um project
     application, I got back the, the feedback that it was taken as like the local
     history of a particular –
PW   Yes.
TF   Area of Queensland. It sounds like you perhaps had some of that response to,
     to your book. How do you respond to that? I mean –
PW   History/Pastoral Industry
     04:01:42:15    Well I, I think it was a microcosm of what happened elsewhere
     so I think it’s a valuable for that reason. Ah so you had the same pastoral
     industry all over Australia.       You had the same um ah stress with, with
     Aboriginal people on the two questions of access to water and pasture and ah
     relationships with women.          The, many of the people themselves moved
     around. I mean Costello, Durack, De Satge and Collins all had properties in
     other parts of the country. Ah Collins and De Satge both became members of
     Parliament. Um so I think it has a lot wider implications than simply the um,
     the, its geographical locations.
TF   And indeed members of those families are still um very significant today –
PW   Oh yes.
TF   Aren’t they?
PW   04:02:38:08     Oh yes, particularly Collins.     Through ah NAPCO and the
     Duracks of course.        They went on to West Australia and they’ve been
     important there and they’re important in politics.
TF   When we were talking about um Michael Costello’s biography was, of his
     father, we were, almost said that he was kind of writing the biography that he,
     that he had to write.
PW   Yes. Yes.
TF   The biography that was determined by his time. How, what might that kind of
     perspective relate to, to your book? I mean, how, how, how if it all is this a
     book of the late 90s as a book that Pam Watson likes, had to write if you like.
PW   04:03:24:00     Ah, well, it’s certainly a book of the late 90s but it’s not, it
     doesn’t represent a popular idea I think. I certainly didn’t have to write it. I’d
     be making much more money being a Pharmacist. Um but it’s certainly, it’s
     part of its times I think isn’t it?
TF   Yeah I mean, I’m um um I’m sympathetic to that notion that all history is
     contemporary history.
PW   Yes. Yes.
TF   Which doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate but it means –
PW   No.
TF   That what you focus on represents –
PW   Yes.
TF   The where you’ve come from.
PW   Yes. Yes. Yes.
TF   Yes. Um in, in our interview with Liz Debney, she put forward – we talked to
     her quite a lot about native title and she put forward the notion that, that it was
     all very easy for we city people to come out to the Channel Country and to be
     sympathetic to native title and sympathetic to Aboriginal people because we
     weren’t facing claims on our backyard or whatever. Um, how do you respond
     to that notion? I mean at one level I have a sympathy with that notion
     although um you know, I don’t think it takes the vital importance of, of native
     title away but, but how do you respond to that?
PW   Native Title
     04:04:47:04     I suppose um I have a certain sympathy for it too but every
     lifestyle has its disadvantages. The pastoralists have had years when they’ve
     had very good conditions and also I think that original ah court decision, I
     can’t remember now whether it was Mabo or Wik, but it pointed out that the
     pastoralists were not going to suffer if there was going to be a conflict between
     the Aboriginal people and land use and pastoral uses. It was going to be the
     pastoralists that would succeed so I don’t, you know, I’m disappointed that
     pastoralists should have the opportunity to do something in this regard to make
     up for the past and they’re knocking it back. 04:05:30:14
TF   I think, yeah I think that was Wik. Um I mean generally I’ve found great
     ignorance actually. Nobody really understood what native title –
PW   Well it’s complicated. Ah I mean even Harradine used to bring his lawyer
     with him so I –
TF   Where do you see your work next heading Pam? Like, where’s the future of –
PW   Um.
TF   Your intellectual work.
PW   04:05:54:00     I think I’m going to do something based on my PhD probably
     and - but again I don’t want to make it an academic work. I, I want to make it
     a work that’s readable to the average person so um I have to see how that
     works out. I, I’m really very interested in um the New Yorker has published
     lots of articles in which the researcher is almost part of the, the story. The
     only one I can think of, there was one on Freud in, in the - Freudian Archives I
     think it was called. Ah and then there’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom where ah Pet
     – Laurence is, you know, present. Um so I’d like to do something about that
     on this whole question of drugs and their economic and social consequences.
     But I don’t know whether I’ve got the energy yet or – or whether I can stand
     the absolute concentration that it demands.
TF   How long –
PW   I mean I could just get old, be - or I could just be old.
TF   How long did this Frontier Lands take you for instance?
PW   Gender Relations
     04:07:06:02     Ah it probably took me three or four years concentrated
     writing. I’m a very slow writer and I need lots of drafts and ah I go down
     many a blind alley and so on. I mean in the beginning I was terribly interested
     in the gender difference between the men and the women so that was going to
     be the whole focus of the book. But then I thought that’s, that’s an irrelevant
     issue you know. I shouldn’t spend time on that when there are more important
     issues involved.
TF   That’s interesting –
PW   Mmm.
TF   Because I called, yeah, coming –
PW   Yes.
TF   Coming after it’s –
PW   Yes.
TF   They’re the questions I’ve got a particular um got a particular interest in. Ah
     how important were field trips to the Channel Country in working on Frontier
PW   Moorberrie/Women/Land
     04:07:56:04    I’ve had a couple of field trips to that area before you see so it
     probably wasn’t significant to go that last time when I went with my daughter.
