MARLBATHARNDU WANGAGGU: Once Upon a Time in the West - Catalogue

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Hamersley Gorge along the Nanutarra Munjina Road Pilbara, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014


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Foreword Lorraine Injie, Chairperson IBN Corporation

Marlbatharndu Wanggagu Once Upon a Time in the West: Sharmila Wood, FORM Curator


Our Station Life


Pastoral Paternalism in the Pilbara Dr Maryanne Jebb, AIATSIS Research Fellow

186 192

Black Eureka! Jolly Read

Collaborators: Claire Martin, Photographer’s Note


Jetsonorama, Evolution of the Painted Desert Project


Seeing the Desert Julia Fournier


Interview Reko Rennie



Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that this book may contain images of people who are now deceased. This image contains photographs from stations not in the Yinhawangka, Banyjima and Nyiyaparli area, this has been considered and approved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical (including photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval system) without permission. It is customary for some Indigenous communities not to mention the names or reproduce images of, or associated with, the recently deceased. All such mentions and images in this book have been reproduced with the express permission of appropriate authorities and family members, wherever it has been possible to locate them. Nonetheless, care and discretion should be exercised in using this book. Where there are variations of spelling for Indigenous words, the most commonly used versions have been included, or, where supplied, the preferred spelling of individuals and communities. Front Cover Artwork by Reko Rennie

Branding Cattle on Nicholson Station, photograph by Percy Spiden, Pictures Collection, State Library of Victoria, 1955

Stockyard workers from Life and Work on Roy Hill Station, 1955, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia

foreword Lorraine Injie, Chairperson, IBN Corporation

The traditional lands of the Yinhawangka, Banyjima and Nyiyaparli people are in the high country of North Western Australia; a region whose modern development was driven by the pastoral industry. Aboriginal people, including our families were closely engaged with this industry; from its very beginnings. Kaye Forrest’s book, The Challenge and the Chance is a historical record of this interaction. She records Aboriginal people welcoming

Supporting the Yinhawangka, Banyjima and Nyiyaparli people

settlers and guiding them to good pasture, dispossession, battles, friendship and cruelty, and an intimate integration into the work and life of the stations. Forrest records an account of a settler’s wife staying with the Aboriginal camp, where she felt safer than staying with white workers at the homestead, when her husband travelled away. There is no simple story to this history, but dispossession left a legacy, the effect of which continues to this day. Most people would not know that in 1878 Aboriginal people lost the right to hunt on their lands, a right that only returned with Native Title in 1993. They lost the right to hold a miners licence in 1888, the same year the first of Western Australia’s goldfields were declared in the Pilbara. The pastoral industry is a part of the identity and history of many Aboriginal people. And there is no doubt that the industry could not have been built without Aboriginal labour.


During this project many of those

dust, in the industry that was the

working with Andrew Dowding

interviewed reflected that being

economic backbone of the North

(Anthropologist) Sharmila Wood

on the stations was a happy


(Curator) & artists such as

This is a contribution that has

Jetsonorama. We are grateful to

time, they worked on country, with their family and their tribe. Aboriginal people were good at station work; they had the skills. The Yinhawangka, Banyjima and Nyiyaparli people have many experiences and stories connected with stations around the Central Pilbara. Whilst people have fond memories this was also a period of great hardship and pain. Yet, there is a deep pride in many Aboriginal people for what they did in building the pastoral industry. They were stockmen and domestic workers – intelligent and acute horsemen with an intimate knowledge of the country; they built windmills, fed hundreds,

remained largely unrecognised

them for the passion and skills

in the broader community. This

they’ve brought to this project and

project is important because

the respect that they’ve shown to

it makes Aboriginal pastoral

our Elders and their history.

histories visible. The recording and

IBN has invested in this project

sharing of stories, language and traditions is very important to IBN and, we believe, to Australia.

as we believe it will serve as an important historical record that will show the young people and

It is an essential part of our

future generations something of


the spirit of the Aboriginal men

That’s why our partnerships with

and women who helped to build

FORM, and other organisations

the Pilbara.

such as Wangka Maya Aboriginal

This project pays respect, in a

Language Centre, who work

highly visual and engaging way, to

tirelessly to preserve over 30

the contribution Aboriginal people

Aboriginal languages found only in

made. This is something that has

the Pilbara region, are so vital.

not been well recognised, despite

sheared sheep and repaired fences.

FORM has captured these stories

the pastoral industry being so

They worked for rations in hard

in film, photography, audio and

closely linked to the Australian

conditions, in the heat and the

large scale art installations,

outback psyche.


The Milky Way seen from Cowra Outcamp, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Marlbatharndu Wanggagu Sharmila Wood, FORM Curator

Quartpot, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Marlbatharndu Wanggagu - Once Upon a Time in the West explores the untold history of pastoral industry from an Aboriginal perspective. In June 2015 pastoral leases are due to be renewed, which is a poignant time to reflect upon the pastoral history. Aboriginal people played a vital role in developing the industry, yet their role as an essential workforce is often unacknowledged. This is not the first project to recount the pastoral era, and is not intended to be comprehensive; rather it is an opportunity

Once Upon a Time in the West

to present a range of the histories experienced by Yinhawangka, Banyjima and Nyiyaparli (IBN) people on stations.

Once Upon a Time in the West is about the interconnectedness between the past and present, about history and place, it’s about heritage, but it’s also about the future, and more than anything it’s about resilience, courage and hope.

This project emerged from a series of informal and formal consultations with elders and board members from the IBN Aboriginal Corporation. Station Life, which has a strong resonance with people across generations, and family groups emerged as a priority focus for the project. Painting is not a common form of creative expression for IBN people. In a community where intangible cultural heritage remains important, yet, often neglected, as both a system of knowledge and form of creative expression people embraced the opportunity to tell their stories and have these recorded for a cultural project. IBN has developed into an Aboriginal institution with a strong commitment to self determination, embodied in their relevance and significance to their membership of Yinhawangka, Banyjima and Nyiyaparli people around the Pilbara.


It was important that the approach

which include images of rodeo

culminated in a series of paste

we embarked upon together was

riders and cowboys, that related

ups around South Hedland, and

inclusive, broad and participatory.

directly back to the pastoral

Indee Station utilizing historic

Storytelling emerged as the most

industry. Jetsonorama seemed the

and archival images of Aboriginal

suitable and open platform, one

ideal artist to assist in visualizing

people at work on the station.

that does not exclude people

the station experience in

They evoke nostalgia, yet clearly

because they do not identify

collaboration with IBN participants.

illustrate the working life of people

as artists As the conduit for expression, the oral tradition has a

In March 2014, Andrew Dowding,

during this time.

an Aboriginal anthropologist and

Whilst the rolling out of paste-ups

I were invited to the IBN Annual

was delayed, the AGM endorsed

General Meeting to talk about

the project, with elders nominating

the project, and receive feedback.

their participation, so Andrew

Jetsonorama, who had just arrived

and I embarked on a series of

from the USA accompanied us.

trips to speak with Yinhawangka,

When he began to show images

Banyjima and Nyiyaparli people

in a slideshow of the majestic

who are scattered like stars across

Arizona landscape, the room was

the towns of Tom Price, Wakathuni,

silent- intrigued by this African-

Bellary, Parabardoo, Port Hedland,

As FORM had begun to deliver

American artist with his paste ups

Roebourne, Mingullatharndoo

its PUBLIC program, which

on the sides of buildings, water

Community, and Karratha. Whilst

explores creativity as a catalyst

tanks and caravans in a landscape

I had some understanding of

for generating public good with a

that resembled some of the

what people had experienced on

focus on artists working beyond

Pilbara’s magnificent vistas.

the station, it was, at times, an

unique place in Aboriginal culture, which in this project allowed for broad engagement with a range of community members. Yet, this also posed some challenges for visualization as we wanted to ensure that IBN people were at the forefront of shaping their representation.

the gallery walls, Jetsonorama’s practice came to our attention. Born in North Carolina and trained as a doctor, Jetsonorama has lived on the Navajo Nation reservation in Arizona for the last 26 years. In recent years, he has initiated The Painted Desert Project, which takes his experiences on the reservation and uses the platform of art to build community, esteem and a sense of identity. A number of IBN members had expressed an interest in connecting with Navajo communities, and had identified with Jetsonorama’s paste-ups,

The initial enthusiasm for the

emotional and difficult journey.

paste-ups from the elders who

During this project many of

congregated to meet with us

those interviewed reflected on

after the presentation, was

the station days fondly, as a time

diminished as some fears and

when they worked on country

anxieties emerged about the

with their family, developing into

public presentation. Ultimately,

champion horse breakers, rodeo

Jetsonorama’s Pilbara trip in

riders and kings of the gymkhana.

April did not result in large

Energy, action, risk and adventure

-scale portraits embedded

were part of this life. Despite not

in the landscape, as the idea

being financially rewarded for

needed longer to be considered.

their knowledge, skills or hard

However, the trip presented an

work, respect and status was

opportunity for exchange and

bestowed from the community on

creative development, which has

exceptional horsemen and women,

many of whom are remembered as

family, provided strength and a

This is clear in the way people

heroes in these stories.

sense of shared belonging. Story,

adopted cowboy culture, illustrated

corroborees, songs, and family trips

by a love for, Country and Western

to the bush helped to replenish and

music and fashion. Whilst the

nurture people, sustaining them

stars of Cowboy films were white,

through difficult times.

people recognized the lives and

Women were just as accomplished as men in the saddle, and, whilst employment in roles on the station was gendered, when it was required

landscapes represented, they

women also did fencing, horse

There were many times, where

breaking, well sinking, mustering,

silences and gaps amplified

and ‘gun slinging.’ However,

unspoken tragedy and sadness.

women’s primary role appears to

In many stories, the absences of

be domestic and they worked as

experience suggested deep chasms

cooks, cleaners, and nannies. I

of grief, and unspeakable things.

found it ironic that station owners

Some people recounted violence,

often entrusted their children to

exploitation, control, and slavery.

women who worked in their homes,

The impact of legislation such

When the photographer, Claire

yet many nannies were subject to

as the Aborigines 1905 Act (WA)

Martin travelled to photograph

government policies, which forced

ensured a framework of control,

those who had nominated to have

the removal of their own children.

segregation and surveillance

a portrait, many of the men put on

Similarly, Aboriginal women

governed peoples’ lives, and the

their cowboy hats, boots and belts.

prepared food, but they were not

impact of these policies is evident

There was pride and connection

allowed to eat inside, having to

in the lived experience of IBN

with this culture that people were

take their meals to the wood heap,


keen to portray, reflecting how

illustrating the apartheid that in fact, existed across the entire state.

In spite of trauma and hardship, the attachment and rootedness of

Yet, rather than a narrative of

people to the station is commonly

victimization and struggle, I heard

expressed. They are places to

voices which were courageous

which IBN people connected

and heroic. IBN people created

spiritually and psychically; they

intentional communities of refuge

worked, suffered, and loved there,

in the tin shanties and humpies

they raised their children across

they inhabited; culture, family

the generations in the face of

bonds, laughter and love were alive,

hardship and uncertainty. In many

whilst strict discipline maintained

ways, Aboriginal people absorbed

kinship and tradition. Material

elements of station life and made

poverty did not necessarily equate

them their own; the pastoral

with spiritual poverty, instead,

culture was not positioned in

cultural abundance and being in

opposition to Aboriginal cultural

Country, connected to place and

existence, but integrated into it.

identified with the heroism, horsemanship and athleticism of the movie stars. Gymkhana, rodeo, and cowboy oriented activities were adopted into Aboriginal culture with confidence, yet traditions were also retained.

the IBN participants were part of the photo making process, both present and curious. It was not always possible to travel to stations where people had worked, due to displacement and distance from traditional Country. Whilst people are living far away they often wish to return home, expressing feelings of wellness and peace in the bush. Due to distance and time a solution was for people to nominate where they would like to be photographed, whether it was a spring close to their community or a stock yard outside of town.

Claire’s practice was well suited to

Through conversations and

Aboriginality and the pastoral

this project as she actively seeks

discussion, Claire suggested that

industry. A stockman’s hat

to co-create work with the people

the few objects people owned were

is a symbol of masculinity,

she photographs, combining her

also photographed, these objects

independence, and reliability,

personal vision with the alchemy

function to delineate time, place

whilst the yandi dish, originally

of feeling, content and aesthetic

and people from when station work

traditional cot for babies and a

sensibility that occurs in the

was a way of life. Whilst people had

domestic implement for gathering

moment. I witnessed how Claire

few resources available, they often

fruits and vegetables which,

made people feel valued and

showed a willingness to explore

ultimately came to represent

special, able to build a rapport and

and exploit aspects of the non-

independence and played an

sensitivity in her engagement as

Aboriginal world, such as the new

important role in the 1946 Pilbara

a photographer. The road trip we

experiences offered by cars, which


undertook through the Pilbara was

were seen as prized objects and a

a fast paced and intense journey.

symbol of independence.

However, Claire was in a rhythm of

The juxtaposition with traditional Aboriginal boomerangs illustrates

Reko Rennie’s installation created

how station life was absorbed

for the exhibition in Perth, features

into Aboriginal life. More than

a 1954 international AR 110 Truck

this, boomerangs express culture,

which he converts into a symbol

used in music and law they were

of Aboriginality. Reko, who is one

symbols of invention- it is with

Claire was a co-founder of this

of Australia’s most significant

these simple instruments that the

multidimensional project which

contemporary Indigenous artists,

world is sung into existence. The

combined development and

produced the car, extending his

spears represent the strictness, and

presentation along the length of

practice to using ‘one shot’ enamel

discipline of traditional culture,

the Danube River. The project took

sign writing techniques, playing

which was implemented on the

photographs outside of a traditional

with nostalgic graphics from a


gallery context, showcasing

bygone era. Reko also undertook a

the work of renowned Magnum

trip to the Pilbara from Melbourne

photographer Inge Morath, inside a

so he could visit Roy Hill Station

converted 7.5T truck. The poignant

with an elder, and over three days

and elegant images that Claire

heard his stories of being on the

produced reveal her talent and

station. Ultimately, Reko also has

it’s no surprise she received a Prix

a personal connection with this

Pictet nomination (2012), and the

history through his Kamiliroi

Inge Morath Magnum Award. This

family in Victoria, demonstrating

project also demonstrated her

that the pastoral experience is not

alignment with Marlbatharndu

limited to Western Australia.

responding to new environments, having recently returned from undertaking the Danube Revisited – the Inge Morath Truck Project.

Wanggagu’s desire to reach beyond a typical gallery audience.

These divergent symbols are not seen in opposition, rather, as the title of the show references, Aboriginal people appropriated symbols of cowboy culture, to make it their own. Once Upon a Time in the West hints at the storytelling component of the project, yet, is also a reference to the Sergio Leone Western film that dramatizes a violent struggle over

Reko developed insignia featuring

natural resources in Sweetwater,

four symbols that connect with

a piece of land in the fictional

town of Flagstone, those familiar

in Port Hedland where many IBN

of backgrounds to congregate and

with land rights will recognize the

people live. The population that

through showing the work in a non-


composes Pilbara towns also

traditional context, we are hoping

reflects the station history; given

to engage and communicate with

that many people were forced

new audiences. Located across

off the land and into reserves,

multiple installations and sites,

then towns. Today, Aboriginal

the project will also be exhibited

people have been implicated in

in city galleries. Online platforms

supposedly nonviolent housing

will connect these varied sites,

policies, and developments,

and illuminate the histories that

which systematically dispossess

might otherwise be invisible

them through unaffordable

within the current local landscape.

housing, buyouts, and unjust

By looking to the web of past

evictions, creating crises and

interactions, histories, individuals

often homelessness. This is

and circumstances, perhaps the

fundamental to the problem of

present and the future can be

the Pilbara’s, and South Hedland’s

better illuminated.

Exploring ideas of sovereignty, Reko picked up the reference people in the Pilbara made to pastoralists as squatters, and chose to use the didactic statement, Pastoralists = Squatters as a key message in his work. An unfair system of land ownership, which dispossessed Aboriginal people from their Country and ignored their occupation of the continent for thousands of years, also enabled land to be parceled and distributed for pastoralism. It was the Crown which allowed pastoralists to pay rent for the usage of land upon which they could build houses, businesses and generate wealth, which continues

future as an Aboriginal place: where government policy has driven people into homes that are away from home, with limited opportunity to own land.

The Pilbara with its intense history is a reflection of the contested landscapes where Aboriginal people have built their lives, created legacies and institutions,

through the current 99 year lease

South Hedland is where many

while struggling for their freedom.

agreements. Again, highlighting

Aboriginal people live, and is

This does not diminish the

issues connected with land

a place of protracted struggle.

significance of the Station, but

ownership, the neon Reko created,

There has been a collective

helps us properly examine the

Always was, always will be, reflects

erasure of the past in this town;

conditions under which Aboriginal

the intersection of land rights in

therefore the desire to re-assert

people existed. Family and country

his work.

Aboriginal history created the

provided freedom in a system

desire to find a location where

fundamentally unfree. It was

we could showcase the project

in these spaces that Aboriginal

and the general community

people have huddled together, to

could engage. With support from

protect and comfort each other.

management, the South Hedland

The qualities of storytelling,

Shopping Centre became a site for

humour, kinship, and institutions

the installation of paste ups and

have provided a way of expanding

photographs developed during

the possibilities of Aboriginal

the project. The site is a central

freedom—and they continue to do

hub for community from a range


In the beginnings of pastoralism, the threat of, and real acts of violence were used to procure land. Property was violently claimed from indigenous people, who were effectively forced into a system of indentured labour to stay in their own home. This struggle for a place to reside appears to continue

Panorama of the Hamersley Ranges, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Aborigines Act 1905, Courtesy State Law Publisher, Government of Western Australia, Department of Premier and Cabinet

House girls, 1955, Life and Work on Roy Hill Station, State Library of Western Australia

Our Station Life

Stirrups, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Horses, 1955, Life and Work on Roy Hill Station, State Library of Western Australia

Yandicoogina David Stock, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

David Stock My name is Yandycoogina David Stock. I was born first in July, 1934.

I was born in the bush on Roy

to go finish up in the other end of

Hill Station. My father comes

the paddock or other area, we have

from that side- Banyjima and my

to go, and get ‘em back. Mustering.

mother come from Newman way,

We used to go to Ethel Creek or

Nyiyaparli, work all their life in

Punda Station, see the brand and

Roy Hill Station and wherever

the ear mark, say, ‘this is Roy Hill

they went. All my life I’ve been

cattle’ and take ‘em back.

a stockman in Roy Hill and on Marillana, that’s one firm, one boss with two stations.

Two or three hundred men used to work on Roy Hill, with sheep and cattle. Ohhh a very big station.

If you got a good name on the

Sheep. Cattle. Separate. We used to

station, working for the squatters,

come back in March, put a shoe on

they tell ‘im, he’s a good stockman

horses and everything. Get ‘em all

or good worker in the station,

ready for mustering, and, right, we

everybody likes ‘im. If you not,

used to go out, cattle mustering.

well, they give you a bad name. If

Two or three months out in the

you had a fella who talks for his

bush. Same in the sheep camp.

right, he’d tell them what’s wrong and all this, in those days white people didn’t like that. They don’t want to be told off by a blackfella. If you talk out of place to the white people in the station they’ll sack you, just for no reason. All these white people are all in one, policeman, or welfare.

Maybe when we go back camp, we can do a little bit of corroboreeing. Corroboree good - we’d have a dance, old people have a dance, you know? Corroboree, just like you going to the disco - well that’s a white fella way, black fella: corroboreeing. Happy in the station. When we in the holiday

We’re not allowed to get into the

camp, we gotta stop twelve

kitchen. We put our plate in the

months, then we go Christmas

window, and a quartpot or mug,

time. Dump us anywhere down

whatever you got for your tea. They

the creek, we right. Two or three

gotta serve me and I go back to the

months we stop down there.

woodheap, have a feed, then I go to

Money part cuts out and we get

the stock yard, start workin’.

a ration. They feed us from the

I was breaking in horses and all these sorta things. We used to ear

station, make sure we not starving down there. It’s all right.

mark them and, put the brand on.

Sometime we used to do the

Of course, some of the cattle used

droving - mustering cattle to


Meekatharra from Roy Hill. Six

With sheep, they’d gather up all

I was with the people who used to

weeks on the road watching cattle.

the woolly sheep put ‘em all in

come to Roy Hill from the desert

Those days, you know, people

the paddock close to the shearing

working, get ‘em going. Some of

weren’t hurried to get there, no

sheds, when the shearing team

them couldn’t put a bridle on a

hurry and no time. You just go

comes along, they ready to start.

horse or a saddle, we gotta learn

along. Whenever you get there,

Yeah a busy time, you gotta get up

them properly, some of them was

you get there. A lot of people

in the morning, and let the shorn

good riders too. Really good riders!

used to drove their cattle from

sheep out, and bring the woolly

These people who come from the

other stations, all one way from

sheep in. And keep going like that,

desert they had to get learned for

Meekatharra on the stock roads.

tail ‘em and put an ear mark on

this money. “What’s this?” Those

We put ‘em in the yard and feed

‘em and all this.

desert people would ask. “That’s

‘em and wait for the train. We truck ‘em all up, send them to Midland Junction. Done, we gotta come back now. Straight home.

Money been put in the station by the government. Money was there, like what we getting now from our country – we get a roy-hill-

money” We tell them. “I dunno money!”They’s day. And they get a handful of notes, you know, and they nearly gonna chuck it away, “no that’s yours, you gotta

Terrible though, danger. You wheel

alty. But this one was different to

‘em cattle around now, bring ‘em

that one. You just put the money

back and quieten them down, they

there to pay all the workers. And

start ringing again and you start

the squatters they didn’t, they

talkin’ to them, or all these sorts of

just said, “Oh, just give them two

things. They settle down then. So

pound a week, that’s good enough

I got a motor car. T model Ford.

that’s in the cattle camp. And then

for black fellas.” And man that

Solid motor car, you hit a kangaroo

after that, cattle train took over

made this 1946 strike, Old Don

with that one, you kill ‘em. You

then. Sometimes they give you

McLeod, he was working at a

can’t dent the motor car though.

trouble, they rush. But it’s good

windmill man on Roy Hill. He was

We used to drive down to Roy Hill.

fun, long as you know what you

working things out, that’s what

Open picture in the flat, before

doing, you gotta be very careful

these blackfellas get, just a little bit

the TV come. Movies. Camp down

at night, don’t make a noise. One

of money – he’s trying to fight for

and have a weekend and come

man jump, that’s it. And you gotta

the blackfella now.

back next morning. Oooh, cowboy

give ‘em room, and before you go, they gotta ring around. Make a lot of dust. Yeah and the horse will be excited too, you gotta hang on or they leave you behind, ohhh. The horses they know what they doing, gotta hang on! Ohhh! But that was nothing to us, only a bit of fun.

