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Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 79 - 01 of 02 (Raw)

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Patricia Hodgkinson Trish Fitzsimons Erica Addis
IN 00:00:00 OUT 00:20:36
Trish FitzSimons
Patricia Joan Scott Richards
Griffith Film School
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79 - 01 of 02
Refers to tapes 79_BC_DV OK. So it’s the 9th January, 2002. This is DAT Tape No 77 and it’s T Camera Tape No 79. We’re interviewing Patricia Hodgkinson, so this is the fourth camera tape. Is that right?
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 79 - 01 of 02
Traditional Aboriginal Pastoral Companies
PTA refers to Part A of Tape 79
Copyright in individual works within this collection belongs to their authors or publishers. Recorded creative work created by permission of the copyright holder.
Patricia Hodgkinson
End of interview of Patrica Hodgkinson. Tape 5 of 5. No obvious faults in footage.
part of:
Braided Channels of History Recording & Transcript - 79 - 01 of 02
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79_BC_DV_PTA_HODGKINSON-raw.txt — 14 KB

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                         Refers to tapes 79_BC_DV
    P = Patricia Hodgkinson       T = Trish Fitzsimons     E = Erica Addis

    OK. So it’s the 9th January, 2002. This is DAT Tape No 77 and it’s
    Camera Tape No 79. We’re interviewing Patricia Hodgkinson, so this is
    the fourth camera tape. Is that right?

E   Fifth.

T   Fifth camera tape interviewing Patricia’s third DAT tape.                 Trish
    Fitzsimons on sound. Erica Addis on camera.

P   The end is nigh.

T   And the end is indeed nigh.

E   I’m nearly ready but not quite.

T   Are you rolling?

E   No. OK.

T   Um one of the Aboriginal women that I interviewed um in Mt Isa, …… (?)
    said, and she’s a woman of maybe 55, she said that it, it was very clear to her
    that she must never work on a station, because if you worked on a station as an
    Aboriginal woman, you’d be subject to kind of sexual demands basically. Do
    you give a – a, an opinion like that credence?

P   The world never changes dear, particularly in matters of sexuality. If it’s there
    available, of course. But not in our case at Mt Leonard. There were very old
    men and women and almost nothing – no little piccaninnies, and no luscious
    little belles – black belles – black velvet. No. Of course there were around
    Birdsville and whatnot. Half the population of Birdsville was half-castes.
    Anywhere where there was a centre, yes. Men, you know, but they had – just
    couldn’t take any recourse at Mt Leonard because as I say they’d be flat out
    trying to find anybody younger than 60.

T   Now over the century, I mean, you’re describing a lot of people, Aboriginal
    people, working on the property.       Now there’s very few.       What’s your
    understanding of what shifted over time in terms of stations employing
    Aboriginal people?

P   Because er the war, World War II, had many affects and one of course was all
    the men – white men, and half-castes, and some Aboriginals, went off and
    joined up. And of those, a great percentage never came back to the bush
    again, because they found out, black and half-caste that there were very good
    jobs to be had in factories and putting labels on pickle jars like my fate was.
    But so many never came back and there was no work for them anyway. See
    before the War, like so referred to so many times to musters, musters were
    done on horseback and done over a period of three to six weeks or so,
    depending on the size of the spread, because there were no fences. And if a
    man wanted to send a mob off to market in Adelaide in August, they had to
    have a muster starting way back in June somewhere or other, and they had to
    go all over Mt Leonard and surrounding stations to get L three n’s – our brand
    – LNNN. To claim LNNN so they could send a mob off to market. When the
    War was over and things started settling down, they had to ah they, not even
    Kidman was rich enough to pay to have all those fences put up. We used to
    have people called boundary riders and that man’s job, he had a humpy right
    out on the rim of the boundary, and his job was ride daily every week around
    the boundary fences to try and tell the boss where big holes were in the fence,
    that Mawney;s (?) were coming in and whatnot. After the War, Kidman just
    decided that ah yes, you didn’t have to put up fences – you had electric
    portable fences and all that sort of thing. So musters weren’t needed. But
    before the War, in my father’s time, and he was all for it, road transport came
    in. Road transport could shift a mob of cattle from Mt Leonard and not more
    than two days later, or two and a half days later, into the sale yard in Adelaide.
    The same thing – when the cattle left Mt Leonard, it’d be nearly three months
    before they got to rail at Maree. When they got to rail at Maree, it was a
    painful business, filling up all the cattle trains there. I, my sister and I, a
    couple of times, we travelled on a cattle train ordered by my father to take
    LNNNs down to Adelaide, and we go in the hot – we’d be into South
    Australia desert country. Hot as Hades. But everybody out and my sister and
    I had to get the same long stays and you had to get the cattle on the floor that’d
    been trampled. Get them up again to keep them alive. Heavy …… But one
    incidence that – I was 17 years when – Helen wasn’t there – going back to
    college on the train from Maree to – nearly to Adelaide, and ah we came to a
    stop. The train wheezed out in the heat anywhere, anytime the driver felt like
    a cuppa. You know, boil the billy at the side of the thing and you had a yarn
    and something, then the train proceeded again. So on this occasion, Poppa had
    hired the railway thing, we wheezed out into the South Australian sun. There
    wasn’t a blade of grass. There wasn’t anything. All of a sudden, to my
    astonishment, I saw little children. Little people. Oooh, I’d say about 17 of
    them. Like little rabbits you know, all over. And I said to the ganger who’s
    working on the train, I said goodness me. Where do all these little children
    come from? Without a smile on his face he said working man’s recreation
    Miss. Without moving a muscle, you know? Working man’s recreation Miss.
    I was so embarrassed I did not know where to look.