     On the other hand ah that was the first time I knew I was actually going to be
     writing about it and ah my impressions of Mooraberrie the property were very
     um very moving to me because you know in Alice’s books, every location has
     the significance of one sort or another. This or that water hole, or that sacred
     tree. And there seemed to be lots of people there, and you get there now and it
     just seems absolutely deserted. You know it’s lost its particularity and I can
     see how when Aboriginal people were put into reserves, how hard it must’ve
     been to transfer knowledge about the past when you actually weren’t living in
     the country. I mean now, even a lot of the names Alice used, you can’t find
     out where those areas were. I’m sure that struck you.        04:09:04:20
TF   So …….
PW   Race Relations
     It’s, it’s a really sad sort of deserted place now. And I mean that’s a twist on
     the usual story isn’t it? Which is that these were trackless wastes or things
     when whites arrived. But now ah that’s not true when you read Alice’s stuff
     you know, it’s, it’s full of people and movement and colour and activity, but
     when you go there now, it’s really sort of dead.
TF   And beyond Mooraberrie, did you feel in travelling round, I don’t know when
     you were in Birdsville, I don’t know precisely where you went. But could you
     feel the um the weight of this history, for want of a better word? And if so,
PW   04:09:51:06    Well I certainly, I certainly did feel the weight of history but it
     was in the absence of any trace of it left that’s what particularly struck me I
     think. Um and I was ah I went to, to see – what’s the lake? Um, gosh, I can’t
     remem –
TF   Not Tuteka –
PW   Ah –
TF   I was going to say Tutekawa.
PW   No, that’s Mexico.
TF   Yes. What I’m saying is a name something like that.
PW   Women/Land
     04:10:23:16    Well you know the lake I mean and you know, all around there
     there are these, it was sacred to women. A lot of women ceremonies were
     celebrated there and all around there, you may not have seen them, but there
     were um clay ovens where people would’ve baked emus and things like that
     and it’s just deserted. And Alice speaks of beautiful rushes growing to the
     edge of the water. Well now they’re all sort of ah ah, the dirt is frozen into the
     shape of cattle hooves and things. It’s, it’s a really sad spot.
TF   Where in, in this process did you run across Joslin Eatts, Pam?
PW   04:11:05:14    Oh she got in touch with me. She ah, she is also very interested
     in Alice Duncan-Kemp and has read all her books and she um sees, Jocelyn
     says she wanted to raise her people up and she saw Alice Duncan-Kemp’s
     books as sort of some way of doing that and she rang the university and asked
     them if they had anyone who was, who knew anything about Alice Duncan-
     Kemp or that country, so they put her on to me.
TF   She was very lucky, wasn’t she?
PW   Yes.
TF   That she happened to ring a university –
PW   Yes.
TF   Who had staff -
PW   Yes that’s right.
TF   That would.
PW   But, but she’s got a lot of um initiative, Jocelyn I think.
TF   Do you in anyway see yourself almost as part of a genealogy of historians? Is
     that ah um –
PW   Ahhh.
TF   Is that a concept that is fruitful(?) to you?
PW   04:12:05:12     I haven’t seen that but I concede there’s some truth in it now
     you’ve mentioned it. Look I see myself as mostly just doing my own thing in
     a quiet sort of way. Persisting in things that interest me.
TF   You said that part of why you’d taken up the book was um because you, you
     were interested or angry really, about the lies going down politically.
PW   Yes.
TF   Do you think that our view of the past influences the present? And if so, how?
PW   Race Relations/Pastoral Industry
     04:12:40:00     Oh yes, I do tremendously. Um well people don’t really realise
     how much I think Aboriginal communities have the, how much they’ve been
     damaged by pastoralism.        I mean, everything that decimated Aboriginal
     communities, and I use that sense very carefully – that word carefully, one in
     ten. I don’t mean to imply that they are wiped out, but everything that
     happened to Aboriginal people made money for pastoralists. You know, the
     fact that they came in and put their cattle on the ground. Ah Costello made a
     quarter of a million British pounds in 1970. Um when they ah got rid of all
     the Aboriginal people on the property, they put up the ah price of their
     property and they enabled them to ah pay more to the managers and so on.
     The ah, the kidnapping of children and women um made, lowered sort of the
     costs of running the properties. Um the fact that Aboriginal people weren’t
     tried if they were said to have committed a crime, saved them money because
     they didn’t have to send them to the coast to be judged. Um - so I’ve run out
     again. 04:14:01:12
TF   Is there anything that –
PW   I’m not wrapping up things neatly like I did in the beginning, I’m sorry.
TF   That’s fine. Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you think is, is
     really significant to understanding your book, its place in your life and the
     history of the Channel Country. The ….. of those things.
PW   No, I think you’ve, you’ve ah covered it very well really.
TF    Well then why don’t we just sit here and do what I call an atmos so we’ll just
      record the sound – oh except we – oh I suppose we – OK. So this is an atmos
      in Pam’s living room.
PW    You poor girl. You’re stiff and cramped.
(background sounds)

End of taped interview.