Those days, people wasn’t worried about big money, ‘cause you don’t know the big money, we never

buy this one”, we explain to ‘em. Fair enough we didn’t rob them you know, we wasn’t that sort of people.

pictures, all those sort of things. The boss used to get ‘em, every two weeks.

thought, oh, when I get my big

I’m a gymkhana man myself.

money I’m going to get a motor

Every station used to bring their

car. That’s not in us! We’re not

horse. Minderoo and somewhere

worrying about motor car or big

else, and, everywhere. We used to

money. As long as we got a little bit

run it on Minderoo station. They

of money we were satisfied.

put six riders. Line ups, soon as


a flag goes down, we gone. The

these things. Jump on a horse, very

can’t do anything, cause we’ll go

first man finish his six posts, all

quick, whoever is down there first

with him too, we’ll get the sack for

in the drum, he’s the winner. He

is a winner.


Well, working in the station was

I go back to Roy Hill. I used to work

alright, course we never used to go

for them in Millstream before they

anywhere. At holiday time we go

come. And I work for ‘em there,

and see our families, or they come

on Millstream Station. And after

up. And if the family come up

a while they bought Roy Hill then,

while we working in the station the

they all come there. I feel good

boss bloke would hunt ‘em away.

when I go back to Roy Hill. You

“Who is that bloke come? Last

know? Make you feel good. Well,

night” They’d question us. “That’s

that’s my own country, that’s

my uncle”, we’d tell ‘im. ‘Well tell

where I come from. Feel so much

‘im to keep goin, he’s eating our

better, you know? In the bush. Oh,

worker’s feed,” boss would say. We

made us feel good.

gets his blue ribbon, on the horse. “What this for?” I ask. “Oh, you a winner. First class,” they would say. “Ohhh, very good, sounds good …” They have a flag race, every man rider’s gonna pick up a stick and put it back in the drum. First man standing in a drum is the winner. Then another game was the pig melon race and all these sort of things. You pick up a pig melon, six of them again. All


Ethel Creek Homestead, 1922, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia

David Cox on his porch at Bellary, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

David Cox

I’m David Cox; I was born in

that been doing it. There’s a

Rocklea station. My mother and

welfare office in Tom Price,

father was there, they belong

but I wouldn’t go there!

there. My mother and father they had their own wagon, they had their own horses - you know those days was very tough, but some Aboriginal people got around to make money.

My mother and father had their own horses, own cart, own big wagon - they were independent people. They were selling horses too, making us money, that’s the blackfella’s, they was cunning too.

We got up to late 50’s, still a little bit of money. Back in the 60’s, everything went backwards, no more jobs for the blackfellas. All finish up in the Onslow reserve. Sometime, we used to go cattle mustering, but when that finish we back in town, we had a very

People then, been doing that, or going out dogging or fencing. My father used to get around ten pound for five or six scalps, but that was lot of money then. I been dogging too. Shooting dingoes or I can set a trap to catch them. In those days two hundred pounds

hard time. I was a slave in the country. I was working for shirt, trousers, boots and hat, that’s all we used to get. No money.

was a lot of money you can buy a motorcar and you still had money in your pocket. Now, got two hundred dollars that money’s gone, that money never lasts.

We never been to school, some welfare people used to come there, taking all the kids but we were too cunning for them, we used to hide away, out in the bush. They took two kids from Rocklea never ever see them come back, never. But all the family used to sit down, waiting, might come back, but nothing, they both finished now. It left us crying, I cried for them, everybody cried for them; never ever see them come back. That’s the terrible thing was happening those days, the welfare the ones


Old Stan Dellaporte he trained my brother and the whitefella reckons that’s the smartest horseman they’ve ever seen. He raced in Onslow, and we had a country race in Boolaloo. He used to race all those horses in the cup and he used to win ‘em too. Win the cup. I had a couple of rides in the races, but I wasn’t good as him. My brother, was riding, Pine Prince, Warm Cloud, Old Bluebird from Minderoo, he used to ride all them horses in the cup.

Seed Star from Minderoo, two grey

do thirty or sixty posts, not me, I

moved me from the sheep camp

horse, they was station horses, he

did hundreds. It was all Aboriginal

to cattle camp. I see a motorcar

wasn’t getting paid, just ride all the

people you were working with, no

pull up, “what you looking at me

horses for fun, never get money,

money. When you go and ask for

for?” I asked. “We come to pick

just a little bit of dollars, that’s all,

money, they tell you go see the

you up?” They tell me. “Why?” I

give us a little bit of food.

wife. That was good enough, never

say. “They want you in the cattle

asked for any more.

camp? You’re the one who can

We used to go to town sometimes.

handle bulls,” they explain. Well, I

We’d tell the boss that we go

The Mulga tree, that’s good for

to town now, in two weeks,

fencing, but for training posts you

the policeman bring you back.

gotta get a black eyed tree. It would

Policeman come and ask, “how

take about three or four months

long you boys here?” “We here for

to build a stock yard, months after

In the cattle camp you got to

a couple of weeks,” we’d tell him.

months we been there, till it’s

handle all the bulls. Bulls are not

“Alright, After that, you gotta


to play around with, I used to pull

go,” he’d warn us. Just had a little bit of holiday, go out fishing. The policeman, he come and check that all them boys gone. If you got no job, he’s going to tell you, you’re going to jail, that happens to

We did have plenty of fun. I was King of the Gymkhana, so were all the Cox brothers. I used to win the hurdle, I had a good horse jumping over the hurdle, and the flank race.

wanted to stop in the sheep camp for a change, they said, no you’re wanted down there.

em down all the time, the bull was nothing to me, nothing to me, when I was young. But, now I look at the bull and think, oh, you can stop there.

We’ve only got the rodeo now. I

That was a good fun, I used to love

went to the rodeo in Marble Bar,

cattle mustering, but I wanted a

On the station I was riding a horse,

riding a big black horse, that horse

little bit of change, you know, I had

doing the windmill, going down

never shook me, he never chuck

no chance. We had to drive all the

the well, oh jeez, that’s a terrible

me off. My head spun right round,


job that, when you go down the

I was dizzy, but he had a job to

well, you look up, see all the heads

get me off. I used to watch them

of the snake, sticking out. Oh,

mob riding in Derby- good riders

that’s terrible! One man got to stop

been there. I went to Marble Bar,

on top, when you down the well

and thought I’m going to have a go

there, nobody’s allowed to have a

here, that horse never shifted me.

Aboriginals everywhere.

spanner or anything, that spanner drop on your head, and you’re a dead man.

I been learnt by the experts, old Dellaporte and old Mick Condon, they was my brother in laws, married to my sister. They were experienced man, champion horse breakers. I been to Roebourne I

At the station when you work,

went and saw the old Ngarluma

you go right up into the night,

mob breaking horses, by jeez.

ten o’clock, you might get caught

I used to like riding the horse, but

out there with a mob of sheep

not now. I used to chop posts, two

and lambs, it could be very slow,

hundred everyday, I was working

you know. But we used to like

five or six other men- they used to

riding. I remember when they


Oh Jeez, old Condon, they all been learn from each other, the experienced men. You gotta be careful to ride this horse, gotta be man, otherwise that horse

will kill you. We used to ride his

Some of them whitefellas good,

Owner was white man, they get all

horse, when you get off, don’t drop

some drunken whitefellas, some of

the blackfellas, slaves. By the way,

the reins otherwise you’re going

them slack, you gotta get up when

you get a whitefella you gotta pay

to walk. If that horse chuck you

they tell you to get up, otherwise

them, cunning, they know how

off when he buck, you’re walking

you get a boot, we went through

to make money. All the squatters

home. Dellaporte, old Condon,

all that, some of them good fellas

got rich from the Aborigines. They

and that old Ngarluma man, with

to work for, some of them bad. Flog

make millions of dollars from us.

their horses, they just drop the rein

you with a stock whip and all. I got

and the horse used to wait there.

flogged with a stock whip and all.

Blindfold the horse, ride it with

It was bad. When they tell you to

blindfold, when you sing out, look

do it, you’ve gotta do it. If you don’t

out, that horse going to buck, or it’s

you’ll get a hiding.

going to bolt.

I seen one very strong whitefella,

Bull is very dangerous, you gotta

very powerful for a white man,

know how to handle a bull. Mob of

Jack Harvey, I used to work for

bulls got out of the yard. One bull

him, I seen him lifting up a big

come up from the bush, come into

post, he used to lift it up put it

the yard, and he’s fighting the other

in, used to tell me sit down mate.

bulls inside, other bull took the

Black eyed tree very heavy you

gate, break one old cow in the hip,

know, nothing to him. Old Jack,

got out of the yard, where this bloke

lucky he wasn’t bad tempered,

sent me.

he was a cool headed man. His

If you sing out to a bull, you send them mad, they going to chase you. A lot of people got killed with the bull, one blackfella, one whitefella, the horse slipped on the rock in the river, slippery rock with the shoes, with the bull behind him, when he got up the bull picked him up, put the horn straight through him. Year after, same place, whitefella got killed. Bull was behind him. Finished. Very dangerous, especially the big ones, when you see the bull shaking his head, go, don’t wait for

daughter there now, Wendy. Old Dellaporte, the boss just used to fly around in a plane. One time, back in the early days you gotta throw the bulls, cut the balls. You can’t get money for that bull. You gotta have two powerful man to pull him down, you gotta chase him along way though. You cut his balls, let him go then. Back in the 40’s and 50’s you gotta thrown them down in the yard, do him there in the yard. Some bulls good, some bulls bad.

him. Even in the motorcar! I’m not going to wait for them.


Boomerang by David Cox, Boomerang photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Boolaloo, Reports on the station, 1893, Courtesy State Records of Western Australia 40

Stockman working from Life and work on Roy Hill Station, 1955, Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia

Jumbo Jumbo is a 97 year old Banjiuma elder

Jumbo, that’s my full name.

Jumbo: Tall boy, Digger, all them

Hamersley Station, born there,

horses, name.

and I went to Rocklea and, been reared up in Rocklea Station. Good station, sheep and cattle, two bosses there, Alder Smith, Len

Andrew Dowding: And what about your mum and dad, which stations did they grow up on?

Smith. Kooline, mustering sheep,

Jumbo: They grew up in the

bring the sheep into the shed, good

Hamersley Station.

station, and bad, gotta work early

Andrew Dowding: Did you have

in the morning, little bit, get late,

brothers and sisters?

knock off.

Jumbo: Yeah, but they are all

Riding a horse, mustering sheep, put it in the shed, pickin’ up sheep wool, class the wool, shearblade to shear the sheep, before the

finished. Andrew Dowding: And where were they born?

machine come. Bit hard work,

Jumbo: Born Hamersley Station,

pickin’ up the wool.


I been reared up Rocklea, very

Andrew Dowding: Any singing,

hard - hard station, have tucker

you guys used to sit around the fire

in the wood heap. You have your

and sing?

tucker in the wood heap, not in the table at all.

Jumbo: Yeah, we used to do lots, yeah, singing the song. Old people

Andrew Dowding: And how did people feel about that? Jumbo: No good, isn’t it? Got to be treated good one working in-it. Andrew Dowding: How do you get to the station? How do you travel there? Jumbo: Ride a horse, horse and cart, no motorcar that time. Andrew Dowding: Do you remember the name of any horses?

Jackaroos mustering sheep on Nanutarra Station, Photo Courtesy State Library of Western Australia 45

used to sing, we used to dance.

Eileen James in her kitchen at Wakathuni, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Eileen James I was born in Rocklea Station, 1/1/1945.

My mum and dad was working- he

We went back to Boolaloo Station

was droving sheep by foot; they

after, worked there, Mum and

had a bush yard and things like

Dad, that’s the welfare nearly took

that. After there we went to Kooline

me away from my family, but my

Station and stayed there, thats

stepfather fight for me.

where I was reared up. At Kooline, been all around the river side, in a horse and cart and only come back to station when shearing start. Most of the life we done out in the bush, never been to school, trapping kangaroo, used to make a little trap by a wire where the kangaroos pad coming in to the water, catch it with wire. Sometime

Move another camp, go to another place, stay there, travel with a horse and cart. When we move, we pack and we go along. Sometime, walk along behind, picking up gums off the tree, putting them in the billycan. When it got hot, we got no shoes, we climb back in the cart.

my stepfather used to go out. We

When the shearing starting we all

had three kangaroo dogs. Skin all

go back to the station then, Step

the kangaroos and sell the skins,

Dad be working, Mum working,

go over to Kooline lead mine to

when the shearing finish, back

sell skins, just for some flour, tea

to the bush again. That’s why we

and sugar. We lived out in the bush

never been to school.

most of the time.

They never used to get paid, all

We had to wire up under the tree

we used to sell is kangaroo skin to

for the pad coming down when the

that lead mine and we used to get

kangaroo come down, its got a loop

some tea, sugar and flour, jam and

in it, when the kangaroo goes in,


he jumps the wire, tighten up, go in the morning, kill the kangaroo or we got a dead kangaroo in there, carry him home, skin him then. Sometime we used to get kangaroos with three roo dogs. They used to skin it and take it out in the sun, let it dry out, sometime used to get 20 kangaroo skins, then take them all to the lead mine, sell them there, get a tea and sugar, big mob of stores and go back bush again.


When shearing finish, pick up and go out bush again. Sometimes stay in the station if the boss want to do some fencing, stay around, when the fencings finish we off back bush again.

We used to stop Mortimer Crossing.

The welfare were talking to my

Police camp, other one, sometimes

Mum and Dad and the bosses wife,

we made a camp in Mulung Pool,

they all said no.

not far from the lead mine, used to stay around there, live on fish and kangaroo.

I got married then, and went to work in Mount Stuart Station. For 13 years, me and my husband,

We used to run around, playing,

moved to Wyloo, worked there,

helping Dad and Mum making

moved to Ashburton, we worked

bough sheds up, go down fishing,

there, went back to Mount Stuart,

catch some fish for feed. Catfish,

we stayed there, went back to

big mob of catfish.

Nanutarra Station, last.

I still remember, every time

On the station we feel happy, stay

memories come back, we sit down

and working, I used to work in the

and talk about it. Me, Tadjee and KJ.

house, he used to go out mustering.

We used to go slide in the mud and

It was good, at Mount Stuart, when

all, chuck a water in the bank of

the boss and missus go away I look

the river, get up that side and slide

after the house, keep the garden.

down, used to be funny.

Well we used to plaster trough and

We moved around, went and

tanks, me and the missus, when

work in Boolaloo Station welfare

the trough got a hole in it, two

come along, tried to take me away.

ladies used to do it, me and the

That day I took off in to the bush,

bosses missus.

the bosses missues said to me

Go back and cook, wash clothes,

stepfather “come back here, you’re not going anywhere”.

had to wash most of the missus clothes at the homestead and go

The missus argued with welfare,

back do my own after.

they fight for me that time, that’s

I had my kids, one out bush, rest

why I never went to school.

of them in hospital. My three girls

You know, these stolen kids, used

passed away.

to be taken away, thats what they

We used to live in a little rough

wanted to do to me, my nephew

old house, a tin house. Just an old

got taken from Ashburton station,

wooden stove, that’s it. Got to cart

my other nephew got taken from

your wood, or you chop it yourself,

Kooline station they was going to

no boys around, they all out

take me away in Boolaloo station,

mustering, cook damper in a

but they never.

camp oven.


In those days you can’t get air conditioner or anything, you had to make a spinifex bough shed. Spray the spinifex and its nice and cool inside. You put a netting around it first, you push all the spinifex between it, sometimes we used to run a little hose around it, drip it into the tap, keep it cool. We wear any sort of clothes, old clothes, you don’t have to be dressed up, my Mum used to make they used to cut it up and make it, sew it by hand. Bosses used to order material, keep it in the store anytime if they want it, they get it given to them, they are workers, get it for free. I never got my pay, only husband used to get paid those days, not ladies, nothing, but we was working.

Camp Oven, photograph by Claire Martin , 2014


David Moses on Pipingarra Station, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

David Moses “I had to pick up myself and say, “I have to do the right thing for myself. Nobody’s going to help me.”

My name is David Moses Martin, I come from Marble Bar. I was born on and grew up on a little station that they call Limestone. My Mother turned to drink at that time, and we were left with the grandmother and the grandfather, and we grew up with them. I was under the care of an old bloke named Lenny Stream. He was a quiet old fella, he wasn’t a bloke that growled or pushed you into things, “it’s there, you do it, you learn, you hear.” We went to Mount Brockman at the time, that’s alongside Hamersley Range, there was this stockman, Andrew Stewart, he wasn’t a learning man; he had a stand-over technique that he used. I used to be rough handled, in a hard way, it hurt a lot too. If I didn’t do the right thing he’d get behind me with the stock whip, and I’d get punched in the jaw, sometimes, when he could reach me. Some time I had three of four shirts on, and trousers. Most of the scars that I have on my forehead are from dirt when I fell on the rocks. He was never teaching properly. I don’t know what was his idea, it was strange to me, I thought when you get taught, you get taught proper way. One time he had a partner that went to sleep in the camp, and the horses ate all the flour, and I was watching what they call the coaches near the camp, waiting for smoke to flare up in the 51

distance and I got blamed for the horses eating the flour, he chased me with a motorcar, and I got on top of the hill and he shot over the top of me with a .22. It wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t be in two places at the same time. But it’s sad that he had to carry on the way he did, because a lot of us young fellas had been chased by him with a stock whip, and other boys had to run into a tree to avoid it all, so we made a little cubby house, and yeah, it’s a sad thing. I might have been eleven, twelve. Back a few years ago I went to see him, to tell him I forgive him for everything he’d done. It’s very hard, but when you look at the good things that happened, there were fun times. When they let me go with them and try to grab a young bull by the tail; that was fun and I was fit, you know, I could get away from all the cattle that would turn around on you. You’d number out all the trees that you could run to before that young bull would get you, or, one time we had, I think it was a young heifer, who was stirred up that much he had us all baled up, we didn’t even make it to the tree. If I could see I’d like to take you to the yard we built. When you’re out in a place like that you got to learn to work out how to get big posts, you had to work out yourself, because if you didn’t do it you’re gonna get a hiding anyway. We

found easy ways to get it on board with the trailer, using crowbars and ropes, just to get them onto the trailer that we had, and you’ve got to dig into the rocky hard ground, it’s a clay pan really, but we had to build a yard there. I come back to Hillside Station, and I was able to do things in my own way. I was kind of boss on me own there. I was allowed to drive tractor and trailer to pick up cattles. At the station, I was sixteen, seventeen, I done three years there. It’s on the side of a river, it was lovely place. I used to live in the quarters, near the garage. I would go shopping with the boss to get what I needed clothes and blankets, that was just sort of given to you as a present, as long as you do your work you get paid that way. It wasn’t much, ten dollars a week. That’s not much hey? But, he was a good old bloke. I got put on a horse out at Wadjanginya and I broke my left leg. I think the horse got wire tied up on his leg, I just found myself being booted by the horse, and I just wanted to save my head, I doubled up, and I could hear ‘click’, and my leg went, just smashed - a double kick too. They had no bitumen from there to the camp and they had to take me shortcut through the roughest road I ever went on, and this old bloke, he was hanging on to my leg trying to keep it still, but he was drunk, the more he was hanging onto my leg, he was hurting it. I’d scream, when we got

to the camp site, I thought the best thing to settle it was two bottle of whiskey, but it didn’t. I was still in pain. I worked Mount Brockman, that was my first one, and then Hillside was my second one. I went to Munda Station. It’s the bush life I think people like. You’d get different people there, and a lot of fun. But the worst thing was everybody had to leave the station to go into town, to drink their money. I did it too, you know, but that was the worst part of it in our life. But, we used to have fun on the gymkhana show, in what they call Coongan Station, you’d go and mix with people, and everybody would come from all areas of stations, with their good horses that they had. I used to listen to people putting requests on ABC radio, who’s singing who a love song. But, don’t ask me the name of those songs, I wouldn’t remember now. So many of them! But there were a lot of people, like Slim Dusty, Charlie Pride, and Dolly Parton, and, old Hank Williams. Not in the station but when I was at Marble Bar, they had a big dance hall, where everybody used to meet every races, and yeah they had a ball in the shearing shed, had some boys from Marble Bar play their instruments, a lot of them was good, but they’re too old to play now I suppose. It’s sad that, most of the stations are 52

closed and haven’t got places to go and work for the younger generation to teach them. Nothing out there for them. I learned a lot, in a way, even though I got no certificate for it, it’s all in the mind, it’s in your heart, what you learn, and you can learn to do all these things, and you can explain it to other people, but they wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about. It’s sad that, you have to put the pen and paper to show them what that means. When I turned thirty-five, I realized that I was going blind, but it was too late then. I thought to myself, “Well this is it. Can’t go back”. I thought about going back drinking and just waste away. “Nah, I’ve got a daughter”, I said, “I don’t want to show her that track.” She being eight years old when I did go blind, I had to pick up myself and say, “I have to do the right thing for myself. Nobody’s going to help me.” I started to memorise everything and that’s how I learned to live on my own. I got burnt a lot with my fingers, trying to cook. I learned to use the washing machine, but I can’t do gardening. I learned to live like I am now. I just praise the Lord too, because if I didn’t come to him, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Probably would have been back there still drinking, or probably dead. I reckon if I didn’t have the Lord I wouldn’t have stopped smoking and drinking, I wouldn’t have that willpower, only through God, Jesus Christ.

David Moses, near Pipingarra Station Water Tank, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014 53

Cowra Outcamp, Shearing Shed, Photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Edward and Charlie Dhu at Cowra Outcamp, Mulga Downs Station, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Dhu Brothers You’d be battling to live off the land there now, with bush tucker- because it’s not there. The cattle, they ruin the Country, they destroy all the bush tucker.

Charlie Dhu: I’m Charlie Dhu, born

family, never met one, and they

and bred on Mulga Downs Station,

never ever came up to him, and he

in 1935.

never ever went back.

Edward Dhu: I’m the younger

Charlie Dhu: Most of the time

brother, Edward Dhu, born in

we weren’t allowed to go down

Port Hedland in 1947 at the Lock

and talk to the Aboriginal people

Hospital which used to be the

because Dad wouldn’t let us.

Aboriginal Hospital, we were never allowed to go the white people’s hospital. I spent the first six years of my life on Mulga Downs, at Cowra out camp before my father passed away and we had to move off there into Marble Bar.

Edward Dhu: That was a big thing to do with Native Affairs Department. They enforced that. They wanted to take our eldest sister Alice who was living in the Aboriginal camp with Mum at Mulga Downs before Dad came

Charlie Dhu: We grew up at

along, because the three eldest

Mulga Downs, we didn’t have any

didn’t belong to dad. Dad took

schooling. When we were school

Alice and Ned and Jack and put

age we were doing men’s work,

them in the name ‘Dhu’ and said

working like men, mustering, and

he’d grow them up as his own


children, and they would not be

Edward Dhu: Mum was born on Mulga Downs, and I believe our grandmother Daisy was born there also. Dad was born in Toodyay, and was a stockman on Mulga Downs. He had to tell the Native Welfare

associated. The police and the Native Affairs went out to Dad’s camp, wherever he was, out from Mulga Downs, and checked on the children a few times. My older brother remembers it all.