T   So these would’ve been half-caste kids?

P   No, no, no. These were gangers. There would’ve been some half-castes
    amongst them. Railway gangers, who spent their whole life out in the desert
    waiting to hop off the train and cattle and this, that and the other on it. And
    they didn’t object to their life because when they weren’t jacking up ah
    railway carriages, well they were jacking up the population, and that was it.

T   So what you’re saying is that the whole form of pastoralism changes?

P   Absolutely.   Absolutely changed.      And ah later, great plans were being
    formulated by the British Government principally during the War, because
    Britain was down on its knees. The population’s starving after the War.
    Weren’t staving. There was heavy rationing and things were pretty crook so
    Britain had to get going fast and try and find overseas in their dominions.
    We’re now talking about all the red bits on the, the British Empire – all there.
    And so the British Government ah they tried, they called them ground nuts –
    peanuts in Africa – it was a dead failure, right? Even Joe Blow could’ve told
    them not to do that but the British Government sank these millions and the
    peanut thing flopped in ….. (?). So they formed a body straight away and they
    went out to the Channel Country. My father and all the station owners were
    summoned to a meeting with these heads of the Ministry of Food in England,
    to discuss possibilities of how Britain could grow something that would give
    them a hedge against future disaster like the thingo – that nut. And ah this Dr
    John Bradfield, who built the Sydney Harbour Bridge, he was one of the
    leading lights in it because even after he finished the Sydney Harbour Bridge,
    his great dream was to divert the great rivers of the river – you know, up there
    – the Roper and the Fitzroy and whatnot, divert those into the centre of
    Australia and take over – because he said then that the um artesian bores were
    expendable. They weren’t going to be spouting out water forever and there’d
    come a time when they would need water. What this driest country on earth
    needs is water. And they agreed totally with Dr thing. He said all you’ve got
    to get, you’ve got nuclear power and you can put up pumping stations and
    things and fresh water flowing into the inland.       Oh it was a great and
    wonderful dream, wasn’t it? And ah that all they had to do is to bring those
    waters down. So the British Government representatives packed up their
    attaché cases and back they went to Whitehall and those plans were put in a
    pigeonhole and have never been seen since. And it really knocked my father.
    He said they – for years he was on about it – he said there they are, the brains
    of Britain, and they can’t even see what is so obvious. There has to – water
    has to come to the inland.      Trish, the other day ah on Countrywide or
    something like that, I saw a Countrywide session on the artesian bores and I
    couldn’t believe my eyes. In my home country there was a trickle of water,
    where as I say, where we used to be sent out on our ponies to see millions of
    gallons of water going up in the sky and filling the tanks for the cattle there.
    In some places in South West Queensland, they’ve dried up already.

T   Now it’s about 60 years since you lived in the Channel Country full-time give
    or take. How much do you think of it now? You know, what place does the
    Channel Country have in your life now.

P   Yeah. It has no part of my life now at all. And all I am very sorry and
    regretful about is that my first sight after all these years ah of going with ah
    my brother and his then – his lovely wife who’s since died ah, Bernie, and we
    went back to see Mt Leonard again and to see Pop’s grave you know, and
    things. And ah great mind. Ah just after I came down here, and I was
thinking oh God, I must be getting old because I’ve got a great desire to see
Pop’s grave and my brother rang from Yarraman, Queensland, where he was
and chatting away and he said Trish, you ever thought about going back to Mt
Leonard? And I said, what do you think? I beat you to it. 24 hours ago I
thought about that. So I said I’ll provide all expenses if you like. You are a
fabulous driver. He is, a wonderful driver and a brand new car and whatnot
and he said well you can keep your snooty nose right out of it. We’re going to
share. We’ll share the trip there. Oh great. So he did. He’s a wonderful
driver. Very comfortable car. And out we got. And we stayed at the – we
didn’t stay at the ……(?), I think we stopped and had a, had a beer there or
something or other and then the great moment came when we had to go round
the bend of the river and see Mt Leonard which has been sold a couple of
times since Pop and his partner sold it, and it was – we were told it was owned
by a wealthy butcher from Adelaide who never went near the place. He just
had a manager on it. And the manager’s wife said wasn’t there because she
was taking the kids back to Adelaide to put ‘em back into school. But ah the
mad, mad pub - ….. ….. Simon? Yeah. Simon actually had a rare sober
moment and could recogni – or said he recognised me and whatnot, and he
told us this. Anyhow we drove across the ri – ah the river to Mt Leonard and
it was all so different. All those gibbers that I fell off into and whatnot, a huge
dam had been made there.        A vast dam.      And most of the gibbers had
disappeared from there. And looked at Mt Leonard. In my father’s day, every
tool was put back in the shelf, every – no bit of piping laying around, nothing.
You didn’t – you couldn’t have breakfast, dinner or tea until you’d done your
share of putting everything way. There’s a place for everything. Everything
in its place. It was always clean, neat and tidy. Because there’s no-one there
to care and the manager certainly couldn’t have cared less, he was away too,
there was truckloads of old piping laying across the front door and whatnot. It
was all so different and it just showed that nobody cared. That upset me and
whatnot. And I – it doesn’t matter. Pop’s up there and he’s spinning them
yarns about the great muster of 1934. He doesn’t know about it. It’s only you
and I who will mourn for the days when this was – our station was known for
its good management when Pop was there. We’ve just got to face facts.
Nobody cares.
T   You say that the Channel Country doesn’t have any part of your life now and I
    understand that physically and actually, but how about in the life of your
    mind? What part does the Channel Country –

P   Ohhh, it’s just the memories of it and my anger, my terrible anger, when um,
    the Cooper comes in flood and there’s no more controlling that huge flow of
    water in 2002 than there was in 1927 or ’37 or something. All that wonderful
    water just flowing over the desert whereas in – as well know, in three years
    time, the cattle will be dying for want of water. These sort of things weigh in
    my mind. It should have progressed instead of going back. If Menzies and –
    yes, Menzies was in ……, with the great Snowy Mountains Scheme, you
    know whoever thunk that one out or anything, I think it was Hudson, whoever
    thunk that one out, look what a difference that made to the availability of
    water in three States, because oh it’s important isn’t it, for city farmers? Not
    wanting a thing ….. ….. There’s that waiting three or four years for the
    Cooper to come in flood and then it all wastes away and I cannot believe that
    there can be people so stupid.

T   And how about the writing? What’s, what’s making you write stuff down
    about your childhood?

P   Oh I’ve told you that before, that it was just my grandson Toby that I was
    telling something to, and he looked as bored out of his little brain, and my
    daughter Christine saying Mum, get a computer. Start writing it down because
    Toby’ll be the very one who’ll be mad as hell if his kids grow up and ask him
    where did grandma oh and things there. That put it into my head, and as I say,
    when I finally got to the word processor and everything, oh that was a doodle.
    And I’d be doing the washing up over the sink and I’d think about that
    spectacular muster in ah 1934, this huge muster that I knew all about because I
    was riding with it. Not allowed to go more than 10 miles away from the
    station, but I was riding amongst this mob you know?            It was a most
    fascinating, exciting thing in the whole wide world and so I’d go inside and go
    bash, bash, bash, bash, bash, bah – two pages. Print ‘em off. And then I’d be
    right for the next two months or ‘til the next thing struck me. Then YOU
    came into my life or I came into yours, whichever it was, and there was the
    inspiration I really needed. That was ah about when people came into it.
      Before that I was only thinking of Mt Leonard as one isolated part of my life,
      but when you came into it, I could think about Birdsville and all the – Maree,
      and all the whole of the Channel Country. That’s what enlarged my horizons,
      as we say.

T     Is there anything I haven’t asked you about you think um –

P     I hardly think so dear.

T     OK, enough already. Thank you very much.

P     I don’t know dear, whether you make sense of it or not. I – that’s not my
      business, you know? That’s up to you.

End of interview