Department that all us children

Charle Dhu: Most of the time

would not be associated with the

we weren’t allowed to go down

Aboriginal life.

and talk to the Aboriginal people

Andrew Dowding: So that sounds pretty hard for your mum. Edward Dhu: She lost her life and culture. That’s the bad part about it.

because dad wouldn’t let us. I remember that welfare used to come ‘round and we used to be hiding in the room. Edward Dhu: I think the thing dad

Charlie Dhu: I think Dad was a

did do wrong was promise he’d

black sheep in his family because

educate all the boys and the girls

we’ve never ever met any of his

in the English schooling language,


to read and write and everything,

windmills, fencing, mixing cement

but he failed to do that, he put

with a shovel.

them to work. But all the sisters could skin a sheep, no problem.

last too long. Edward Dhu: But she nearly

Edward Dhu: If I remember rightly

cooked everything in a camp oven,

we had one or two draft horses

in a mustering camp it used to be

Charlie Dhu: That’s what I say,

who used to pull the cart out to the

best under a tree anyway.

when we were school age we was

mustering camp, Clydesdales.

working like men. Cutting Mulga posts with axes, and next day we’d go out with a truck and load them on the truck and then space them

light the fire in that, when it all

of camels they had out at the

burned down, pull the coals out

mustering camps...

and put the camp oven in with the

out on the fence line, then dig all

Edward Dhu: Flour, tea, and sugar,

the holes with a crowbar, clean the

and salt meat, and you’d have to

dirt out with a meat tin.

salt the meat because there were

Edward Dhu: Drill the holes with a brace and bit. Charlie Dhu: used the old brace and bit, boring holes in the fence post, running the wire through, the girls had to do that as well, our sisters too had to work like men. And well, we used to just work for tucker until we were old enough to claim wages, and then we were only getting a dollar a week for working from eight till dark. Edward Dhu: Ten bob, there was no dollars then! Charlie Dhu: We were out working, seven days a week, from daylight to dark, we’d leave the house at dark and come home dark, whatever we were doing. Chasing horses round the horse paddocks three o’clock in the morning, in the dark. The mustering and shearing time was in the cool weather, in the hot weather we did fixing

Charlie Dhu: She’d dig holes, and

Charlie Dhu: Yeah, a couple

no fridges.

bread. We still eat kangaroo now - well you’ve got to for the price of meat here! You’d be battling to live off the land there now, with bush tucker- because it’s not there. The

Charlie Dhu: We had an old meat

cattle, they ruin the Country, they

safe with a hessian bag around it.

destroy all the bush tucker.

Put the meat, and whatever, butter, and had a square like a little tank on top with little holes in it, water dripping down the side to keep

Andrew Dowding: And how did you get those stores? How did you go and get the flour and all that?

cool when the wind blows. And

Charlie Dhu: From Mulga Downs

most of the time we didn’t have

Station. Came in on the truck from

butter, we used to spread mutton

Roebourne, we’d go into the station

fat on our bread and tomato sauce

which was about forty or fifty

miles from Cowra. Jimmy Tsaklos

Edward Dhu: That was it, put salt and pepper...

used to be there from Roebourne, he had to cart all the wool and that from Mulga Downs.

Charlie Dhu: And Mum, she would cook lovely bread, in a big camp oven, she had two camp ovens, one big one and one smaller one, and the bread used to come out

Charlie Dhu: You know the Country looks totally different, the Country changes after all those years. Doesn’t look like it used to.

with a brown crust right around

Andrew Dowding: What else has

it, you know? Oh, beautiful, you

changed there?

spread butter on the hot bread and get into it. Tell you what those two camp oven loaves of bread didn’t


Edward Dhu: Well, there used to be a big crab hole where mum used to do the washing...

Charle Dhu: with the old washing

used to work at Wittenoom. And

board, all the kids, get a mob of

he’d come out sometimes on a

kids to wash, plus the old man

weekend. Town was in full swing.

and herself … You couldn’t drink

We’d go and watch the pictures,

it, the water was salty. And we

now and then. I went to the

had to cart water from about a

pictures and I was walking home

mile and a half, where the good

to their place and I got chased by a

water was. And the old fellow had

big dog, I tell you what I got home

a big beautiful garden. He had

before the dog caught me. Yeah, we

all sorts of veggies, oh, a lovely

had an old pet dog there. Old sheep

garden, rockmelon, watermelon,

dog. It was good to see a sheep

big tomato, big cabbages, we used

dog working. Like, you’d only have

to eat everything raw, because we

to whistle if a sheep broke out of

had to cart water from that mill, to

the mob, that dog would round it

the homestead for drinking water.

up and bring it back into the mob.

And we had to do it the same when

And also herd them in when you’re

Charlie Dhu: Used to love cattle

the shearing team were there for

putting them in the yard. Saves a

mustering, yeah, nothing better.


lot of work when you’ve got a good

Like now they use helicopters and

sheep dog.

motorcars and motorbikes, but we

Sharmila Wood: What kind of work were your sisters doing

Andrew Dowding: And what about


breaking horses, have you guys

Charlie Dhu: They used to do the

had to any of that work?

same as us, you know, fencing.

Charlie Dhu: Yeah, we broke in

If all the boys were out fixing

some horses there, yeah. Me and

windmills or doing fencing out in

me brother Don. He was a good

the bush and the girls were home,

rider. A good buck jumper.

they’d go out and get a killer, or kill a sheep. The whole family was hard workers; there was no

out Warragine there was two Aboriginal boys there, Bull Runner, and Max Gardner, they were good to watch. They’d get them big scrub bulls, some of those bulls at Warragine there was fifteen or sixteen bulls in one mob. And these two blokes they used to throw them, grab them by the head. Just go right up to that bull, jump off the horse, grab the bull by the head and twist him.

used to horses in them days. It’s a lot of fun. Get a mob of boys, you know? Edward Dhu: Yeah, I had a couple of real good Aboriginal boys on De Grey. Number Two they call him and Tommy Clark, Captain Williams, Bully Williams, Charlie Coppin, and Felix Stewart. I was

good buck jumper?

only about seventeen, when you’re

Charlie Dhu: Well when a horse

Because you know we were made

bucks, you know? You get on a

to work.

young horse and he’ll buck. But

into town?

Edward Dhu: When I was

Andrew Dowding: So what is a

freeloading amongst our mob.

Andrew Dowding: Did you ever go

boss. Oh, it was a good life, hard but.

one thing you got to do as soon as he chuck you off you got to get on straight away, otherwise he know

Charlie Dhu: We’d go into

he got your bluff. If you don’t get

Wittenoom now and then, because

on, keep getting on when you get

we had a brother Jack and he

chucked off, he knows you’re the


with them and in the camp it’s all just laughter and jokes, they’re all fun and, if you do the wrong thing they don’t give you a clip under the ears, they’ll tell you how to do it properly and, I learned a lot off those people. Steven Stewart is a real gentleman and so was old Left Hand Jimmy. Always laughing and smiling they were.

Charlie Dhu: Yeah, he’d show you

Warralong, Coongan, which

the racecourse. We used to bring

the ropes. If you’re a good learner

was okay, old Peter Miller was a

three horses in and we did alright.

you learn quick, if you’re slow,well

manager at Coongan and he’s still

First Marble Bar Cup I was in I

it could be dangerous.

alive in Port Hedland, him and

came second, and in 1967 I think

his wife Glynnis, they were nice

I won it on a horse called Saint

people. On the other stations, all

Christopher. For Warralong. But

us people, Aboriginals, we ate

them were the days, and Marble

aside from the manager and the

Bar used to be a two-day meeting,

white stockmen, but with Peter

a Saturday and a Monday, and I

Miller, no, we all ate as one, with

think the week after used to be the

him and his wife, it was good,

Port Hedland races, cup. And the


gymkhana, so you’d look forward

Edward Dhu: Oh, I suppose it could be. I used to hate the horsetailing part of it, when we’re in the mustering camp because when it was your turn to horse-tail, you’d have to listen half the night where that horse is with the bell on, so you knew which direction to go in the morning. All you’d have is a

Andrew Dowding: What do you

bridle, you’d walk out and they’d

miss most about those days, the

all be hobbled up, so you’d track

station days?

the horse down and about four o’clock in the morning he’d stop, the bell would stop, and you had to go and find the direction. Charlie Dhu: Some of those bush birds, they call them bell birds? You could get fooled by them, they sound like a horse bell!

CD: Well, you know, it was so free in them days. You could do

to all them, and Coongan used to have a gymkhana. They were just really good times. Andrew Dowding: Yeah what were those like?

anything, go anywhere. Yeah, a

Edward Dhu: Oh they were

good life.

brilliant, you have to train your

Edward Dhu: Yeah, I really enjoyed the station life, the fun and I don’t know, maybe just the riding of the horses and things like that, I

horse of course, the bending race going throughout these flags and all that. There was all sorts of things we had, we had bloody apple and spoon, where you’d have

Edward Dhu: Then you got a horse,

don’t really know. We used to look

you put a bridle on one, and hobble

forward to the Marble Bar Cup. I

the rest and rode one back there

was fortunate enough to be light

Charle Dhu: Apple in a bucket of

back, brought all the horses back

enough to ride the race horses.


to the rest of the musterers. And

They were station horses, everyone

that was pitch black when you

used to bring horses in from the

used to have to walk out there.

station then, in them days…

Well it was freezing cold, you’re walking out through the scrub, the spinifex.

Charlie Dhu: He never won a race but.

to get the.....

Edward Dhu: Apple in a bucket of water, and you’d have to get that apple out, with your mouth … Charlie Dhu: And a coin in a plate of flour. You’d have to jump off

Edward Dhu: I won the Marble

your horse, and you’re not allowed

Bar cup, thank you, in 1967!

to use your hand, and you had to

Edward Dhu: I worked on

Yeah, so we’d bring our horses

try to get that apple floating in the

Warralong, I had four years on

in and put them down there by

water. And then of course, your

Charlie Dhu: Yeah, you take turns.


mouth, first was all wet with water

Charlie Dhu: Poor old Aboriginal

Edward Dhu: The boys weren’t

and then you’d have to blow the

fellas like us, you’d just get a tin

allowed to go, but mum, myself,

flour down and find the coin and

of meat, but the whitefellas would

Florrie and May I think flew in the

then you’d have the flour all over

win a bridle or a saddle.

plane from Wittenoom came to

your face, dough all over your face. Edward Dhu: Then you’d have a race called a rescue race, you’d have this bloke standing over up there about two hundred metres

Sharmila Wood: So when did you move off Cowra? Edward Dhu: Just before Christmas

Port Hedland for the funeral. Charlie Dhu: Yeah, the manager on the station wouldn’t let us go out. Andrew Dowding: Do you know

in 1952.

why? Did he say why?

away so you’d gallop up to him

Charlie Dhu: Old dad got sick, he

and he’d jump up behind you, and

had a crook heart, and we drove

Charlie Dhu: No. Well he was hard.

half the horses didn’t like anyone

him into Mulga Downs one night,

When we moved back to Marble

behind, and they’d buck. It was

of course, they had the Flying

Bar, me and me brother got a job

all great fun. Everybody enjoyed

Doctors and he went to Hedland on

at Limestone Station, worked there

it. And the other, you had no boot

the plane, and he was there for a

for a while, he stayed and I left and

or saddle, so you’d gallop on the

couple of weeks. They said he was

got a job on the Comet Mine, gold

horse bareback and you’d have to

going to come home, and then the

mine. Working underground and

pull up, put your boots and saddle

next day they said he was gone,

that. Bogging, doing shovel work

on him and gallop to the winning

he passed away. And when the

all day. I worked at the Comet for

post. You’d have colours. That

old fella passed away, mum didn’t

about six, seven months, and then

belonged to the station not me, I

want to stay there any more, you

I got sick of that I went back to the

couldn’t afford it. But they bought

know? Packed up all this gear, and

station- Hillside Station, Bamboo

silks and boots and colours, and a

the kids, we moved to Marble Bar

Springs and Bonney Downs, and

skull cap. It felt really good when

in late 1952.

had four years on Muccan. The

you won the Cup. Just got out on

Andrew Dowding: So did you

the racetrack with the horse and

get to go and put him to rest

had your photo taken and that.



station life.

Cowra Outcamp, Shearing Shed, Photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Map of station boundaries, Warralong and Coongan, Courtesy State Records of Western Australia

Bonnie Tucker

I was born in Bonney Downs,

my daughter, you learn to do

and after when I get grow up my

something,” she tell me.

parents took me to Marillana Station. My dad worked on Roy Hill, where that red top is... after that we moved to Bamboo Spring. We stayed in Bamboo, long, long time.

We never used to get a lot of money I tell you, might be ten shilling, two bob, stingy with the money, all them governments, you know. Boss call out, “You fellas want a money?” “Yeah!” We’d be

We were treated very rough, no anything, sometimes my mum used to sew the clothes, and mend the clothes. My father was a stockman,breaking in horse, and mum used to work in the kitchen. I never see any old lady work here now, finish.

singin’ out. We were working in the Marillana for about two and a half years. And when the holiday comes, we go to Punda Station. All the family was in Punda, all the Nyiyaparli mob, my uncle, my cousin brothers, my mali (Grandfather). We stayed

My parents used to be really good,

in that place until anot her work

my mum would work for the mithy

come up. Sometime the boss come

(white woman) ironing, mixin’

from Roy Hill- Barrumbanha, oh

bread, makin’ the bread for the

nice place, water everywhere. All

whitefellas, ‘cause the white fellas

that flood come down you know?

don’t want damper or something, they want a bread.

We just stop in Marlba’s camp... very rough. We used to have a

She used to go riding too on the

little tin house, go there inside,

horse, taught me to ride. “Don’t

make a fire outside and cook a

take our daughter in a horse,

feed there. We used to have old

he might buck jump show or

beds. Sometimes we get up at six

something, you know?”Dad used to

o’clock work right up to night-time

tell ‘im. “No, he right, he’ll learn,”

and we go back to the camp, wash

my mum would say. I would put

the clothes, we had no washing

the saddle on the horse’s back,

machine, only hand wash.

shake the saddlecloth, jump in the horse. But mum don’t like riding you know, she like to stop at home- very nice lady, my old mum. I used to help her sometime with her work. “Don’t be a lazy mongrel, Bonney Downs Station woolshed, 1922, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia 67

I remember one Chinaman, he come from Nullagine, he kill an Aboriginal woman, he kill it and he run away from when he been kill it, and everybody track him where he went. He used to go breeding all

the kids, every place. Come there, they put him in jail then, in with all those big bull ants. They put a chain over him and he got bitey everywhere, everything went full up. Another story I tell you, we had a Father Brian, who was on that road going to Hedland, you know, White Spring? That’s where the Father used to be, getting all the girls taking them into that school place, he took me there, only for one week. “Oh come on, don’t want him to go to Moore River,” Mum and dad used to say. And you know what happened? My Mum and Dad said we’ve gotta go and ask the boss from Bamboo Spring, we gotta go and ask him for three horse. Then, they took me away, gold hunting, oh, they like the gold hunting and we get some gold. They used to chop it up with a little tommy hawk, and sell a little bit in Nullagine. Old people they liked travelling around in the bush didn’t like to just stop on the station at holiday time.

Shearing Shed, from Life and Work on Roy Hill Station, 1955, Courtesy, State Library of Western Australia

Tommie with horse named The Brewer, Minderoo Station, around 1914, Forrest Family and Minderoo Station, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia

Donkeys towing George’s car, Chalba Chalba crossing on the way to Carnarvon, around 1914, Forrest Family and Minderoo Station, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia

Gladys Tucker “My Aboriginal name is Waru and I’m a Banyjima.”

I was born in the country where that

speared on his thigh. I would walk

big hill is, near Auski. It’s actually

lot in Banjiyma country, even right

a longer name, Warrugardtha, but

up to the top, Juna Downs, that’s

they cut it short to Waru. I was

where my great, great grandfather,

born 1948, down in the out camp.

Willyamara, Bob Tucker, been

My dad was working in the station,

born, around eighteen-something.

mum was a cook helping with the

I grew up in Mulga Downs

musterers; she’d be working on the

Station, used to run around when

house too at Mulga Downs Station.

I was little. My Dad, he tell us

My grandmother used to look after

to stop with our Aunty, Elsie,

me when mum and dad worked.

Gumbangudda who bake bread

When I was little, I used to talk in

for the squatters in the station.

the Yinhawangka language, but I

One part of it we was staying at

never grab it. My grandfather was

Wundumurra, on the road going to

Jacob Tucker, my dad’s father.

Witteoom, where the tank is, we

I remember someone telling me a story about my grandparents, how they used to walk from Mulga Downs right up to Juna Downs on foot, they go across the Karijini path, this is where my grandparents used to walk.

used to stay there with the sheep and all that. We had a little bit of a holiday there, near the creek. Old people used to build their own bough sheds, and kids we used to build our own, little playhouse. It’s still standing there.

They used to walk a country mile.

Old people used to dance at Mulga

Along the way they lost a son, a

Downs, sit down there, listen to

baby, I don’t know what happened,

the singing, I wish I could learn,

something might have bit him,

but I could never pick it up. It was

I don’t know, when they was

exciting, they even dress up as a

chopping the honey, Jandaru.

bugada (devil). They would wear a

They used to go droving a sulky going to White Spring, go visit

mask- used to frighten us! We’d be hiding under the blanket.

the family there too- used to

When I got married, me and my

tell me lots of stories about my

husband used to go on all the

grandparents, my grandfathers

stations. When they wanted a

brother, Tommy Tucker, he been

hand, you know, we used to go.

spear my cousin-sister, she might

I met my husband when he was

have tried to run away. They call

staying in Coolawanya Station, my

him Marnbu-na- that means he got

Dad was boss for him.

Windmill at Minderoo Station Homestead, 1914 or 1915 Courtesy State Library of Western Australia 75

He was a handsome man, too. I was still going to school then. My Dad give me away to him because

a lot of things, look for some fruit,

Jack Smith, Bullawalu they used

white one, collect those ones, fill

to call him, Marshall’s Dad, they

the tin up.

was little then. My husband was helping the old fella. He was the

he was a Banjiyma man, keep it in

When I was staying in Coolawanya

the Banjiyma. That’s how the lore

I was running around with my

and culture was, give me a way to

husband to be, I had to go to High


School then, to Perth, Apple Cross.

I used to work in the house,

It was good, but we only stayed

watering the garden and the

for a little while because they

lawns, work in the kitchen. It was

found out I was waiting for my

a sheep station then, he used to

first baby, sent me back, I had to

work for Richardson, he’s still

stay in Roebourne. I went to work

there now.

I was happy, full of laughter, me and my sister used to go to Coolawanya shed looking for the ashes to make a burlgu. One part of it we seen a kangaroo eating away, me and my sister, Marnmu tried to sneak on him but when we come close he was blind, that kangaroo. We got to leave him alone, poor thing. Coolawanya was a lovely place, peace and quiet, no fighting. It was a stone house, with showers, bathroom, toilet was out of tin and we used to boil the water and put it in the bucket, because there was only cold water. Dad took us to Roebourne to put us in school. Dad was working for Tsaklos

at Cooya Pooya Station, washing clothes, maybe doing the ironing. I was self, then, I wasn’t with my husband to be, he was somewhere else.

offsider for him, mustering cattle, you know.

When we used to go mustering, I used to be the cook, I had to get up early, 4’oclock, make a fire, get things ready, make the lunch, bake bread in the camp oven. I only

I get up in the morning, might

had one child, that first born one.

be set the table for breakfast,

We used to stop self when all the

wash the dishes in the kitchen,

boys gone, I didn’t get frightened or

do the kitchen work. Sweep the

anything like that.

verandahs. In my free time, went down, did a bit of fishing, down the river. I didn’t know my grandmother was born, around there, only knew after.

I used to live alone when we went to work in Mindaroo, that’s the scariest place going. Bugarda’s (devils) travel down the river because of the juna-nulli, they

driving the truck up and down to

I only stayed for a little while,

travel down that road, maybe

Wittenoom. We used to travel in

went back and stayed in the camp

looking for somebody. I used to

the truck, the trailer was empty,

with my baby. I was staying in the

stop their self, I used to get up

go to Mulga Downs for a holiday,

hostel, then, with my little one.

in the tank, sit up there, wait till

come back on top of the asbestos.

I got married there, they had to

dark. My old husband knock off

We didn’t know it was dangerous.

ring up to him, find out where he

in the dark- me and my little one

is, have to look after me and my

there, waiting.

When it was holidays we’d go back to the station with our aunties and uncle, I used to have my

son. I had a photo back there, my daughter’s got it.

They got the biggest yard going, I had to rake up the leaves. I used

best friend, Mavis Pat at Mount

We got married, went out bush,

to help the ladies washing their

Florence, Yidayena. We used to do

he used to work for that old fella,

clothes, watering the gardens.


We went to Onslow then, stay at

I used to love working on the

the reserve, but we used to live

stations, and I been working in

out in the open, we had no houses,

Uralla station for the Pattersons.

lived in the sand hill but it was

Ironing, set the table for them,

lovely, anyway, sometimes we used

wash their clothes. We get a ration

to live in the tent. We used to work

from there.

at Uralla station; you have to cross that Ashburton River.

Marshall Smith’s Saddle, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014


Kathleen Hubert

I’m Kathleen Hubert. I was born

Traveled to Marillana Station,

on Rocklea Station. I worked as a

stayed there with my stepfather

kitchen girl, washing dishes.

(Scotty Black) who was a windmill

My mum and dad was working

man, he used to do everything.

there, they used to work for Jack

I didn’t have a husband back then,

Edney, with cattle, breaking horses.

I was a young girl. My sister had

I was a young girl then, I used to stay round there, working. All the young girls, washing up dishes, me and my sisters… sister Lena and sister Charlotte, but they finished now. All the families were around there, Maggie Bimba, David Cox

a husband, my brother in law, old Dudley, he was a Nyiyaparli man. He used to be a cattle man, mustering cattle. They used to be breaking horse and breaking calf, branding the calf, they used to do a lot of jobs.

mother - old Daisy Cox, a lot of old

I used to help them breaking in

people been working there.

horses and branding the cow and

For fun we went fishing, in Ashburton Downs too. Kangarooing with a kangaroo dogs, he chase em, till he catch the kangaroo. I used to use kangaroo

calf, it was very easy, my brother in law learn me. He tell me a lot of things. Used to get chased by the bull, but used to get away, the horses used to pull up too fast.

dogs. Once I was learning my

I got married to the truck driver,

brother’s dog, he would run, chase

my old husband, Stanley Hubert. I

the kangaroo half way, then let

was living in Onslow then. I went

him go, so I grabbed a big stick, hit

back to work in the station, Mulga

him with the stick and he learned

Downs, Mount Florence, Mount

to chase the kangaroo then.

Stuart, Nanutarra. I used to like all

We used to live in the house with

the places, Marillana, Roy Hill.

old Delaporte, live in his house.

On Marillana Station policeman

He used to tell my mum and

took my little brother, my mum

dad to live in his house, nice and

and me were pulling him by one

quiet. We moved around to other

arm, policeman pulling the other

stations. We went to Murrimamba

arm, my mum went mad crying

near Hamersley Station, Jack

and us sisters were sitting crying

Edney’s station. I’ve been helping

with her.

my mother do washing for Jack Edney, wash his clothes, lot of things. Marlba’s was there, big mob.


It was good mustering bullock – my kids know too, because they went mustering.

I had to stop night watch, on the

something. We used to watch the

I’m old now, when I was young

back of the horse. The horses used

cattle properly, go around, riding

I used to like doing these things.

to be good, not running away or

the horse, right around them.

Good life, station.

Off to Maroo. Bill, May, Unknown, and Tommie around 1914, Forrest Family and Minderoo Station, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia


Nancy Tommy

I don’t really know where I was

The old people that’s resting in

born. I think 1992 I first applied

peace now… They taught me

for my birth certificate, and I only

things, how to live off the bush.

got it this year. My mum said it’s in

How to dig a soak. How you can

the Jullaru country on Ashburton

walk around and track a goanna.

Downs Station, she always told me

How you can tell when it’s a fresh

that, every time we were there…

track. What birds are related to

she showed me, she said that’s

you and what birds you’re not

where the plane come and pick

allowed to touch. They’d tell me,

her up. She was taken to the old

come here nurdun (little girl). And

Onslow Hospital. But when I asked

they tell you ‘dig there’. And you

for it there’s no registration of me,

get a stick to dig with first, and

whatsoever. I did not exist, ‘till

then you dig it with your hand.

1992. Then I registered as Nancy

And we call that jirdinba – soak,


they know this is a good place to

It was a good life in the station – on Ashburton Downs. I really hated going back to school! When I got sent to Derby I was always homesick. And I was always bitter about this native welfare…I was

dig a soak. When you get all that knowledge and old people been teach you, it stays in your head. I just learned faster, when they taught me in language, than I did learning to read and write.

always feeling sorry for myself,

Well, my mum was a cook on

I was one kid that always was

Ashburton Downs Station. Old

homesick wherever I went…

wooden stove. She used to cook

so homesick that I used to try

for Billy Hughes and the two

and play up. Never do anything

daughters, Tessa and Diana and

in the classroom, muck around

Les hills, I can remember that.

in the classroom. Talk language

We used to have supper there in

so I can get kicked out. And of

the house, in the homestead with

course they were strict that year. I

Billy Hughes and the managers. I

wasn’t allowed to speak one word

used to go down there, big table

of language, but I used to do it

outside where we’d sit, and they’d

anyway. I hated old Don Turner’s

sit in the dining room. They were

truck coming to pick me up, to take

separated from us but Diana and

me back ‘cause my mum and dad

Tessa used to still look after me

didn’t have a car. Mum would jump

too. They were a long way older

on the mail truck, come to pick us

than me, Diana and Tessa.

up, and go back out on the station. Spinifex, Photograph by Claire Martin, 2014


My old uncle, my dad’s cousin, old

song. That’s from my dad, Juju, he

Where my Mum’s buried now,

Frank, he was a blind old man but

provided for me, gave me food, he

by a nice river spot, we used to

he was the wood chopper, and he

fed me, and he healed me because

walk there on a Sunday. That’s a

used to chop all the wood, pile ‘em

he was a good Mabarngarda

long walk! But it was nothing, it’s

up neatly, and drag ‘em, put ‘em in

doctor, spiritually.

coming home, was the hard one!

the bag, drag ‘em, with his guiding stick, put ‘em all there, pile ‘em up there for Mum, just outside of the kitchen, and Mum would get up

He done a lot in the station. Bring in sheeps. Muster the sheeps, branding horses, feed the horses

We just wanted to stay out in the bush and never wanted to walk back.

and all of that. When we’d go to

Coroborree, we used to have a

Ashburton Downs on the riverbed,

dance…we put paint on, white

mum used to show me where my

ochre and red ochre. We used to

Actually I had two old people that

dad had dug a soak to make a

have it at night. We never used

I spent a lot of time learning with.

trench for more than fifty head of

to have it in the day. Moonlight

My grandmother, my Yindjibarndi

horses. He come to the riverbed,

dancing. Mum was a good

grandmother, Alec Tucker’s

it was so dry. But him being so

dancer herself. My old dad, well,

Gunthai, my Garbali, I call her

clever, he got the water and the

he was giving me that name

Garbali and she was blind. The

horses drank.

Bimbaluranha along with that

in the morning, go and do all that cooking.

twenty-eight parrot, was forbidden for me to touch so she used to make mum ging it in the pool, pluck it, and then she used to cook it in the ashes. She know exactly how many there of the parrots are there, because I used to sit next to her as a little girl, trying to steal one and looking at her. But, she used to know, straight away. Soon as she feels that bird move, I used to get that walking stick of hers right on my hand…or I used to get pinched on the ears! My dad was a head stockman, my old dad. I got two fathers. One, my old juju father, he give me his name. He give me Bimpalura and my name Nancy Tommy, that’s a whitefella’s name. But my name is

Every Sunday, mum get a day off, we’d go walkabout, all day long. We’d go looking for wild onion. I call it bardingnya, wild potato,

song, my mum had to dance while I sat on his knee when he was singing, and they told me that story, and I used to love it so much.

wirra, berries…or sometime when

Mum was a good dancer and a

it’s yam season, with the palms

good singer for our songs, whereas

of the yam. Dig all that up. Oh, I

me, I couldn’t sing at all, couldn’t

lived on that! I was taught how

even sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little

to cook that too, in the ground…

Star! I got no tune. And oh she

everything in the ground anyway!

sang, my nana! My nana composed

We’d go to the riverbed, just sit in

her songs too, like when the twins

the sand and make a fire there, if

was born, she was in Minderoo…

we are fishing for catfish, onto the

or Glenflorrie station and in her

coal it goes, straight away.

dream she heard that mum was

My Nana used to have a white flour bag with that Dingo brand and sometimes she used to make herself a skirt with it. Sew the skirt with it.

getting picked up by the Royal Flying Doctor plane to go to Roebourne… she knew she was going to be a grandmother for twins, just through the dream, through that song.

Bimpalura; that name come with a


I worked on a mustering camp,

The rest of the afternoon I’m gone

to accept my family tree, how

gotta get up around five. I still get

- hunting for goanna. We clean up

to follow that line. But I became

up at that time in the morning

very quick in mustering camp, you

an alcoholic. I think I drank

now…gotta start boiling the billy.

don’t have to worry about mopping

too much because I was always

Out on the ground in the tents…

up, you just do the dishes!

homesick and I found I lost a lot…

you gotta get up, make a fire, and then put all the billycans on. Put the camp oven on, clean up quickly and make the damper for the supper or even make the bread in the camp oven, get all that done.

I will always call Ashburton Downs Station my home. I think getting taught by my old people made me strong in my wiribda, my heart, that knowledge of how


the knowledge them old people gave me, that’s gone, and you can’t bring it back…I mean, we got nothing now. We don’t have that freedom.

George Derschow at Pretty Pool, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

George Derschow So what’s the secret to not getting chucked off a horse? Just hang on there!

My name’s George Derschow and I

We moved with old Jimmy Todd.

was born in Mulga Downs Station,

That’s what I can remember. He

Wittenoom, on twenty fifth of the

had an old motor car, moved

tenth, 1935. And this year I’ll be

us down to Meekatharra. And

seventy nine years old. My mother

somewhere from Marble Bar going

and grandmother, all the rest of

across there, a creek was running.

me brothers were born there, in

We was all packed on the motor

Mulga Downs. Mum doing station

car. So we all got off, and chucked

work, housekeeper, whatever. Mum

all these rocks in the back of the

and dad met at the station.

motor car to put more weight on

We left there in 1943 because mum being native and then dad German, he had to get out of the Pilbara, see? The other side of the twenty sixth parallel - the Japs and the Germans. So they shifted them down there, see? When we moved, mum was very quiet. She

so it can get across the creek. We travelled for two or three days I think, yeah. We arrived at Minara Station, this side of Meekatharra. And at that station it had apples and oranges and everything growing there, but I don’t know how long we stayed there, see?

didn’t smoke but she chewed the

We finished up down in Cue. Dad

Burlga they call it. At the stations

was with that labour party mob I

she wanted us to get it, so we used

think, and they used to work on

to go and burn a tree or something

that ochre mine out from there.

and then get all the white stuff

Because I was lighter skinned,

off and bring it back in those little

the welfare would come to Mulga

tobacco tins and give it to her.

Downs, they were being taking

Dad came out to Australia in 1902,I think he was walking around the world with a mate for two thousand pound. And when they

away left right, and centre, see? But down around Cue they didn’t worry, but we still weren’t allowed in town, up to six o’clock.

got to Sydney, they’d done four

I started work when I was say

thousand miles. And I don’t know

nine, ten years old, and then I was

what happened after that but he

working at that Wanarie Station

came this way because he was

near Cue, just opening gates, ten

working on luggers, he had a steam

shillings a week or something. I

ticket - he used to go out from

was there, might be until I was

Roebourne out to those islands and

thirteen, getting the brumbies out

at Cossack, see?

of the bush and that and breaking them in. We had to go and muster


horses. Took us a couple of days.

I had to ride one horse in the races

back to Magnet, for the week or

I was twelve years old, and

in Northhampton, because the

whatever it is, and go back again.

there was a bloke named Hardy

jockey couldn’t ride it, this horse

Moocher. Horse breaker. And we

keep going into the post rail all the

used to bring ‘em in, and some of

time. So I got on this horse and I

those horses used to gallop that

rode it around the station, got it

much, by the time we got ‘em to

going and racing and they raced

the yard, the older ones, we’d have

with it and it went alright, see?

to shoot ‘em because they couldn’t

There was one horse I loved, they

stand up. Then, he’d break ‘em in

call ‘im Duke, he was brumby, but

and I’d ride ‘em.

a small horse, and I used to ride

I remember all the boys were too frightened to get on this grey mare, and he said “George, you get on that horse”. I got on the horse there and rode it around. “Righto” he

him in the gymkhanas and down Geraldton, Northhampton, and you’d just sit on him and go ‘round the poles like this and everything.

We had this little Shetland pony

“we’re gonna meet in the middle of

there, they can buck those little

the paddock for lunch,” the normal

buggers. And anyway me brother

thing to do. We waited and waited

wanted it. ‘”Alright, if you can

there for him. And he was still

ride that horse you can have it”

leadin’ the bloody horse when he

the boss said. My brother got him

comes across the Windmill! Yeah!

outside and he didn’t know what to

He’s too frightened to get on the

do, horse chucked him off! He was

bloody thing.

like a dog, he’d just sit there and

horses I have never been thrown off a horse. I got thrown off once,

a bastard of a job you know? The station life, because you never got very much and that and you weren’t allowed to eat with the white people. They had a little bit of a thing outside the window, even though your wife or whatever worked in the kitchen, you would not eat with the whites, you’d have to eat alone on or with the other natives. It wasn’t so bad on the station,

I liked that.

said “I’ll catch youse up”, and said

And in my lifetime of riding

When I was a teenager I thought it

if the sheep went out he’d just go around the sheep and bring them back in again.

you stayed with the natives, that’s all, you know. And you ate with them, all that kind of stuff, but, you wasn’t called a nigger or black, or all that. But the school was the worst one, “nigger nigger, pull the trigger, bang, bang, bang”. Call us niggers! And in Cue, because Saturday was rubbish day, we’d be down the rubbish dump eating old, the black lemons when they turned black and whatever scraps we could get. During those years,

but it was saddle and all, out in

I managed Linton Station, you’ve

we weren’t allowed to do this and

the bloody paddock. You’ve gotta

gotta look after the windmills and

that, but I appreciate everything,

make sure the saddle is tight and

all that kind of stuff. On top of the


all that. And some of them get a

hill, you can see the whales out

monkey strap to hang on, I never

there diving up. I just had me wife

had a monkey strap. I just get in

and two kids. The boss was one of

the saddle and that’s it, I hold on

the best bosses I come across and

the reins.

when it was holidays or Christmas time, I’d take one of the motor cars Photograph of George with sheep on the station, Courtesy of George Derschow 86

June Injie in her garden at Bellary, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

June Injie

My full name’s June Injie. Mother

the only time we’d be near the

of six and grandmother of twelve. I

grandfather and fathers because

was born down the road, at a place

in those days the cattle was still a

called Boolaloo on the Nanutarra

bit wild. And they caused a lot of

Road, nearby to Boolaloo, is Duck

stampedes and a funny thing, my

Creek and Mount Stuart. My

two cousins, a brother and sister

brother’s born Mount Stuart and

were playing away from the camp,

we got our names from the hills on

and when we yelled to them “run!”

the stations. Our grandad gave us

When they saw the cattle coming

our names, we’re named after two

towards them, they just wrapped

hills, a brother and a sister they

themselves in this calico and

say, you know?

they’re layin’ down in the cattle

Dad was working before the time we came about, fixing windmills

stampede and I don’t know how it never trampled them.

and things like that, troughs

I was with my uncle and we saw

and sheep, everything that was

this big kangaroo, and they are

bad. And mum was doing the

saying, “if you haven’t got any

housework. We wasn’t long in one

bullets, don’t get off truck”, but he

place because of the jobs- we had

had one. Anyway, he thought “oh

to move a lot, you know? Mum and

it’ll go”, but the kangaroo grabbed

dad and nana they’d pack that

him, and struck him. And my

old truck up and my grandfather

uncle is a big, strong-built person

would bring his horse, you know?

you know? To see him get, grabbed

Horse, food, beds, old tent. Dad

by the kangaroo like that, well, it

used to tell us not to sit at the back

was funny. And he never tried that

of the truck because of the beds

again. This kangaroo was a big

and drums.When we’d get to the

young boomer or something.

station they give us an area where we could live. We’d have to stay about half a kilometre away from the station. We’d stay there for a couple of months, depends on the job, you know?

We went down with grandad to the river at Ashburton Downs while he was doing the windmill run. He goes around checking the windmills, and cleaning out the trough. And he said to us, “wait

In those three stations where we

here, I’m going down this way,

were born, they did the shearing,

don’t go to the other side of the

they’d let us visit the shed because

crossing.” ‘Cause the water was

one of us was mustering and they

flooding, you know? We call it

are bringing in the cattle, that’s

magarndu. When he was gone, my


sister said, “oh you two, you wait

Island Atomic testing. That came

nothin’ about that. And we thought

here, and you look after June, I’ll

out to where we was, atomic

it looked like a cyclone coming, you

go for a quick swim”. She jumped

testing. That was orders from the

know? But the cloud was thick and

on a tube that grandfather had

queen, eh? The queen’s mother.

black. And mum said, “no, don’t go

blown up, thought she’d go for a

And the French. And that’s where

outside and look”, but because we

swim and try the tube out. We was

I got my chronic illness from- it

had the old windows you know, we

standing on the bank screaming

was those bombs. They did two

can feel and see the smoke coming

and thinking that it was the last

atomic testings over in Onslow

through. Smoke around the house.

time we’d see her, but she’s a good

and we was told to block off any

And we got those big red sores on

swimmer so it was okay. Later

areas with blankets, wetting the

our legs, and that’s why people

on, she saved some boys from

blankets, we were still using those

like me, you know…well, we had a

drowning in Onslow.

blankets, you know? We’d wash

good life but no government people

‘em and thinking that, well mum

came out to the station to tell us

and dad, and nana thought they

and, those things we didn’t know

wouldn’t affect us. We wasn’t told,


In Mount Stuart, we saw the mushroom cloud, you know? The black smoke from the Montebello

Mulla, mulla, Pilbara, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014 90

Gathering of station hands and their families at Boolaloo Station, 1959, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia

Kathleen Johnny in Tom Price, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Kathleen Johnny

Where you was born Aunty?

there and I worked there, from

This interview takes place between Marianne Tucker and Kathleen Johnny.

My mother and father, my two

there I went to Mount Stuart,

brothers, look after the chooks- he

worked there.

used to go look after the chooks. I

Started off in Wyloo, I been born

Where you been meet Uncle na?

What else did you get up to on the station?

used to steal the eggs when I was a kid. And, you know what, he


always used to come home then,

In Kooline Station?

he used to see my tracks, and he

Yeah. Mount Stuart, me and him was last, me and the husband, I sacked him there.

tell me, “aya, you know what you done?” And I said, “What dad?” “You been steal the egg, ay?” “No, not me,” I tell him. “Yeah, you

What sort of work you been doing

the one.” As soon as I said not


me- Bang! Kick and all. “You gotta

In the kitchen and all. Washing up, mopping up, putting the sprinkler in the lawn. Make me sick.

catch me.” I used to tell my father. “I’ll tell my mother on you.” “Go tell mum,” he tell him. “Of course I’ll tell him.” We don’t steal the egg,

How early you gotta get up Aunty?

we go steal the watermelon, who

5 o’clock in the morning. You

gonna catch us, down the river.

gotta whether you’re getting cold

I used to be an outlaw when I was

or not. Those days when I was

a kid. Always work, and go back

young. I done the same on all

home, lay back, start the wireless

the stations Mount Stuart, Cane

and go to sleep. All the white-

River, Ashburton, my father was

fellas talking, you know, inside

a gardener then, Ashburton, look

the wireless. Some time I put a

after the garden, my old dad.

cassette on, Slim Dusty, Charlie Pride and all that. I always sit down, and time comes, go to work, always go to work, white man always used to tell me now, “alright, knock off time, you can go back home now.” Always used to go back home, sit around, playing music, wireless. That’s all.


Susie Yuline with her grandchildren in South Hedland, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014 96

Gordon Yuline in his front yard at South Hedland, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014 97

Sandra Cox collecting junba on the Nanutarra Witenoom Road, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Sandra Cox My name is Sandra Cox. I’m from the Banyjima tribe.

My mum is Kathleen Johnny, also

the white kids used to find more

a Banyjima Elder. And my dad

eggs than the black kids, well the

was a Yinhawangka Elder, but he’s

black kids used to flog the white

passed on. My early memories

kids! …for their eggs, you know?

growing up, is of myself, my sister

And mum and them would wonder

who passed on, and my brother.

why these little white kids crying

My early childhood is growing up with my grandparents out on stations, moving from station to station, My old stepfather – ‘cause I grew up as a little girl acknowledging him as my dad –

all the time! But, yeah, we used to be friends with them, before that egg business, ‘cause they used to have jellybeans in those days too you know, for lollies?…and we used to play with them, go and hide ‘em.

my dad used to do a lot of cattle

When my parents used to finish

mustering and fencing. Mum

doing sheep mustering, we would

used to be the housemaid and

do fencing then. My uncle, he used

the musterer’s cook. Working in

to drive the ute, my dad in the

Mount Stuart station with one of

passenger seat, and me and mum

my mum’s other brother, we were

and my brothers and sister on the

doing fencing. Fencing, and they

back, we used to go out doing the

also did cattle mustering there as

fencing run and take our dinner

well, and sheep mustering first,

out, you know? Mum used to cook

‘cause that was a sheep station

all the johnny cakes and cook the

as well, and when they moved all

kangaroo meat there.

the sheep out it became a cattle station.

My uncle used to take his work boots off, and one particular day

With mum, she and my aunty, they

he took his boots off, and he laying

used to go up to the boss’s house

down, having a good old rest, and

and clean the main house there,

my little brother…he killed a big

do their washing, feed their little

lizard, well he never killed it, but

ones belonging to the boss. They

he made it go dizzy. He grabbed a

had chooks there, and the chooks

little piece of string, and he tied it

used to wander down to the river,

on my uncle’s toe. He was asleep,

‘cause there’s the river, side of the

he didn’t know this was happening

main station homestead. They

at that time, ‘cause he was so tired

used to tell us, “all you kids gotta

from working, you know? …being

go and looking for eggs now”, and

summer time. My brother tied

we used to have a race to see how

the lizard to his toe, and then my

much eggs we used to find. And if

uncle can feel it ‘cause it started


to come out of that dizziness, this

the camp, where all us blackfellas

One day, she tell me a yarn about

lizard. And, he’s thinkin’ “what’s

used to stop, it was not even an

how this welfare bloke walked into

this on my toe”, you know? And my

hour’s walk, you know? With all

the camp. They wasn’t expecting

dad’s lay down next to him, he’s

the old people were there in the

him,anyway, my mother had

snoring away. And then he opened

yard, branding cattle. We always

charcoal and she painted my aunty

his eye and he find this lizard!

used to say “whoa gee, lucky we

black, so then she couldn’t get

Ohhh! He kicked, didn’t he? But he

not a bullock, you know? To get

recognised. You see if they would

couldn’t get up and kick it off his

a brand on us?!” And all my little

have recognised her, she would

foot quick enough, because that

brothers, they used to sit up on top

have been gone - to a mission.

thing was still tied to his toe! And,

of the rails, and old people used to

he turn and he ask me and my

tell us “don’t sit up on the rails”,

sister “now who the bloody hell did

they used to get frightened those

that”? And we just pointed straight

bloody big bullocks with sharp

at [my brother] you know? ‘Cause

horns might get us.

we wasn’t going to get a hiding for him!

Welfare those days were very strict. And we got chucked into a hostel, started schoolin’, but holiday times was good, because then you’re still going back to

You know how they used to take

country, see? You going back to the

mardamarda (mixed) kids away

station life. When the holidays are

From Mount Stuart we moved to

from their mums? Welfare days?

finished it’s very hard to leave that

Wyloo then, mum and dad used

Well my aunty she’s mardamarda,

behind, you know? And saying,

to do cattle mustering and fix all

see? Her dad was a white fella.

having to say goodbye to my Nana

the windmills. Mum and my aunty

When my nana used to see

was the most hurtful thing.

used to be the housemaids, and we

welfare, the policeman coming

just walk down to the yard from

they used to take off into the river.


Tobacco Tin, Photograph by Claire Martin, 2014


Sheila Sampi in her garden, Port Hedland, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Sheila Sampi

My name is Sheila Sampi. I born in

He been mustering around Anna

Marble Bar, Googaligong, that used

Plains, Canning Stock Road, my

to be the tin field, people used to

father, when he was young. Then

work there yandying for tin, that’s

when he had me baby, we took

where my mother come from, my

off this way. Well, that’s the story

father from Lombardina. He had

he was telling us. First, he had

two older brothers brought him

us out bush, he was working as

down here, he came to Marble Bar

a contractor building fences, and

and that’s where I was born in

sheep yards, and horse yards and

1943, during that World War.

we used to be kids.

When it was war time, things were

Then, when I was a baby, we

worse, starving- can’t get a feed.

had that white man who took us

My father took off during war time, he had to go somewhere he could work for money, he left his country to go to work and earn money, make proper money, to buy tucker and clothes, so we took off to Onslow, all of us, with him, through Roebourne, that was during war time. We wouldn’t have gotten through, because those days blackfella wasn’t allowed to go north, blackfella wasn’t allowed to go south, they had to have one white man, Pinky, with them, because that white man, the only one who could get them through. They had a rabbit proof fence up there; no one was allowed to pass

right through to Onslow. That’s where I grew up, all my life, in Onslow. From there we went onto Carnarvon, that’s where my sister was born. My mother used to yandy, she belong around here, Palyku, Nyiarparli. That’s why we’re here. My father learned all that reading and writing, a lot of people in Onslow know that, he used to talk that much politics. Well, my father used to work on station and things, he used to teach people how to read and write because he was well educated. My father opened Bindi Bindi and fight for Bindi Bindi, put up toilets and showers, houses for people to live there.

that; blackfellas from this side.

We used to learn from school of

People coming down from north

the air on the radio, that’s where

mustering cattle, my father used

we get our ABC from and all that.

to go up this side to the boundary

Teacher used to talk in the radio

and put the cattle through so the

from Perth. The boss come out and

people over the other side take

tell us, “The teacher be on the air,

over the cattle.

it’s a good time for you children to 103

get to a radio” and we start picking

Then, after that, when my Dad

sister. Dad told him, “fix that car

up from there. We used to have

opened a school in Onslow he put

up for me,” he used to be a bush

our little pens and pads. Sit down

my sister in a school and shift me

mechanic too my brother.

at the table, listen to the radio,

off to work, me and my brother,

to what she saying, how she’s

because we were old enough to

pronouncing and spelling.

work, that’s when we split up.

Sometimes I just used to leave my sister and go out playing, that used to be funny, she used to sing out, “Don’t you go, you got to come

He went working self, and I went working self on another station. Cleaning up and washing. I worked on nearly all the stations.

My brother can hear those boys laughing, they not far away from that shed. He just threw the spanner down, I told Mum, “look, look, he just chucked the spanner and took off to that yard.” They all start singing out for him, all

back here to listen to this teacher.”

My brother was the first one to

the other young fellas, “Ah! Here

When my sister was born, my

go, because he was nearly about

he come, George Sampi, he’s the

father came back, we went to work,

twenty, I think, when he met this

gamest one to jump on these

Urala station, long time back, in

bloke, Bob Payne on the station

wild horses they bringing up.” He


who asked him, “what about

just went up, “What you fella’s

you come with me I’ll teach you

frightened for this horse?” He just

everything I know.” He did learn

went and jumped on that wild

him everything, using whips,

horse. He was sitting down there

jumping on young horses, my

like a little chicken on the top, like


he’s on a rocking chair. We was

In the stations, we used to work hard, help our father. Still, I never realized my sister was already interested with that ABC, she was learning herself, so, every time she try teach me, I takes off

He got to be a real stockman,

somewhere else- come back again.


You don’t sit down and listen, “I can teach you me-self now.” “No, no, please leave me out, I tell ‘im.”

threw him, and he stayed with that horse, till the horse stopped still.

I remember…… all the other boys,

“Here boys you can have him now,

pushing and laughing each other to

I’m going back to fix the car, before

get on a wild horse, they were not

my father knock my block off.”

On the station, we do our School

game enough to saddle the horse.

of the Air first, about 9 o’clock,

But nobody was able to jump on it,

that lady talk to us, we stay home,

they was too frightened.

our father and mother go out on

laughing for him, that horse never

Anyway, he went out again, station, I used to knock around with my brother and his wife.

I was there with them; I followed

Again, the boys are telling me,

my brother most of the time

‘Hey, you want to see a trick?” I

because he had his wife. I used to

said, “What trick?” “Come here,

follow him cattle mustering and

we’ll show you what your brother


can do.” “Not my brother!” I start

can only see one standard, because

Dad told him to fix the car up

up an argument with them. “If he

they are all there straight.

for us. I was sitting down and

die I’ll shoot you fellas.” See, I got

watching them boys, me and

the gun in the jeep, I’m the driver

my Mum, and Winnie, my little

in the car for the cattle mustering.

the line, making fences, with a hammer and standard. My mother, she size it up keep it, “as straight as a needle”, she says. Every time we get back to look at the line, we


“What he can do?” I said. Then

him, too late, you know - a bull

When the boys go out mustering,

I went along, they got a big mob

shut his eye when he come to stab

all the lambs fall out, well, we

of cattle into this little flat. “Oh

you. My brother was already about

were behind in the car to pick

My God,” I don’t know what to do,

a half mile, this side, standing with

them up. Hold all the sheep in the

you know. I start asking his wife,

that horse.

back, tie them up, until we get to

When I first started, I was only

the place where the other sheep

“What can we do?” Drive in, he might miss the horse. They tellin me, “you watch him, he’ll leave his horse on the flat and he’ll walk around, we want to get the bull out of the scrub.” With a bull, they run into a scrub, they stubborn, they won’t come out, you can chase them round, anywhere you like- they won’t come out. You got to be a man to get out in the flat for him. I said Oh My God, this is the way he’s going to get killed. I was standing by that motorcar, thinking I might have to pop the bull.

working for a tin of tobacco, clothes and shoes, that’s all. Some

water is. Sometimes mother and

of the station people were good,

father give you orders while you’re

some of them you had to face, they

having breakfast, from there,

would give us orders what to do,

you got to go and do it yourself.

well I didn’t like it. One morning

They give us a hand if they see us

I said, “You go out and do it your

struggling with it.

bloody self, I been working here

We do it all ourselves. It was a bit

two years, you do it yourself, you’re not paying, we get no money from you, I only get tucker, clothes, and hat.” He said, “Oh, yeah I’m sorry about that, it’s true what you’re saying.” And I said, “You can keep it, we’re off.” We used to take off,

They said, “Wait.” They go around

those days, just walking. Anybody

singing out, those boys around

would pick us up and take you

the bushes, trying to make the

where you want to go.

bull come out. My brother got off the horse; he started walking way from the horse, picking up stones and things. That’s the time, the bull look around, see him in the flat. He come out with his big horns, running for him, flat out, and that horse, he was standing up over there, as soon as that horse seen the bull, the horse come running up close to my brother.

are, we let them out, where the

hard working with some of those whitefellas, they used to be hard with us, sometimes they don’t want us to be gathered, they split us up, we wake up in the night, we go and chase each other in the night, talk up a yarn. They used to tell us, “Don’t you fellas talk to one another at night, you have a sleep.” But, we used to go out, still doing

My brother taught me how to drive,

it, we used to run around in the

even told me to jump on a horse,

back, sneak away from them, keep

and a motorbike, you know those

us in the house, camping inside of

Harley Davidsons. When I first

the shed in the yard, but we used

learnt to drive I never used to drive

to still take off.

in a flash car, I learned in an old, T model Ford, we used to call them gunbarr, they like big spiders, the way they move around. Then after that I drive a Chev 6, just a long tray in the back; we used to

And he run and in just one spring

just take off with them motorcars

from the ground he was on that

driving. We even driving a buggy,

horse, and that horse was gone

they used to drive a horse and cart

like a bullet. The bull come behind

those days. Go around mustering. 105

I used to make the table, set it up for them, make up the cup of tea, walk in to their bedroom, put it on the table. When I think back now, I used to feel like chucking water on them. I done all that. But, I loved the station because it was nice and quiet; I used to be a lot of the time by myself.


Sheila Sampi on her verndah with her two pet dogs, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014 107

Yanrey Homestead around 1915, from Forrest Family and Minderoo Station, Courtesy of State Library of Western Australia

Tadjee Limerick in Tom Price, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Tadjee Limerick

When I get married, I was in

river, they used to feed us, cook

Ashburton. My old husband used

the damper.

to work there. From there we went to Red Hill, stay down there, old husband used to work there. And next minute we went to Yannery Station. Stop there. Working long time. And, after that we come back to Koordarrie Station, not far from Minderoo, stay ‘round there,

One day we get married, we was finished then. But they don’t want to go with the man. We were saying, “come on! Let’s run away down the river! Hide away!” I moved around on stations with my husband then.

working. That’s the last job for us.

Koodarrie Station we used to go.

No more jobs. We went to town

I used to drive the car when my

then. Onslow, stay in Onslow.

old husband was drunk. He used

We’d go sheep driving and we’d go camp, one night fill the tank up for the sheep. They was good. I never used to work. My husband used to work, that’s all. I used to cook for him. We used to go to town, shopping and come back with the boss. I think they all die now, poor things.

to be a mechanic for the car, he used to fix the cars for himself. He used to ride a horse. And he knows about the horse, he used to quiet it himself, really good, used to put the rope on his neck and hold it. Make him go‘round. And that horse, he know then, and they used to put the shoes on and saddle on ‘em. He’d be a quiet ride

I come to Koordarrie, and I find my friends there, Eileen and Kathleen and old girl who passed away. They all been reared up with me. We used to go looking for kangaroo, bring a kangaroo back. We used to steal a kangaroo dog and go! And the old people used to say “Ahhh! Those girls gone now, they’ve run away with the kangaroo dogs!” Well them kangaroo dog, he knows, we going kangarooing and they used to kill it for us. And they used to cry out, singing out for us. And we used to bring ‘em back. Back to the old ladies down the


then. That’s the last job for us. We was finished and we was going back to Onslow. Stay down there.

Stock Boys from Life and Work on Roy Hill Station, 1955, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia

Hilda Flan

My name is Hilda Flan but before

hill, Cloudbreak, and Christmas

I was married I was part of the

creek, that’s my grandmother’s

Yuline family. Gordon Yuline is


my big brother and there is Susie, and Richard. We are Nyiyaparli people. But I was born in Nyamal country along the Shaw River at Hillside station where a mine started; I grew up there in that country. When I grew up, I was helping my mum and dad. We used to work for our living, yandying tin and looking for minerals. But

I grew up on Hillside with my mum and dad working as a little girl, I remember the country, we used to go hunting around thr tin mine. We had a big camp and that’s where we lived, yandying tin. That’s why I know that country pretty well, because I grew up there at the Shaw river.

grandmother’s country is Roy Hill,

A yandy is a dish, well you get a

right up to Capricorn, Newman,

piece of iron, cut it round and that

and all round Warrawandu.

makes a yandy. We sometimes use

My mother told me about my

them today we go to marble bar

grandmother’s country so when

looking for gold. It was hard work

we grew up we knew where my

back in them days. You had to

grandmother’s country was.

separate the dirt from the tin, or

My grandfather was Nyamal, but

the mineral we were looking for.

we don’t go by the grandfather, he

We would sell it to the Johnston

was my step grandfather really, my

family, they used to come there to

real grandfather is a white man, a

the mine. We took the tin into the

German bloke, but we don’t count

shop, put it in a fruit jar, then they

that, we go by the tribal one. I was

weigh it in kilograms. We used

in Marble Bar, and grew up there in

to help mum and dad get a little

that country. Some time ago mum

bit of money for food and clothes;

and dad took me to Bonney Downs

those days were a bit hard. You

Station, I was working there in

got to have a little bit of money

the station, as a little girl, then

for living to help with the rations

at Warrie Station and Bamboo

through the minerals. The rations

Springs, before they closed that

was only a little bit, tin of sugar,

station. I remembered they told

and a government blanket which

us that this is Palyku country,

was enough to keep us warm, plus

our country is back there, that’s

a little bit of clothes, when we

where I know my grandmothers

started off.

Nyiyaparli country, all around Roy Stockyards from Life and Work on Roy Hill Station, 1955, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia 115

When I stopped in the tin mine,

remember it was seven dollars a

worked hard in the mine everyday

after all the stations stopped

week, I would put in a book how

looking for minerals. I used to work

we went back to Marble Bar and

much people were going to draw

too, make some extra money for

stayed there. I got married then, to

out or how much they put away.

lollies and a cool drink. Yandying

the father of my son. We stayed at Moolyella and did the same thing, tin mining, yandying and working.

We would get nice clothes that we’d order for men, women and children. We used to get material

is not easy, you have to get used to it. We have a spell if we get tired, you need to sit in the shade, have a cup of tea.

From Marble Bar, I went to

to make our own dresses or skirt.

Warralong, Strelley with the

We used to use a needle for hand

We looked for black tin, I showed

Don McLeod mob the Strikers,

sewing to make a dress.

my husband, and he got mad for

I was there with them. Then Don McLeod’s mob then bought the station at Strelley and they handled that station. Don McLeod used to run the station but he also had a few Aboriginal bosses, Toby Jones, Billy Thomas, Crow, that’s all the bosses, Old Jacob. I used to be a bookkeeper; I used to sign a cheque for people. I would put down in a book how much money people were going to get. I

I was a widow when I met David Stock, we met in Marble Bar, we went to Muccan Station, worked there. I used to be a cook for the boys when they were mustering. I would make bread or damper, kangaroo or sometimes sheep meat.

it, making money! In those days we got no car, we walked from the mine with that tin he had to carry it on the shoulder in a bag, put some in a bag and come back walking, that’s in Coogaligong and Spear hill. These places are right-out in the bush, then you got to come back into town to sell

I only went to stations lately

it. Nowadays we both got a car,

with my husband; I was a miner,

but no more minerals, no more

working in a mine. The station is

stations that’s all finished.

different see? My mum and dad

Horses, 1955 Life and Work on Roy Hill Station Courtesy State Library of Western Australia 116

Allie Parker, Rhonda’s brother in Parabardoo, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Rhonda Parker

My name is Rhonda Parker,

run, and they were sometimes on

my Mother was a Gurruma,

motorbikes. All the women used to

Yinhawangka and Banjima lady,

do the cooking, getting everything

my father was Wobby Parker, he’s

ready- especially a cup of tea! They

a Banjiyma man and my mother’s

used to sing. My mum never learnt

father was an Yinhawangka

to read or write, but she had a lot

man, his mother was a Banjiyma

of knowledge.


We’d get a kangaroo, put it on the

I grew up in Wittenoom back in the

fire, for the turkey we’d pluck it,

1970’s with my mum, and we used

mum used to use a pillow case or

to go out to a lot of stations like

flour bag to put the turkey in and

Mulga Downs, Hamersley Station,

cook it. Gurumanthu,we’d get the

Rocklea, and Ashburton.

ngarlu out, get all the hard skin

Everyone got moved everywhere and we ended up around Karratha,

off, and put him in the ground, kangaroo tail the same.

Roebourne and when we lived

When we used to go out with my

in Wickham we’d go to Rocklea

grandparents pop Chubby Jones,

Station because we had a lot of

used to tell us about the names

family there. Back in the 90’s we

of windmills. They used to do

did a homeland movement with

the trough and we would help

my mum to Wakathuni, that’s why

to keep them clean. We used to

this is there today.

always pull up by the river, that’s

On the stations we used to help cooking dampers and everything else for the old people; they’d sit down, tell us about the land, who we are for the land, and show us how to dance. My big brother used to teach us how to saddle a horse,

where they did the storytelling, they would name the river and the hills- hills are the landmarks, they tell you which side are the boundaries for the countries, which tribe your next door neighbours, your kinship colour.

me and my sister we used to be

At Rocklea Station we used to go

go riding with our grandparents

to Sandy Creek all the time, that’s

around Rocklea Station.

where my nana Dora used to hang

My dad and big brother used to work on Mulga Downs station, it was a good time; we used to go shooting. The old people used to go out horse riding, do the windmill


out all the time, she used to make a soak all the time. We go back there now, it’s all sanded in, and it’s not there anymore. In those days, they never used

to work for money; it was only

to the Gillamia Native Hostel

would be dressed up, old people

tobacco, and flour. On Rocklea they

in Onslow Old Bob Hart used to

used to look smart all the time

used to send us to the main home-

collect us and take us out to the

with their boots and buckles on.

stead, to the lady of the house for

station. They used to do cattle

People were competing in the

stores. We used to drive the little

mustering then, my old brother

gymkhana, they had their sleeves

buggy’s and take rations back to

lived on the land; he did a lot of

rolled up, it was all about who

the old people. One time we hit

work with his old people.

was the best stockman. My big

the biggest rock going, everything went everywhere, then we got told off. Old people used to growl at us, they never used to hit us though.

We used to go to races in Onslow, they used to come in from the station when its races time, or Gymkhana time. That’s when we

We used to go with dad a lot to

used to see our parents because we

Ashburton Downs. When we went

used to be in the hostel. Everyone

brother used to talk about that all the time. He passed away not long ago. He used to dress up like a stockman all the time. He was so proud of himself.

Sheep in shed detail from Life and Work on Roy Hill Station, 1955, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia 120

Elaine James

My name is Elaine James. I’m

the fruits and things, if you’re

from Wakathuni, but I been born

hungry, there are wild potatoes,

in the station at a place called

we call it goolyu. There are fruits

Carters Creek, out from Kooline

like a banana that we call wirra

Station. My mum had me there. I

and little ones like jiburra, you

grew up on Kooline, and then Dad

can get them on the banks of the

had to work on another station,

Ashburton. We learn to talk the

Wyloo, so we moved. My sister

language - get full with it.

was born there and the other two as well, one in the old camp, one at the new camp. We stayed in tin houses, all of us workers - Dad and them, we used to get maybe ten shillings a week or something, and

We’d play around, grabbing lizards. But, I never used to eat them, but all the little ones would cook it like a gurdumanthu and eat them. They would put it in a tobacco tin.

we might get, flour and sugar and

Once I was digging a lizard hole or

tea. Tobacco. Little bit hard those

a spider hole, and Angie poked my

days, you know?

eye. That’s why I lose my eyesight,

When I grew up a little bit more, I went to school at the Gillamia Native Hostel, in Onslow. When

I had to go to Perth and I just remember that I had a false eye then.

I finished school I had to work in

I used to know all the fishing

the station, to earn my own living.

spots in Ashburton, right along

I was getting paid twelve dollars

to Kooline, and at Wyloo the river

a week. But it was alright, just

is way down... a long way from

enough for my bit of clothing. My

the station but we used to still go

mum used to know how to sew

there, with the old Toyotas and

dresses, we used to just get the

Jeeps from the station. My uncle

materials in the store and sew it up

used to drive the jeeps around,

at the bush.

and old dodge. We liked going in

My nana was teaching us, I used to be with her more than mum. I used to like it when they told me yarns, what they used to be doing. They would tell us to blow the water to let them know that you belong to that place. You would blow it from your mouth. We learnt what was good in the bush,


them old motorcars because we can sit in the side. We’d race with one another to open the gates, it used to be fun, and we would just jump straight off. The trucks used to take the gear up, the tucker and everything, but wool buggies they used to go mustering with the horses. So we used to run out of

tucker some of the time- the flour, but we would still live off the land. The bush tucker, fill us up; I’ve never been sick out in the bush. We used to dance. They’d let us kids have a dance first. We’d mix with the old people, with the grownups. We have a mixed dance. Then us kids stopped and let the men have a go, and the old woman’s. They had their own corroborrees. I got an old uncle from there, he used to rattle a boomerang all the time, early in the morning if we were still asleep, and in night time he’ll sing, Barlgabi Songs. He was a deadly old man. I used to play the button accordion. I used to play Slim Dusty music. If we hear it in the wireless we’d get very good at it. We used to order the accordion in from the station and they’d take money out and pay it out of our wages.David Smirk, he was our brother there, we used to race one another to get what song we could play better, me or him!


Living Quarters, from Life and Work on Roy Hill Station from Life and Work on Roy Hill Station, 1955, Courtesy, State Library of Western Australia

Marshall Smith on Mingullatharndo Community, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Marshall Smith

My name is Marshall Smith,

in those years. I think it was in

Aboriginal name Indabirnga-

1905 that they took up the station

ngardi. I was born near a windmill

lease. Dad was born on top of

called Metawandy on Wyloo

Mount Brockman hill at a spring

Station. My mum is Mirlyarranyba

named Bullurru. Like many of our

Banjiyma from Mount Bruce area

people who had white fathers he

and South East to Mount Robinson

was considered half caste. One of

and the Governor, my dad is

the things that happened in the

Gurruma from Mount Brockman

era, the old fellas (the husbands)

area, Southerly towards Paraburdu,

would use their wives to buy, or

Westerly to the Beasley river and

to make deals at the station, for

Easterly to the Minthaigorndi

food and this was accepted. That

River, a branch off the Thurriri

appears to be what happened with


Nana and Leonard. Of course there

My mum grew up mostly through the Parabardoo, Rocklea, and Juna Downs areas and later travelled with families along the Ashburton River visiting and working on

were times this was not okay… it is a tough history but I always say that it is good to know history but don’t dwell too long in it, look forward.

Kooline, Ashburton, Wyloo, Mount

We erected fences on Mount

Stuart and Boolaloo stations.

Stuart and Red Hill stations

Banjiyma people congregated at

during 1955-56’(these stations

Rocklea Station when this became

are alongside each other) and old

a pastoral lease in the early 1900’s,

grandpa Sandy and Nana Pidgey

together with the Yinhawangka

Hicks were with us, they normally

and the Gurrama.

resided at Hamersley station. We

They soon found that stations like Rocklea also could give them benefits such as knives, axes, rifles, tobacco …. the people also adapted very quickly to working on the stations as stockmen and stockwomen.

went to Juna Downs station in 1957, however nana and grandpa Hicks went back to Hamersley station. When we arrived at Juna Downs there was only the cow paddock there with a milking cow named Boza and her calf named. There were many wild horse herds

Dad’s father was an Englishman

in around Juna Downs known as

named Leonard Smith, who was

“brumbies”. My uncle Chubby Jones

the brother of Frederick Walter

was also my dad’s horse breaker,

Smith who owned Rocklea Station

so dad and the men trapped the


brumbies in water holes where

Mount Brockman at the time. In

When we lived out bush, my toys

they had built trap yards during

those days most stations around

were a shanghai (ging), a dog

the dry season, where there is

here used to be given credit by

named Gypsy, a little spear, a

minimum water. They also used to

Dalgetys because they were the

woomera, and the flat river stones

run them back to the homestead

main hardware agent in the

which I used as a motorcar. Pop

yard at other times and my mum

Pilbara and elsewhere. I was only

Sandy showed me how to throw a

used to ride and help the men on

about nine years old then.

spear and make the spear. I used

a small horse named “Queenie” that was bought from Turee Creek station in around 1955. They used two racehorses (Sapplejack, and Sunrise) to turn the wild brumbies because the brumbies could run into the mountainous areas in the wrong direction a lot quicker than the stockhorses. It was about around twenty-seven kilometres hard and fast gallop to Juna Downs homestead yards.

We had a three-and-a-half-tonne truck which was a Maple Leaf

bark is soft.

Chevrolet, that was our vehicle,

My brother and cousins showed

but dad was very strict in how

me how to make and use the

it was used because when you

shanghai. We didn’t need anything

bought a drum of fuel, the nearest

else. Television obviously wasn’t

point was to go back to the station

around so we didn’t know what the

and if you weren’t on the station

latest news was anyway. We did

you’d have a fair walk if you ran

have wirelesses (old radios) to keep

out of fuel. We never did, but it was

track of the weather.

never used frequently, only when it really was needed, for example,

We erected all of the original

to go and pick up food supplies or

fences on Juna Downs, the

the fencing supplies. We lived in

boundary, the lot. When we left

base camps, at these camps we

the station in about 1961 to go

had rain tents, my mother and

to Hamersley station, there were

all the ladies, they would all help

windmill water supplies and an

each other to build these as well as

adequate number of both cattle

bough shelters for summer cooling.

and horses.

to spear gum trees because the

In the fencing camps we all chipped in to help with the work. I was seven years old and I used to dig my post holes up to my arm’s length and leave it for the older people to finish. Fencing came easily because family did it as a family thing. So mum and the ladies would run the wires through

In 1971, our parents got their

what was then the wooden post.

At that time Mount Brockman

first house in Roebourne, this

It was very hard work for them

Station (which is about fifty

gave my sisters and brothers the

because the holes were never

kilometres West of Hamersley

opportunity to attend school as

drilled straight in line with the

station) was going into receivership

well. Before that we had to board

fence direction, but they never had

to Dalgetys PTY, LTD and so dad

in the Government hostel, which

access to a good workshop with a

was given the contract by Dalgety’s

was built for children who had

drill press. So the men would stand

to do the final stock muster. This

parents out on stations.

with this brace and bit (manual

was in order for Dalgetys to get back as much of the money that they could after giving credit to Jack Edney, who was owner of

We would always hangout for school holidays because we could go back out bush again.


drill tool,) and they’d have a can of oil to dip the tip into the oil, then into the wood and drill for a little bit (manually turning the handle),

pull the bit out and they would dip

In those days parents like my

from his heels back to his head,

it constantly into the can of oil, in

father used to hand their sons

when he sits in the saddle, and

order to keep the auger bit cool. In

over to their nephews, my father

all he does is balance on the very

those days the station required the

gave Des over to brother Stan

central point of where the horse

fences to be erected with wooden

Dellaporte who was working on

is twisting. Some people say that

posts because they could not

Wyloo station and he trained Des

balance riders are better than grip

afford the steel pickets to put on

up as a stockman. Uncle David

riders, but I question that because

their fences. This meant using a

Cox had two brothers who were

I’ve seen a lot of grip riders riding

crow bar to dig the post-hole. There

renowned rough horse riders

and they can ride just as good.

is an easy way to use the crow bar

as well, my brother Des used to

A grip rider is one who squeezes

and a hard way. You dig the first

always talk about them, old Gilbert

with their knee and leg, and most

four to six inches making the post

Cox and Thomas Cox, well Gilbert

people get used to the grip riding

hole size, then dig the very centre

taught Des how to ride rough

because it’s part of them when

area of the hole a couple of inches,


they’re learning how to ride a

then break into that centre from the edges of that hole.

Anyway, this particular morning it was winter time and Uncle Gilbert

horse, because you tighten up all the time, but balance riders are not few and far between, but they are

I had the greatest opportunity to

was riding his rough horse to

learn as much as I could about

train. Everybody was given young

working with horses because many

horses to train. Uncle Gilbert had

The consequences of a balance

of my family members assisted

all these boils on his backside, and

rider is that when they get down to

me. My uncle, Chubby Jones,

the horse decided to buck, and his

about forty years old, their backs

cousin Churchill Jones’ father,

backside landed hard on the seat of

become painfully difficult, because

was also my trainer; he showed

the saddle and of course it burst all

what’s happened is the cantle,

me how to do the cantors and

the boils, he couldn’t hold on any

which is the rear part of the saddle

the gallops, with my brother Des,

more it was just like a hot iron on

seat will always hit up against

who’s passed on now. I idolised my

his backside, so he bailed off. And

their lower back, because they sit

brother and uncle because they

nobody wanted to ride the horse,

a lot straighter when riding rough

seemed to be so good at everything

but he knew brother Des could. So

stock. Whereas the grip rider,

when working with stock. He and

Des got on the horse and he rode it

works out with his leg where that

Uncle Chubby used to be the two

for uncle, Des was only 12 years of

horse is pivoting, and he doesn’t

that stood out when it came to

age then.

have to lay back a lot unless the

riding rough stock horses. So from the age of eight I wanted to be like them. They never seemed to fear anything, rough horses was their recreation, they competed to see who was going to ride the roughest horse.

When we talk about rough horse riders, there’s two types of rough riders, one’s called a Balance Rider, the other is called a Grip Rider, what happens with a balance rider

special in some ways.

horse is kicking high, if your horse is kicking high obviously you sit back more, but that’s only for that split second of course. That’s the difference.

is that he sits on the same type

Well, the unfortunate thing is

of saddle, but his body is straight

you’ve got to ride it out, or it


throws you, one or the other.

you over the saddle. But all that

galloping. Once they’re crossing

The standard rule my brother

kicks in because if you’ve done it

you’ll know that the beef is weary,

taught me… and he was very well

many times it doesn’t matter. It’s

but then you’ve gotta watch the

known, he was one man that rolled

all part of you anyway.

ears because the eyeball and the

a smoke on a bucking horse called Dingo in Hamersley Station, so that’s how much of a rider he was, but that’s another story… with a young horse the rules of getting on that fellow is very different to a rodeo. In the rodeo you’ve got him sittin’ in the chute, so he’s basically locked in and you come down on top of him. It’s a different story when he’s all saddled up and ready in a big yard because he can do what he likes.

Most Aboriginal stockmen, were natural horseman, not only riding the rough horse, they were natural with handling stock. They were natural with breaking horses. There were some who actually stood out because their job was to break many horses on the station, but in general, most everyone knew how to tame a horse, ride a horse, but there were those that excelled, and people like Uncle Thomas, Gilbert, Denis Ashburton,

But the first point is you grab his

Chubby Jones, Alec Tucker, the

head, pull his head right around to

Long brothers, David Stock, my

the mane, which is tight, and then,

brother Des, Uncle Johnson Hicks,

when you go to put your weight

Stan Dellaporte, dad and his

onto the stirrup, you generally step

brothers, Nicholas Cook’s father,

up onto that stirrup three times.

Uncle Chooky Dowden. They were

Third time you generally flip over.

all natural, but that’s just naming

You’ve gotta get him to feel your

a few in the area where my family

weight, and when the breaker’s

worked, there are many, many

broken him, he would have given

more I pay tribute too.

him that feeling anyway. But that third time when you swing over you’ve gotta make sure your right boot goes into the stirrup, but some riders are so good they don’t really worry about that other stirrup. I have to find that other stirrup! And then, you either grip or you balance, but then you obviously loosen the rein, because if you use it too tight it will pull

ear move together. So, you gotta watch that ear, to know whether it’s safe to jump off the horse while it’s looking at you or not. And you’re at full gallop – you train your horse to hit the breaks as soon as your weight shifts on the saddle, that’s part of the training on stock camps as well. When the horse hits the break, you jump off hitting the ground running, grab the hairy part of the lower tail, twist it once, around either your left or right hand depending on what you are. Once you’ve got that twisted, that’s your grip, you step out so that the beef will see you alongside of it and the beef will see you and try to turn around and hook you, that’s when he’s offbalance, then you pull him over. Right, once he’s down, you put the tail between his leg – the rear leg obviously - Pull it up on to his

A lot of those guys loved jumping

rump, put your knee onto his rump

off the horse and grabbing a bull

he can’t get up no matter how big

by the tail and pulling it over

the bull is, he won’t be able to get

to tie it down. The first thing to

up then you tie him.

remember with cattle – when chasing with a horse, you watch the hind legs… when the beef is fighting fit, the hind legs always drop parallel. First signs of tiredness are that the hind legs start dropping cross legged when


And the other method that the old fellas used to have, is what they call pulling ‘em down by the tail off the horse. Now that’s fine for that fella who is doing the pulling down, because all he has to do is

Marshall Smith on his horse at Mingullatharndo Community, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014 131

gallop up to the beef, grab that tail

the hobble, every time you stopped

remember. Each time they trod on

the same way with one hand this

somewhere. That was a full day’s

that reign, they thought they were

time, and make his horse gallop

work, but they’d remember that.

hobbled down.

past him and pull it. The man

Each time they trod on that reign,

behind is the one whose gotta hit

they thought the hobble was on.

the ground to grab it and hold it down and tie it up. That was lots of fun, because sometimes the beef got up before the backup rider would grab them, all of a sudden you find yourself looking at his face coming at you, and then

My brother Des used to tell me, “the bull in the yard, you can trust;

I taught a horse to rear up when

if he turns on you and comes for

I made a certain sound and he

you just stand dead still, he won’t

became a faithful friend. I had

hit you”. Many times I saw him do

all the trust in him when doing

that. He would also say, “if you’re

musters, and never once did he

riding a horse and you run a wild

falter or let me down.

bull into the herd and he’s fresh and angry, and if he comes at you,

you’ve gotta find out how fast you

I began my training by tying

can run! I used to chase and tie

calves, when I was a teenager. I

my beef up using the method of

was always with old fellas at some

jumping off the horse and pulling

muster, I was probably ten, twelve,

the beef down on the ground and

mucking ‘round with young calves,

not depending on other riders

but it was safe. But, I didn’t start

to pull them down by the tail,

pulling bulls down until I was

while still riding the horse. If the

seventeen. I’d like to take my boys

beef got up and saw the man on

on one of those musters, just for

the ground, generally another

them to experience what it was

rider would be close by to ride in

like. We had pack horses which

between the beef and the man on

carried our supplies when we were

the ground and the beef would

moving camp, if we didn’t have a

always turn to chase the horse

vehicle or the area was too difficult

that is getting in its’ way or that

to use a vehicle, such as the Mount

rider would throw a hat at the beef

Brockman muster.

and it would try to hook the hat

You were given you own horse to

and gallop away.

and I was that dead scared that I

train, or a number of horses they

couldn’t even look at him coming.

You taught your own horses

called hacks, for your mustering,

There’s a point at which it is too

that you were given to train, or

so we had about four or five each.

late to run and I also went deaf, I

a number of horses they called

Some of the things you’d teach it to

couldn’t even hear the hoof beats,

them hacks – for your mustering.

do were to stand still by hobbling

that’s how frightened I was! I was

We had about four or five each.

it down, and bringing the reign

thinking where the hell’s this bull?

Some of the things you’d teach it

down to the hobble every time

When I looked, I saw him smelling

to do was stand still by hobbling

you stopped somewhere. That was

my right foot! I’m sure I had ten

it down, bring the reign down to

a full day’s work, but they would

years’ of life taken out of me; the


just hold the horse back and he won’t hit you, unless you move. If you move on that saddle, he’ll hit the horse”. I only did that once. I was just about seventeen years old... we ran a herd in, and this black looking thing was walkin’ around the herd, he’d had enough, he wanted to get out, my brother Des said “look out, he’s gonna line you up”. I had a beautiful horse, I could trust him…and all I did was tug on his reign asking him to stand still and I was sitting looking south, and I saw this thing just go into a ball. They are so fast

bull went back to the herd after

the hours would roughly drop,

I didn’t make much money but

that. I went over to my brother and

especially the Southern Cross,

I loved every day of it, helping

said, “I know it works but I’ll never

where it was moving. We used to

Dad to pay the debts as well, and

do that again.”

try and give the old fellas more

everybody had plenty to eat so we

of a rest, like my dad and Alex’s

were quite happy, it was great fun.

dad…all you did was walk in the

Every day something happened,

opposite direction to each other

especially with bulls…I certainly

around the sleeping herd. After

miss it, but it’s a passing era. I

midnight the cows generally want

loved pretty much everything;

to get up and have a feed, they get

there is nothing that I would

hungry quicker and so they’ll get

change if I went back into it again.

up, or try too, so you talk to them

I think I’d just live the same life.

or stay near them so they would

I enjoyed probably every day, and

camp down again. The worst ones

especially when I was a jackaroo.

were the cows and the steers. The

Now it’s pretty dull around the

bull he’d have a sleep, he’d be quite

place not getting chased by a bull

happy to lay there.

any more! Sometimes I wish you

I was involved with night watching. Night watches were generally used when droving cattle, and you had no yarding point, so everyone had turns pairing off in two’s depending on the size of the herd to do a night watch. It depends on the number of stockmen, as to how many, hour stints you’d do. The evening star was one that you watched. You watch the movement of the Milky Way, and they knew where

could turn that clock back a bit.


Marshall Smith, Mingullatharndo Community, proof sheet of photographs by Claire Martin, 2014

Adrian Reggie Condon with his grand-daughter at Bellary Spring, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

Adrian Reggie Condon

My name is Adrian Reggie Condon,

I learned to ride a horse on a

born in Onslow, 1965… everyone

station called Kooline, I was sixteen

had to move to the coastal towns,

when I first learnt to ride a horse.

as there was no more work left on

I was always interested in riding

the stations.

horses, so the old man asked me

My mum was a cleaner on the station and my dad was a drover. Before my dad met my mum he was a drover during World War II. They drove the cattle from the Pilbara, down the desert through the Canning Stock Route

if I wanted to get on a horse, yeah, no worries, then I got frightenedthe horse was that high. I can feel the heartbeat of the horse and that horse can feel my heartbeat. The horse can feel that I’m frightened so that horse panicked and

to Meekatharra. One crew would

knocked me off. I didn’t want to

meet up with another crew from

get back on the horse, but with a

up in the Kimberley, two crews

couple of slaps on the back, I got

would go down together, they

back on there.

met the Murchison mob, and

The old people were strict, very

they’d walk across to Meekatharra

hard. They told me to do it, if you

so they can put the cattle on the train, send them down to Fremantle where the cattle got put on the ships and over to blokes in the war.

don’t do it, get back there and do it again, if you don’t do it, go for a walk, if you get thrown off a horse, get back on, if you don’t get back on, go back and wash the dishes!

Everybody says my father was the greatest horseman going, that’s where I got started; I love horses as well. My dad and my mum used to travel around from station to station doing cattle mustering. They had a horse and cart- they’d travel all around the Pilbara.

It was a very hard life. I remember someone was riding a horse, just for fun, my grandfather told him you get off, put that saddle on your head and walk thirty kilometres. We learn that you never be cruel to the horse. If you were not treating the cattle right, you get in trouble

When my dad’s would take off

again. A lot of cattles, you take

droving cattle they left all the

them away from their country,

ladies at home. Then it was left up

they take the sulk in their heart,

to my mum and her sisters to take

they’ll sit down, they won’t move,

over the horse riding, to keep the

that’s where they’ll stay. You will

station running. They used to love

always break their spirit when you

riding horses.

take them away from the country.


You have to treat them right to get

On Mount Stuart during winter, we

them into the yard, and into the

got up with ice in the morning. We


had to walk the horse round and

Last time I was out on the station near Wakathuni, me and a bull had a disagreement in the yard, I wanted him to go somewhere he

round the fire till he get warm, but it was alright, but with cattle when they see you, you got to hope to hell you can stay on a horse.

didn’t want to go, so I punched him

After a while it started being

in the ribs, he kicked me in my

seasonal work, it wasn’t work

arm and broke it. So, fair, fair.

around the year.


Adrian Reggie Condon at Bellary Spring, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014 139

Julie Walker

My name is Julie Walker and my

but you have to go right around

maiden name is Tommy. When

now, in those days it usually took

I was born in 1959 my mum was

us three days because we had the

actually working in Ashburton,

old Bedford truck then and we

they flew her to the Roebourne

would camp along the way from

Hospital because she was having

Ashburton to Tom Price.

twins. But my grandmother, who was working on Minderoo, her Aboriginal name was Nyneedee meaning singer (Maggie Bimba) already knew this was going to happen because she had a dream where this song came to her. At that time it was a bit unusual to have twins that survived.

Dad, his Aboriginal name is Nyimali (Yimalee) but he was known as Ashburton Tommy. He used to work for the well sinkers that put in the wells around Rocklea. On the map you’ll see there is a well spelt as Jupiter, you know, the planet? But the Aboriginal name is Juburrah,

My name is Walkayinya

which is, the name of a plant and

which means ‘belly button’ in

a spiritual place. A lot of the places

Yinhawangka and my brother’s

around there they got a connection

name, Pitithangu means dry leaf.

to us, and an Aboriginal name.

After mum had us we went to

Dad was a well sinker, and

Ashburton station, which is where

he helped Jack Harvey set up

I grew up. When we was about

Minner station, he did a lot of

five we was sent to Gilliamia

the windmills, at Ashburton and

Hostel, but we went home for the

Rocklea station, he did most of

school holidays. My mum also

them. He showed the pastoralists

worked around Ashburton, Mount

because when they first arrived,

Vernon, Pingandee, Milgun and

they didn’t know where the water

Mulgun. We used to go travel

was, or other resources. They used

down along the Meekatharra road,

dynamite to put up a windmill

and used to travel up and down to

and a water tank, in traditional


meeting places where people

Most of the time the welfare would

would get their water.

fly us to see her from Onslow to

On the Ashburton lease, mum

Minner station or to Paraburdoo

told me a story about a place there

airport. They would travel down

called Nymari Spring, now there is

the old road - Ashburton is only

a windmill and a tank, but there is

eighty kilometres on the old road,

a creation story.

Map of Ashburton showing the Native Well, Courtesy State Records of Western Australia 141

The little Nymari, which are

Bedford truck, my younger sister

the gate, knocked me down and

finches, used to be big birds

used to drive along the fence line,

took off. There was also a garage,

but they were mean with other

and he would go and walk every

and my brother got good with his

animals coming to get the water

now and then. About every half

mechanics because Les Hill would

so the Minkarla made them small

mile he would walk and pull the

take him there so he got used to

and said that they will never be too

wire through the fence and then

go fixing cars and things. They

far away from the water. So, if you

connect it and get me to spin it

used to do everything down on the

see Nymari, then you know water’s

on the spinning jenny. So, we just

station- you got to fix your own

not far away.”

spent our holidays doing this, we

cars and everything. Every Sunday

go all day till the sun went down.

we used to have ration day. When I

My old father took mum around

was little I thought the store house

and showed her where all the

When we were on Ashburton my

water places are, so she knows

old grandfather Joe Galby was kept

those windmills- most of them

down in the bough shed, a bit of a

are near a spring or a place

distance from the main house. He

At Ashburton what we had was

where there was always water. In

stayed in the bough shed which

really flash compared to what

1967 my old dad was granted an

we’d wet to keep him cool down

other people had in the stations,

exception under the NWA and was

there. I used to go down and take

cause we had hot water, taps and

eventually pensioned off, which

his supper. I remember when he

proper pumped water. We had a

was unusual in those days as

passed away, it was Christmas

proper shower, flushing toilets,

Aboriginal people didn’t have any

and we was getting’ ready for

and an old style hot water, system,

rights – that happened when he

Christmas dinner. This was the

with the wood. Compared to other

was about seventy-five years. We

only time we’d have golden syrup

stations Ashburton was long ways

then moved to the Onslow reserve.

and sultanas because that was

in front.

We used to live in a tent there,

the only sweet thing we had. I had

but he used to get a ration and

to go and take my grandfather’s

clothes as part of his pension. We

false teeth down. And then all of a

had a forty gallon drum in the tent

sudden I saw everybody rushing.

where he would put his rations in,

In those times people just got

people used to come there getting

buried where they passed away,

milk, sugar, tea and flour from us.

so we buried him in Ashburton

On the station we used to get up at four o’clock, we had the contract to do the fencing. And

Downs. He was a really good stockman, only a short man but he trained people how to ride horses.

was the best room, it was just full of food.

We grew up with my dad’s family, Frank they called him, was a woodchopper and his brother Henry was known as the Mount Vernon Stockman. Wood chopper was blind he would follow the pipeline from the Aboriginal camp to the main station homestead, chop the wood for the station owners and do the same for us.

at that time we were replacing

I remember there was a goat shed,

Every Sunday us kids, mum and

the wooden fence and poles with

I used to have to go and feed the

our aunties would go down the

the standards. My old uncle dad

goats. I didn’t like that ‘cause one

rubbish dump and have a look

Chuckeye Smith used to get me on

of them was really cheeky. The

around for bottles. I used to

the spinning jenny. We were in the

goat bumped me; it got out of

collect bottles because we never


had dolls and that’s how I cut my

some stones in the old Bedford

Wooldamunda, towards Pingandee

forehead because I was nursing a

truck and I went back to collect

and Top Camp, Marribah, in a

bottle. I slipped and fell, this was

them, I found my mum, aunty and

thunder storm. In the thunder

at Ashburton Downs, and this all

everyone in a circle crying for us,

storm the lightning strikes and

healed up by my aunty who used

that made me really sad.

his horse is bleeding, it’s all in

sweet potato peel; you boil it up and use it like a band-aid.

My mum stayed working on the station right up to 1974; she was

blackness and in the lightening flash he can see blood pouring, yet he still finds his way home.

My old aunty used to also collect

doing just about everything – a

coloured rocks. I used to collect

domestic cook, but mustering

He was saying y’know the country

them actually, she sent me out to

too. She told me about the first

has taken him because he can’t

the river, to get ‘em and she used

time they was using nylon rope,

see, it’s the dark, and all the rivers

to polish it with sheep fat. She had

because they never used that.

are starting to fill, to swell up and

all these things as her ornaments,

Mum had her finger ripped off

the flood is coming down. But he’s

and there was also a five gallon

when it got tangled up when she

travelling back, so I thought he

drum of sheep fat in her little

was roping the calf, and when the

must have had a really good horse.

house, but not much furniture.

calf bolted it got taken off, this was

They used sheep fat for everything,

at Pingandee station.

bread and puddings and stews; sheep fat went into everything. Sometimes they’d get things from the rubbish, old cupboards, but most of the time they put all their things it in those old little hessian bags.

My family was on stations for close to two hundred years. We go back

My Mum’s got a song about

to Ashburton every year for my old

that place on Ashburton called

grandfather’s anniversary, since he

Gobawarrah. She’d talk about

passed away in sixty five. He’s got

when they had the first plane

his own grave in the willow and

muster, and made a song about

he’s got a little fence around his

it. The woodchopper got a song

grave site, it’s a nice little spot with

I like about riding on horseback,

bush bananas growing there.

When we’d go back to school at

and it’s dark in the thunderstorm

the holidays, us kids would always

and when the lightning flashed, he

be really upset, but all our family

can see the blood pouring off the

would tell us that we had to go

horse. He talks about going back to

back. I remember once I had left

his country from Mount Elephant,


Corunna Downs 1906, Aboriginal shearing team, Photo courtesy of the author

Pastoral Paternalism in the Pilbara By Mary Anne Jebb AIATSIS Research Fellow. Mary Anne is a historian whose PhD integrated oral historical and ethnographic research methods with written documentary textual analysis to uncover histories of a region of Australia where few people recorded their experiences in writing. It was published as Blood, Sweat and Welfare in 2002, for which it received the Keith Hancock History Award. She has held academic lecturing and research positions at Murdoch University, Notre Dame (Fremantle), the University of Western Australia and the Australian National University.

While pastoral bosses differed

and allowed free pasturage

in their treatment of Pilbara

for their stock for the term of

Aboriginal people, there is one

twelve months from the date

thing they had in common from

of arrival therein, within which

the 1860s to the 1960s; they

time they may select runs not

all held localised power over

exceeding 100,000 acres for one

Aboriginal people far greater than

establishment, which they may

other employers. For many years

enjoy for three years, free of rent.’1

pastoralists saw themselves and the government saw them as owning ‘their’ Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people held some of their own power, even if it was for many years under duress. They knew the country intimately and became expert in the pastoral industry, and essential to the success of a pastoral venture.

These arrangements resulted in groups of lease holders combining to form huge pastoral runs of over a million acres including hundreds of miles of river frontages and water courses. In the 1880s and later, land acts and lease regulations were altered to allow leases of 50 years and eventually 99 years to 2015. The regulations

This paternalistic relationship

provided for Aboriginal people to

developed early in the Pilbara,

have access to the leases for their

supported by the Masters and

traditional hunting purposes,

Servants Act, land acts and

although access clauses were

pastoral lease regulations, and by

amended in the 1930s to only

the edifice of Aborigines and Native

unfenced areas.

welfare acts that came to dominate Aboriginal peoples’ lives and discriminate against their attempts to exercise their rights as citizens.

The 1862 terms under which the ‘new Territories of Western Australia’ were ‘open for occupation’ prevented convicts or

Pilbara pastoral leases were taken

ticket of leave holders from residing

up in the 1860s to occupy land

or working in the north west. By

ultimately owned by the Crown

the 1880s much of the land in the

but leased for pastoral purposes to

North West was under pastoral

encourage European occupation

lease and all stations relied on

and economic development:

Aboriginal labour.

Settlers are permitted on formal

The first systematic reporting to

application [which was often a

government on Aboriginal people’s

letter and description without

working and living conditions

survey] to proceed to the north

on Pilbara pastoral leases was


in 1893 when Charles Straker

two men women and children

report on a proposed new system

was instructed to tour north

working at Mindaroo Downs on

of general permits or group

western stations to make sure that

the Ashburton, 57 at Ashburton

permits which according to the

government rations of blankets

Downs, 17 at Boolaloo, 44 at

Chief Protector of Aborigines,

and flour were not being used for

Globehill, 67 at Nanutarra, 31 at

would provide minimal regulation

workers or for people who could

Uaroo, 76 on the Yanarrie River, 29

of living conditions and give

support themselves with bush

at Dairie Downs, 39 at Mt Hubert,

pastoralists the right to ‘secure the

food. From these reports a picture

and up to 300 on the De Grey River

obedience of their native servants

emerges of station work, station

stations. They received rations of

without continually calling in

relationships and government

flour, tea, tobacco and some meat

the aid of the police or resorting

attitudes and policies that endured

only when working and a set of

to more questionable means’.4

for the next 50 to 60 years. Each

clothes if they worked near white

Straker wrote that discipline was

homestead and pastoral lease,

men or women.

maintained on most stations with


regardless of size was accompanied by groups of Aboriginal people. For decades the Pilbara pastoral industry was a labour intensive open range system without fences, which relied upon natural watering points and on Aboriginal people to survive. At every sheep camp and homestead across the Pilbara, one or two white men, and very few white women, were overseers for hundreds of Aboriginal men, women and children who worked as shepherds, cooks, goat herds, firewood gatherers, water drawers, horse tailers, bullock drovers, horse breakers, and much more. Flocks of sheep were shepherded by small groups of Aboriginal men, women and children for months at a time following river frontages and water. On Mundabullangana station in the 1880s, water was drawn from 66 wells to maintain

At first Aboriginal people had been employed under the Master and Servants Acts in the Pilbara, but by the 1880s the government instituted a separate system of agreements for Aboriginal people under separate Aborigines protection

the threat of eviction and that there were fewer instances of violent punishment, with only an occasional thrashing of trouble makers. Most people, he wrote want to stay on their land and returned after their annual holiday and were ‘settling down’.

acts. The first in 1886 was partly a

Violence and conflict were

response to embarrassing reports

common features in the history of

in newspapers in Britain that

the region from the 1860s to the

a system of slavery and abuse

early 1900s, which together with

occurred in northern Western

the threat of being ’hunted off’

Australia especially in the pearling

were powerful disciplinary forces.

industry but also the pastoral

Incidents of extreme violence and

industry. There were reports of

multiple murders are recalled in

children as young as eight being

oral testimony and recorded in

chained and returned to employers

diaries and newspapers during

by police if they absconded, and

the period from 1860 to 1900

by far the majority of Aboriginal

when Aboriginal people were

people had no idea of what

learning the rules of the new

they had signed if there was an

regime. Pardoo, the De Grey and

agreement at all.

Oakover River areas, the central

hundreds of thousands of sheep.3

Straker’s secondary aim in touring

In the 1890s Straker reported forty

the northwest stations was to


coast between Port Hedland and Roebourne, the Burrup Peninsula, Maitland and Fortescue Rivers, the

Ashburton and Hamersley Ranges

‘gins’ who belonged to and identified

Aboriginal people in WA in 1934,

all experienced incidents that

with particular stations and

wrote that ‘full blood’ Aboriginal

helped to create a landscape of fear

particular bosses. They had grown

people on pastoral stations in

for Aboriginal people.

up with the pastoral bosses, learned

the north should be kept ‘under

their ‘discipline’, experienced

benevolent supervision’ of the

or witnessed punishments and

pastoralists, not educated or

humiliation and learned never

encouraged to leave stations and

to question the bosses’ authority.

their ‘tribal property’.7


Force and potential violence influenced relationships of interdependence, exchange and accommodation to work. Bush populations contracted toward increasing dependence on stations, with holiday seasons only when work was less intense. Aboriginal people’s lives began to revolve around white men’s camps and pastoral stations, and the pastoral routine. The conflicts of the past did not succeed in destroying Aboriginal culture but certainly severely disrupted it, and it is against this background of violence that Aboriginal people did their best to survive as a people. For those people who accepted the new regime and way of living with pastoralists and pastoralism, there were some benefits – comparative security and protection by the boss against being rounded up to work on a station outside your country or removed to a jail like Rottnest Island. For the generations who grew up on the stations many were selected for special treatment but it did not include wages or better living conditions. These were no longer the ‘bush blacks’ or ‘myalls’ as they’d been called for the first 20 years, but station ‘boys’, ‘house girls’ and

Key workers and their families developed a comparatively secure relationship on the stations and many helped care for the bosses children. They were rewarded with regular and reliable rations, unencumbered access to the lease, and holidays for law ceremonies or the races with new dresses, shirts and hats and some pocket money for the occasion. Leaders for Law were in every camp, singing, arranging marriages and punishments and ceremonies for initiation. Authority in the Law was displaced but not destroyed by the pastoral system.6 Legislation enacted in 1905, 1936 and 1954 again to ‘protect’ Aboriginal people through increased state control over employment and behaviour of Aboriginal people further entrenched the localised regime on pastoral stations and protected most northern pastoral station people from some of the interventions and institutionalisation that occurred for Aboriginal people living in other regions of WA, especially the south and metropolitan areas. Mosely reporting on the conditions of


People classed as ‘full blood’ Aboriginal were not entitled to welfare payments of any kind; they were the responsibility of the State as far as the Federal government was concerned and of pastoralists as far as the State government was concerned. Without equal wage status, or welfare payments Aboriginal people had very little choice about where they could live. They were only partially incorporated into systems of wages and welfare and needed to stay on stations where they were maintained. The western Australian government introduced an assimilation policy in 1951 to educate and encourage Aboriginal people to behave like white people and leave what was considered to be an Aboriginal way of life. Within this policy hundreds of part descent children were removed from their families and did not return. But it did not substantially alter its policy of supporting benevolent supervision on stations and the system of rations with pocket money, with

little education for children. This

stockmen, teamsters, horse

away from stations to towns to

system was maintained into

breakers and fencers. Some wages

visit children and exercise their

the 1940s and in some areas of

were also paid to workers who

independence, as well as reconnect

the Pilbara into the 1950s. As a

were part-descent people and

with others in town reserves who

result welfare Patrol Officers who

had become ‘citizens’ under the

had previously been limited in

arrived at some stations to remove

Native (Citizenship Rights) Act of

their ability to leave the stations.

children were turned away,

1944, and were no longer classed

The old system of cheap labour in

parents were warned and children

as Aboriginal and in need of

exchange for family and cultural

sent to the creeks to hide and

protection. They were able to enter

security began to crumble.

actively kept from state or religious

into contracts, own guns, join

institutions. The first mission in

unions, collect welfare payments

the Pilbara was after 1946.

like any other citizen, receive child

There was one major difference for Pilbara people, mining. In the 1880s gold fields were opened and Pilbara people began to work for the miners, and some prospected themselves. Pastoralists complained in the 1900s that station employees were

endowment and age pensions, go into pubs and work where and for whoever they liked. Some of these people also enlisted or were man powered to stations during the Second World War and entered a formal system of wages for the first time.

Pilbara Aboriginal people were for decades exploited as pastoral station labourers but they endured to negotiate a lifestyle that allowed them to survive a violent frontier period and to stay on or near their own land and families for many generations. This was the system that colonial governments’ supported and it was the system that was supported by

staying on the mining fields and

In the 1960s assimilation polices

State governments well into the

not returning to work as they once

began to impact upon pastoral

twentieth century.

had. Tin mining at Moolyella in

stations in the Pilbara and severely

the 1930s, 40s and 50s became

disrupted the old system of life

a significant industry for many

on the stations. Commonwealth

Pilbara people who would go to

funds flowed into the Pilbara for

the fields during their off season

Aboriginal welfare with access for

holidays and exchange tin for cash

all Aboriginal people to maternity

and rations. This alternative means

allowances, age pensions and

of survival was important in the

unemployment benefits also in

Pilbara, providing encouragement

the 1960s. Aboriginal hostels in

to the 1946 Aboriginal pastoral

Roebourne, Onslow, Port Hedland

workers strike for better wages

and Carnarvon operated in the

and conditions and an avenue to

1950 and 1960s catering for station

stay away from stations for years

children who would spend months


away from their families but many

Limited wages were introduced in the 1940s especially for skilled

returned to stations for holidays. In the late 1960s and 1970s, welfare payments and wages drew people


References 1. ‘Western Australia’, South Australian Weekly Chronicle, Saturday 6 January 1866, p. 5. 2. See especially Charles Straker reports, SROWA 0926/1893, Cons 495 Series 3026. 3. Jenny Hardie, (1988) Nor’ Westers of the Pilbara Breed, Hesperian Press. 4. ‘The Aborigines Department’, The West Australian, 28 October 1899, p. 39. 5. M. Allbrook and M. A. Jebb, (2009) ‘Hidden Histories; Conflict, massacres and the colonisation of the Pilbara’, Report, AIATSIS. 6. M.A. Jebb, (2002) Blood Sweat and Welfare, UWA Press. 7. Mosely Royal Commission p.4, in M.A. Jebb, (1987) ‘Isolating the ‘problem’: Venereal Disease and Aborigines in Western Australia’, Honours Thesis, Murdoch University.

Corunna Downs, 1906, Photo author’s collection

Marianne Tucker

My name is Marianne Tucker. I

one big quarter full gallon drum

was born in Roebourne in 1959. I

and one big spare tyre. We just

grew up on Mulga Downs Station

had to hang on, we’d go through

which is in my father’s traditional

old Wittenoom Road, which is still

land, the Banyjima people. I grew

gravel today.

up on Mulga Downs with my aunty, Elsie Tucker; she was a cook on Mulga Downs Station. When I was old enough to go back to schooling in Roebourne, I stayed at the Werriana hostel. Dad was working as a station hand, as a

the station, go and get our bush fruit, and bush medicine which you can bathe in and drink, it’s good for cold, good for asthma, and you can bath your sores in it.

stockman, and he stayed and

In the summer time we sleep

worked on Mulga Downs because

outside, during the winter time

he belonged to that country. Life

we’d make a big fire, sleep next to

on the station was very good in

that. My aunty had a little mia, it’s

those days, there was no problem.

still there standing today. I liked

We didn’t have any television, only just a radio. But all the time we’d get good stories around the campfire and that’s how we get knowledge from the old people. They used to explain to us, just our family, who we were related to, some funny stories too, but most of them were serious because my dad was very strict with us. We weren’t allowed to swear in front of him, not allowed to smoke, we had to go to school and stay in Roebourne at the hostel, ‘til the holiday time

Mulga Downs Pastoral Lease, Department of Lands and Survey, Courtesy State Records of Western Australia

On the station we’d walk around

to help a lot of the old people with my sister, we used to cook, and we clean the camp, rake up and get a bush broom, from the Gurlimba tree, we’d tie up the dry leaf then hit it on the ground and just let all the dry stuff out and we used to sweep, so we used a broom, y’know, old people showed us. My toy [was] a rusted old milk can! We used to put a wire through that. We fill it up with the sand, and we go around playin’ everywhere in the flat.

come, and there was a mail truck

I liked working. We had to boil the

driver named old Teddy Rogers,

hot water, we didn’t have a good

and his offsider’s name was Adam

hot water system. We’d fill up a

Gilby. When the old, people are

flour drum we used to buy back in

busy workin’ on the station, old

the ‘60s, that Dingo brand, and we

Mr. Rogers used to come pick us

used to make a fire and fill it up

up at the hostel. I used to get onto

with the water .

the back of the truck, it only had


The station owner help look after

have – apart from when Slim

put a goanna on there, kangaroo

our old people y’know? They have

Dusty and Buddy William used to

and thing, and he’s a put that trap

to go down and get a killer, down

come into town and play a show.

underneath that and he cover it

at the wool shed, they get a full

At the pictures, if we don’t have

up with the leaf and all that. And

sheep, or a fresh killer of meat.

money, we just sneak in, some of

when the dingo put his jina (foot)

And my brother was there, he’s

the old people used to go in with

there, well, he get caught.

the one who used to sit around the

a big blanket. ‘Cause I remember I

back of the station at the old wool

sneaked in a few times. Dad used

shed. He used to get all the killers,

to like going, that’s the only time

the owners, the Hancock family

we used to go in. We used to love

were there. When I was around

watching the cowboy movies.

then Mulga Downs then, that

Actually he named by brother

under the Hewson family, Jim and

‘Western’! And you wouldn’t

Dora Hewson.

believe his second name is ‘Kid’!

When we went back to town it

After Mulga Downs, we went and

out, sleep on the ground, nothing,

wasn’t very happy. We used to see

dad moved on to Coolawanya

couldn’t even make a fire ‘cause

all the people drinkin’, fightin’,

station. Sometimes, Dad was

it just rained all night! All us kids

y’know. Same thing you see today.

dogging. We would all put in the

were squashed up in the Land

I reckon the bush life was good. I

one little short tail Land Rover.

Rover. Once the sun rise and get

don’t know why they give up their

Bush tucker, kangaroo meat, and

up in the morning, we made the

job and…it was a better upbringin’

all that. Dad has to pick out a spot,

biggest fire going, we all lay down

then. We had a good life out in the

a certain spot where the dingo

on the ground have a big rest, next

station, because on Saturdays we

he go around, you know? He had

morning! Well that was only when

used to go out to the old picture

to dig a shallow hole where you

we was young and school kids. We

garden in Wittenoom. It was the

set up a trap, put all the leaves in

were used to it, you know, the bush

only entertainment we used to

there. Then he used to cover it up,

life and dad was happy with that.

He was a hard worker. We used to go out bush, none of us used to stay in the camp when he was dogging, we used to all go with mum and dad. Out on dogging run. ‘Cause I remember one nightit rained all night, during wintertime. We didn’t even get

Aboriginal Stockman breaking in a wildhorse, 1958, National Library of Australia 152

Eva Connors

My name is Eva Connors and I was

Later in 1959 mum had to move

born in Rocklea Station, Ashburton

to Onslow, we two kids had to

in 1948. My mother used to work

move as well. Before then we

all sort of jobs, cleaning the house,

were told, “you cant go to school

cooking and doing men’s work

because your Aboriginal,” and we

mending the saddle and cleaning

would think “Why? What is the

bridles. Dad used to be mustering

difference, we are all kids!” But

sheep and cattle. They would

then, all of a sudden we started

never whine about spending all

school, I was the age of eleven.

day chasing sheep or cattle and

From there dad moved from Wyloo

then getting up early the next

to Juna Downs Station not far from

morning to be gone all day again.

Wittenoom, so in 1960’s we moved

Us kids would never see dad until

to Roebourne school, because it

late at night. My mother was the

was closer to dad. We enjoyed

same, but mother was not far if we

school in Roebourne, but then later

wanted her, we used to go to the

we moved to the Nullagine mission

station house, and we used to get a

in 1962. My parents were still

feed from her.

working hard, building stockyards,

In 1950, the old boss sold the station to the new boss. Then we all had to move out to Wyloo Station. We stayed there; I don’t know how long, I was very young. From there we went to Kooline Station, working, dad used to do fencing, that was his main job, but when we were at Rocklea he used to do everything, dogging, doing fences, tank building, handling horses, breaking horses. All for food and clothes, they were happy to work the long hours, because they enjoyed it. They used to do droving from Rocklea to Meekatharra and put the sheep on the train to Perth. Later on, they did it with cattle too, put them on the train to Midland, to the meat place.


fencing, and windmills. On Rocklea we’d look after the elders with everything. “You got to look after the old people, they used to look after you when you were little, so it’s your turn to look after them”, my Mum told us. We were happy to look after them. Old people used to tell us yarns about working hard for clothes and food. It wasn’t until the 1950’s they started to get money, something like five bob a week. We used to think that was a lot of money, but when I sit back now and think, five bob! That’s not that much money! But, we never went hungry- we always had fresh meat. When dad was out droving, the boss used to kill a sheep for us, one for each camp so we all had meat.

Dad used to be gone three or four

the station and get a ration, or the

In the station we had a

months when he was, it was slow

boss would drop it out to us if we

groundsheet and blanket to lie

to drive sheep them from Rocklea

couldn’t make it.

down, and everyone would eat

to Meekatharra.

Dad used to have an old wooden

at the same time. We would put down the feed; everyone would sit

The camps used to be different;

truck, the tires never had a tube

the old people would have their

it was just hard rubber. We used

own tents. The kids would have to

to sit on the back of that, and it

go and collect fire wood for the old

was a rough ride! But we used to

people in the afternoon, and get a

enjoy going out to the rivers and

bucket of water for them, before

permanent pools on the weekend,

Lots of funny yarns, dad and his

they go to sleep.

go and get a kangaroo. We would

friends would tell us about when

We used to go to the station store

jump in the old truck and go

they was out dogging and they was

anywhere. We also had a little

riding all day looking for kangaroo,

tin-a-fruit with milk, and a curly

calf, the calf was always with the

but no kangaroo, no nothing, and

lolly, the one with sugar on top-

dogs, when the dogs used to jump

they said “Oh well, this station

that was our favorite. They used

off to chase kangaroo the calf was

man is rich, we will shoot a cattle,

to give us a box and it would last

right there with them! People used

get a meat like that”. They thought

a long time before we got to finish

to say “what’s wrong with that

we don’t get anything for our work;

it. We called it a sugar lolly; it had

calf.” We used say “he thinks he

we just work for clothes and food.

toffee in the middle. We never

is a dog!” It was funny when he

had clothes like today, we used to

got big, because he would still sit

wear boys clothes, because it was

in the back of the truck with us,

very hard to get girl clothes until

this big thing in the back with the

around 1949, then they started to

dogs and us! But when he died, we

get clothes for the woman. Mum

were all upset, we were crying,

used to make clothes and they

we got no more calf to chase the

used to get material from Onslow.


Rocklea is the station I remember

In 1962-63 I was in Nullagine

the sheep around a lot then in

the most, but we moved wherever

but after that I came back to

the drought, to places where they

the work was. Later, when I was a

Roebourne to get a job in the

could get a bit of feed, and to the

bit older, we worked on Hamersley

hostel, that is where I started

water as well, so you’ve got to

Station, my sister and I. We worked

work at fifteen. I was working

know where the water is.

for rations, just like Mum and Dad;

for fourteen dollars a week! I

the little kids they used to line up

knew what to do when I came to

for their rations too. Once a month

Werriana Hostel because I used

the boss would go to town and get

to do it in the station because my

supplies, then every Sunday we

grandmother trained me to cook.

for the rations, us kids would get

together, after it was all cleaned up we used to have a yarn around campfire that was when they tell us about our culture.

A lot of people talked about getting no money. The station people would say, “there is no money, because the wool price is down” or “we got a big drought and lots of sheep are dying, and that’s was why there is no money”. That was their excuse! They had to move

would come in from the bush to


It was a hard time, dad had to break in horses, and mend the saddle if it was broken, my mum used to do that, bridle and grease the saddle.

Andrew Malcolm Stewart, Mt Wittenoom Station, 1955, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia

The ladies got to do the cleaning

A rich mans’ daughter; blackfella

cattle, you got to have three spare

of the saddle, and grease the

showed her how to ride a horse!

horses, so when one get lame, then

saddle. First they used to clean it,

We used to love riding, you feel

you got another two for backup, or

clean the saddle with cloth, and

free, you can jump on the back of

you got to go all the way back to the

then you get the saddle grease,

the horse and you are gone! We

station to get another one, and that

and grease it up like that, polish

had a horse called Stocking and

takes a while so he didn’t like that.

it up like a car. Back then when

Jewel, they were cattle mustering

there was a job you got to work

horses, we were told, “Don’t ride

right through till you get pinkeye

that horse, it will kill you, it broke

(holiday), just imagine that!

that other man’s leg”, I said “don’t

Today I go back to some of the stations, but it makes me sad, the old stations that I knew are finished. I went back to my old

worry about that, we can ride it!” So I rode that horse, I never got broken leg, you got to know how to handle them.

When free rights came in, that killed our way of life, the station people had to send all the people back into town because they couldn’t keep them. I was told that everyone was allowed to go in the pub now, and I thought this is going to ruin our way of life.

playground to find the old fig

My dad used to show me,

Those days on the station taught

tree we used to climb, but that’s

mustering cattle. We used to do the

us “you have to work to survive,

all gone now. We used to walk

horses while the men go chasing

if you don’t work, you don’t eat”.

down the river, but that river is

wild cattle, we would take the first

Some people today call me today

all dry now, and the food we used

horses to yard and wait for the

‘old fashioned’, but I rather be ‘old

to collect in the river, that’s all

boys to bring the cattle in. It was a

fashioned’ than ‘new fashioned’,

finished too! We used to collect

long ride from the station, to bush

we had a really happy life in the

bush potatoes, white carrot, and

camp, and we had to take all the

station, never mind we didn’t have

wild onion, fill a bucket. Mum and

loose horses and supplies, you start

money, we were happy and we

Dad used to get wild honey, and

off in the morning and get there at

couldn’t see any trouble.

we’d eat grubs that are all fat.

dark. You go along slowly, you cant

I used to ride horses, in Hamersley Station. I taught Gina Rinehart to ride a horse; she couldn’t ride a horse until my sister and I taught her.

gallop the horse; you will tire him up so you got to go along slowly. My dad would get angry if anyone was cruel to a horse, they would get a hiding. When you are mustering

Joffre Gorge at Karijini National Park, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014 158

Nina Smith

My name is Nina Smith. I was born

Mum used to tell us she grew up

in Wittenoom, during 1961. My

on Rocklea Station. She reckons

parents worked around there and

they used to have an old Chinese

they are from that area. My dad

bloke who used to be the cook, he

worked in Mulga Downs station

taught them how to cook, how to

doing a lot of contract work and

sew their clothes. He was training

fencing on different stations. We

all the young girls. She’d talk about

lived out in the bush, in little

her life in Rocklea, remembering

humpies and dad just went from

when the half-caste kids got

the camp to work. Dad had a few

taken away, and she’d say that

blokes working for him. I was only

she was a lucky one. They used

around two or three years old,

to call the police the mounted

running around.

police, and when they used to see

I remember we’d go into Wittenoom for groceries and hospital, to meet other families or to see the pictures. It was strange to come from bush into town, we never had televisions back then, we were excited to watch a movie

them coming, my grandmother would yell out to mum “Quick, quick they are coming, run, run they’re coming!” They used to run to the river or head up the hills. Otherwise she would have been stolen. That’s the native welfare.

on the big screen. We used to like

When I was living around Mulga

going into town, and looking in

Downs, in about 1966-67, Dad

shops, seeing families who lived in

found work around at Cherreta

Wittenoom, and seeing different

Station and he did a bit of


mustering in Pyramid, you can see

I haven’t been back there for a long time… many years. We would just play around, in the wool sheds, and when it was shearing time, we’d watch them shear. We just love running around free in the country and swimming in the rivers. We used to call mum the gunslinger, because she used to go hunting with the gun, and she’d always have Pudding following her. She used to walk with a kangaroo dog.


his old cattle yards standing. He couldn’t keep us out bush anymore so we were placed in the Weeriana Hostel, and that’s how we ended up in Roebourne. Dad would still come in from working on stations and we used to go out weekends and most of the holidays from the hostel. We used to love being out bush. As soon as he’d come to pick us up we would say “Oh! Yes, dad’s here, we are going bush!” We used to enjoy cruising in the back of

the car and we’d go fencing with

started worrying about money.

us little things, and we had to take

him. He took us to places where he

When she finally ended up getting

whatever we were given, we knew

worked in Pyramid, Cherreta, and

a house she used to take us to the

our parents couldn’t afford much.

Cooya Pooya, he also worked for

old Red Cross shop in Roebourne

Karratha Station and some near

where we had to buy all our

Onslow, so he used to travel a lot.

clothes and shoes, all second had

I remember mum saying that they never paid for her work,

stuff. We never really had much in those days!

Mum always said to me, “you got to work to get something, and you have to learn to look after it, don’t just want want and want!” Mum and dad were very strict they said

only rations, clothes and food.

Today, I work in the school here

“don’t go on the dole, you got to

Sometimes they used to get

in Roebourne, and when I talk to

work, and don’t come and ask us

Shillings, Thrupence, a little bit

the young kids I tell them they are

for money”. I have good memories

of pay, but mum said they never

luck to have a nice playground,

to look back on and think about

used to worry about it, so long

lawn, and good buildings. When

how hard life was for mum and

as they got food. Mum said that

we started school we had nothing,

dad, it wasn’t an easy life. We

money wasn’t around much, and

we had to play with sticks and

have it hard today but it wasn’t as

that they just got all the things

stones and tins, our oval was

hard as what the old people went

from the station. They knew there

dirt, it was red dust, no lawn, no


wasn’t much money around. It was

buildings! When our families did

when they got into town that they

have a little bit of money they got


Ronny Roy

My name is Ronny Roy. I started off in Onslow schoolthat’s in the 1960’s. I left when I was fourteen or fifteen. I went and worked at the station with my father, because my grandmother

for me. Uncle Midjaling (Johnson Hicks), he saved me, pushed that bull away. I didn’t know what to do, really, that’s how I learned how to gallop properly, and that’s how I started.

said, “you can go with your

I been there two and half years.

Dad now.” I’d been with my

They call me a jackaroo, I used

grandmother all my life. Most of

to work for two dollars a week,

the time she was on the stations,

and that’s hard. In those days, we

Yaraloola, Peedamulla, and Red

had the old money, the pounds,

Hill, my grandmother used to

shillings, two bob. I spent it getting

work as a musterer’s cook, clean

surf, and soap, tobacco, everything

up dishes, make a feed. She had to

came from the station, soon

do breakfast, dinner, and supper,

the money’s gone, never made

work hard. I don’t think she made

anything, two dollar a week, little

any money for that, just used to

bit hard.

get rations.

I used to get up early, if you don’t,

The first station I been too,

they’d leave us there, asleep and

working, is called Hamersley

they’d be gone. We wake up, there

Station. I was about fifteen and a

would be no breakfast, saddle our

half. I had to learn how to ride a

horses and we had to figure out

horse. We went out bush and they

which way they gone, had to follow

gave me a horse called Bumble.

the track, all in the open country,

That’s how you gallop a horse,

by jingoes, they used to be hard

jogging around, falling off, until

with us. They never used to be

I got the hang of it. First thing, I

easy; they used to treat us rough.

went out bush, and they had all

Get up early, leave us there.

the cattle, the coaches.

Nelson Hughes was main man

We were at a windmill called

around there, David Stock, Barney

Bennet mill, way up in the hills at

Standard and Ginger Samson,

Hamersley Station, out in the flat.

they taught me. I never used to

I was on bumble we were rounding

stop working, never used to have

up the coaches and wild cattle was

a smoko, I didn’t like that. I didn’t

there chasing straight for me, I

want to stop, I had the energy.

didn’t know what to do. By jingoes,

They taught me how to ride a buck

that bull was coming straight

jumper, give me a lot of skills.

Ronny Roy at Dalgetty House in Port Hedland, photograph by Jetsonorama, 2014 163

We used to chase the cattle, jump

horses.” All us fellas can hear

fright, he jumped back, I was that

on, get off the horse, grab them

them, brraaa you can hear the bull

quick, the horse didn’t even know-

by the tail and put a handcuff

coming, we got to muster them.

I was like Bruce Lee. That goanna

on them. They taught me how to

We can see ‘em in the moonlight,

frightened me, I can’t even grab a

castrate them, brand them.

the biggest mob. One old fella said,

goanna now!

I was working with cattle then, the sheep was moved off the station because they found out too many cattle were breaking all the fences, so all the sheep was going right through and coming the other side, mixing up. He had two stations

“come on, let’s go.” He chase them, that’s in the gravel country, this one horse put his foot down and went tumbling so I went flying, a sharp stick was there, it just missed me, I was lucky, I would have been dead.

We used to carry our tucker in those saddlebags- along with a quart-pot, a whip, old rifle, to kill a kangaroo or something, when we got sick of eating beef, or an emu or goanna. But you can’t carry too many things, a bull might chase

so he sent them to Mulga Downs

Another time when I was with

you, when they get hot, they come

station, old Lang Hancock.

Marshall Smith I had a bugger of

straight for you.

I loved the horse riding, and going out bush, mustering wild cattle. We had to bring all the wild cattle, when we got enough- bring them right back to four mile, draft them all out, them old mickeys and the bulls, draft them all out, castrate them. Always a big mob, they had a fence there. Take all them there, maybe thirty of forty, push them into the paddock, all the little calves go back with their mothers. Two blokes and a rope, one bloke get the front leg, one in the back.

a horse, I didn’t like that horse, I tried to kick him he went straight back into this tree, going straight for me, but I went underneath it. Marshall thought I was going to get hurt. That’s a long way if you get hurt, this was up in the tablelands country. We used to work this side of Mount Herbert, put the yard down along there near the Black Ranges, wild cattle along there

he said. Anyway this one time, I went to close the gate, and forgot that horse was just standing in front of me and he kicked, I saw two legs either side of my head, lucky I was right in middle, he would have blown my head off.

out the back; I didn’t worry about

he gets savage he’ll chase you, the

money much.

bugger. I went working on Karratha

it. You draft them all out, the

this one bloke Sam Wheelbarrow,

calves and the mickey put them

give me goanna in this saddle

in the race. We used to love riding

bag, but they only half killed him.

the little calves me and Douglas

I was riding along, next minute


something grabbed me, I see the

cattle coming in, get ready, saddle

legs. “Don’t get behind the horse,”

Sheep not as hard as cattle, when

Back in the Hamersley station

cattle in the moonlight, “ a lot of

kicked by a horse, broke his two

too. I used to love it, nice country

I used to like the back leg. Lasoo

Once, we was mustering the

Old fella that saved my life, he got

goanna, ‘oh jingoe’ when that happened I jumped off the horse, before the horse knew if I was in front of him , horse got the biggest


Station after Hamersley; this was my first sheep station. I was still a teenager then. My grandmother was back at Peedamulla Station. At that time, Tom Price wasn’t even there, they was just putting a railway line in, but us Aboriginal people couldn’t get a job with them guys. We wanted to work, all us Aboriginal people like working.

I was willing to do anything, these

But, we never used to be silly, old

I worked at many stations around

days, any kind of work, plenty of

people were strict, everyone was

the Gascoyne- many used to be



sheep station, but it’s all cattle

I couldn’t get a job, us Aboriginal

Most of us Aboriginal people used

people had no right to get a job at

to be out on the station, that’s

the railway- until the free rights

where we spent our life. Then

came in. When free rights come

award rates come in you know– too

in, everyone was happy. I was at

many people was in the station,

the races in Wittenoom town,

biggest mob, they couldn’t pay the

meet a lot of people there. We was

people to stay there, that’s why

camping in the flat, people would

the people had to go into town.

say, “come have a drink with us.”

That’s when town buggered the

“No, too early for me,” I’d tell them.

people up. Round the Ashburton

First time I got drunk they had to

district, Kooline, Mount Stuart, full

carry me from the chair to my bed,

of Aboriginal people, every station.

by jingoes, I had a hangover, “what

They never got paid.

you fellas done to me?” I said.


now. We come in the 60’s we didn’t get rations, but it was still hard in those days. We were mustering on motorbikes then and everything changed. I was learning how to ride this bike. Motorbike you could get there faster, a bit easier. They got motorcars come in, helicopters come around now. Yanery was my last station. I miss the station life, miss all the people. We used to love the dance in my kid days, everyone paint up, and we had the dancing stick. I love those stations.

Alec Tucker The station people gave me the name Alexander, but I tell them, it’s Alec.

I was born on Mulga Downs

stove oven and I liked to eat the

Station in 1943, under the mulga

dough. I get in trouble over that,

tree. My older sister and brother

Mum get rough. I tell her I’m going

passed away, I’m the younger

with Dad.

one, the nyirri. I’m reared and born on Mulga Downs, grew up there. Started work on the station when I was around fourteen as a yardman.

In the house, where the boss is, that’s where the kitchen is, they cook there; bring all the food out to the camps. The breakfast they have at home, morning tea in the

All my life, Mulga Downs…George

bough shed, in the wood heap,

Hancock, Lang Hancock’s father

sit down there, sometime have

owned that station. We worked for

dinner…Lovely cake, and breads in

nothing, outrageous!? When I got

those old wood stoves.

up to my age, they started a pound a week, but we first start off with just a ration. The highest rate we went to was one pound, no dollars and cents. Worked there until I was twenty one…had my home there, mostly in the station, I was the head stockman, you know?

They cook there, the boss’ wife look after the old girls that cook, you know? Tell them how to cook a good feed for the boys, sweets and stuff like that…fruit, custard, you get them dried fruit in the packet and they cook that up with custard. You buy a tin of fruit from

My first job, clean the yard. Second

the shop - they had a lovely shop,

job, they put me down in the wool

everything there. It was on the

shed, shearing shed, do some

station, and opens every Sunday.

fencing around the yard, fix up the

The boss – the manager, used to

sheep yard. Gotta stop there until

run it.

I finish that job, if I do anything wrong, the boss will go and check it. “You gotta sit down here until you finish, I’ll be back again to check you,” he would say. Once you’re completed, then you’re right.

The old manager was George Derby, and he had a daughter, my playmate, we’d get into trouble. Binyarri, you know? Fighting…you know, kids. Grew up with a few whitefellas. The second boss, Reece

I get sick of the yard…I like horses,

King, he had a son and a daughter,

see? I like to be with them rather

so I grew up mixing. Happy

than hanging round with Mum.

childhood, happy memories…

Mum and I don’t get on, you know

go down the creek, Estate Creek

they used to make a cake in the

used to be there, not far from the

Alec Tucker in Tom Price, photograph by Jestonorama, 2014 167

homestead when it rained, it would

Do the last run, summer time,

mix them up, whitefellas and all.

run and that’s our swimming pool.

just about Christmas. Winter time

We had a lady with us, didn’t know

Lovely childhood! Old people had a

comes around and they are back

we had a lady with us! She dressed

great time, they sit down and sing

for shearing, that’s another muster

up like a stockman, hey, we got

a corroboree every night, happy

going to two lots of sheds, Mulga

one lady here!

old people, sit down, round a fire,

Downs and Cowra Outcamp.

yarn. But I’m not allowed to be there, they kick me out. “You’ve got your own room, you go there,” they said.

By the time you’ve finished, its races, Wittenoom, but Roebourne first. We got it all exactly right, when you finish the last muster,

Gramophone, wind up that old

last sheep, we go back home, take

one, 78 records. Slim Dusty. I used

all the shoes off, get ready, clean

to argue with the old people who

up, go to the races, that was fun.

bought this and they said this will

Races different to races now, they

keep you busy, stop you arguing

used to have station horses. I

with Mum and Dad. It only had one

used to be a trainer. Some of the

needle, but the needle gets blunt,

whitefellas used to have a horse

you can’t get any needle. Blackfella

in town, but they leave it in Mulga

got a knife, sharpen him up, that’s

Downs station. I gotta go look for

how it is. Life in the station. Hard

his horse, train him up, look after

life, but happy people.

him. We use him for shearing,

I went to the muster camp then, and stayed in mustering. There were two lots of mustering, winter time shearing, and summer time tailing. When they’ve done

mustering, to get a bit of weight off him, train him at the same time. Take it in for him, leave it in his yard. That’s how it was in the station.

But jeez, some of those ladies can ride. Stockmen race was just for station people. Might be Coolawanya, Mount Florence, Mulga Downs. Only place that never bring a horse was Hamersley, we had a race horse in Mulga Downs, belong to the station, two horses. Mount Welcome, they come up, have their own race horse. Good times, Aboriginal people used to come from there, meet up…we know other people coming too, from Roebourne, from other stations, Marillana, Roy Hill, used to be a separate camp, Roebourne, then us, we know each other. Roy Hill and Marillana Station they camp one side. We all get together and have a talk at the race course

that they knock off, they call it

There was the Gymkhana too; they

the ‘pink eye’, go holidays, see?

have stockmen races, all sorts of

They tell the station owners,

races. Stockmen have a foot race,

the squatter that its ‘pink eye’

a running race. Jump in the bag,

time, every station they use that

hop along, policeman he knows

word. We stop in the bush, near

Alec see, lining up for foot races,

a windmill, we tell the boss that

all the boys lined up, he pulled me

we’re going down to the windmill,

out. “You come back, come behind

round the back, in the creek, and

a bit, you cheating here,” he said.

have a corroboree, yarn there. No

We gotta line up; he’s always the

going to town, and we never used

first one! You get some prize, some

to worry about drink. Just bush.

gift for you, kids do the same. We’d


though, enjoy the activities there. Cards were the main one for the old people. Two-up, we young fellas, we never joined up in them, we keep to one side, we play music, sit down. Old Kenny Jerrold, my gadja, he was with the music fellas that Roebourne mob, we were the music people too, we had guitars on the station. We sit down, have a yarn, we’d wander down,

something like a merry-go-round

car. Aboriginal people they don’t

skill we have, then I change to

in the town and we’d go there.

like that whitefella, they probably

Roebourne, worked at the Mobil

Course, we’re not allowed in the

spear him and kill him in those

Station, those were free rights

pub at that time.

days. They only like certain people

time, they come in about ‘65, you

that belong, real old timers, they

know. I was in the Mallina Station

say, alright, you’re my friend, don’t

at that time; I got a job in Mallina,

like stranger whitefella, never seen

Croydon, Canes Well, those were

them before. Poor old fellas.

owned by John Stickney. At that

Everybody dressed up like a stockman…stockmen clothes, stockmen shirts, everything from the station. RM Williams stuff,

time we had sheep and cattle. We

you’ve got to order it, any trousers,

This old fella, my old uncle,

stock man cut. I was a stockmen

bushman, can’t speak English

when I was fifteen, jumping on

much, they had a spring cart, and

horses then, you know. I was

one of them shafts was broken, in

training a horse too, teaching, I

the bush. I was only a kid then, I

was trained by the old people, you

thought we stuck here, we’ll never

know, how to break a horse in….

get going, then I seen an old fella

Old people, Paddy Long, my Dad,

get an axe, chop the mulga tree,

the old fellas they break a horse in,

come back, made a new shaft,

they teach us, see? We used to get

going again. They used to be pretty

teached by them, rough and tough.

good bush mechanics. I seen an old

We started going back to the

It wasn’t kind words. “If you don’t

fella make a jillerman (gun) .22,

reserve in Roebourne and Onslow

get on a horse you’re not worth

single shot, one stock was broken,

too. It was very strict with the

anything…..If you want to be a

old fella got an axe, chop the tree

government then, police, welfare,

stockman, you got to learn to listen

and make him up. Very crafty.

they would come and ask you

and obey, when we’re gone, you fellas got to take over” they would say, “we tell you, you listen….and if you get chucked off, just shake the dust off your clothes, get back on again, if you don’t, you get out of the yard - if you want to learn, no shaking to get on.” They used very strong words.

At Mulga Downs the head stockman used to be Aboriginal fella running the camp…then they changed; bring a whitefella in, some good, some bad. Get in the boxing ring with them, we had the biggest fight. Old George Hancock was very straight, because he been a binyarri with blackfellas, when

When we had ‘pink eye’, we had

he first came in, he binyarri with

to light a fire, that’s a custom you

the blackfellas. Some of them were

know, for Aboriginal people that’s

good old ringers, good boxers, you

their telephone, it says, we coming.

know, old fellas.

White fellas, he different in the early days, they drive a motor

Station work, that was the only


learned shearing from back in Mulga Downs, you’ve got to shear twice a year, shearing time, get shared by shearers, second time, tailing, lamb tailers, Aboriginal people did that because no shearers, it was a hard job, ram had a big horn, and pretty heavy too, and they kick.

questions. “Are you on holiday”? They would ask. “Yeah, two weeks,” I’d say. “Well, once those two weeks is up we want you on the mail truck,” they’d tell us. Otherwise they’d charge you for vagrancy. “You’re not allowed to bludge around there with the pensioners”, they’d warn us. “Hey, they are my family,” we’d respond. “You’re young fellas, you got to go work,” policeman said. That’s how strict they were.

In our heart, we, say, we love the station. We have stations, at Onslow, Peedamulla, we can swap around. You think about those good memories when you were a kid, with your mum and dad, with the old people, you can get their picture, sitting around the camp fire, go around storytelling in the country, travelling and the waterholes, we could do all that.

Alec Tucker in Tom Price, photograph by Jetsonorama, 2014 170

May Byrne

May Byrne: My name is May Byrne. Andrew Dowding: Where were you born?

Yes, they did. They were out at Glenn Florrie Station as that is why my sister Munyi and I were in Gillamia Native Hostel, because

May Byrne: I was born in Onslow,

our parents were out on the

1959 at the old hospital, but that’s

Station. The Native Hostel was

no longer there and I stayed on the

for children whose parents were

reserve. My mum was born near

working out on stations.

Paraburdoo, at Rocklea Station. All the people from the tableland moved to Onslow and surrounding stations. There was nothing at the old reserve, they only had one house (government house) people used to just live in the sandhills. Native Welfare then issued tents and they started building the houses on the reserve.

Johnny Rolston owned Glenn Florrie station, he was the pioneer of cattle aerial mustering. Me and Munyi s first plane ride was on his plane “Moonie”, we’d be on the flight to Onslow for schooling. Everything looked like toys up in the air, we could see the tank, windmill and my father with all the other workers mustering.

Sharmila Wood: And how come

Johnny Rolston swooped down and

Banjyma people were living in

threw a note wrapped around a


rock below to them.

May Byrne: Most of the families

Andrew Dowding: So it sounds like

moved to Onslow or Roebourne.

it was pretty exciting.

My grandmother’s younger sister, nana Alice Smith and her family were the last to leave the stations, they were on Juna Downs and grandfather Nelson Hughes and his family left Hamersley Station in the 1980s. Station life was very

Yeah, we got on well with their kids, I still keep in contact with Michelle Rolston she worked for a heart surgeon and now owns a ranch in California, teaching riding.

hard but people liked living on

Sharmila Wood: What else do

their land.

you remember about being on the

Andrew Dowding: So you were


born down in Onslow and then did

May Byrne: Lots of things. It was

your mum and dad work on the

a very pretty station, with date

Stations after that?

palms and rivers all around it.

May Byrne at her property photograph by Jetsonorama, 2014 173

I used to just walk off on my own,

Sharmila Wood: So was your mum

Kooline Station and Ashburton

not far, looking for bardies. I used


Downs Station.

May Byrne: Yeah, she used to go

Andrew Dowding: And who did

to work at the house there and on

you guys visit out there? Or what

Stations too, they used to cook in

did you do on those weekends?

to go digging for bardies up near the airstrip. I use to go around chasing the spinifex pigeon, I chased one there because they’re good eating, because they land and get up and land, you can follow it

the English way. They learnt that too, the old people.

May Byrne: On Ashburton Downs Station my mum’s older sister

easily and I was chasing this bird,

Andrew Dowding: How do you

aunty Lena Long and her husband

going up on top of the hill and

think they went doing that?

uncle Henry Long were there

I saw a grave there, when I saw

Changing from cooking outdoors

and their 2 sons, they used to get

this I got frightened and I rushed

to cooking in the oven and stove?

excited when they saw us.

back home, yeah and left that bird

May Byrne: Well the old people

Sharmila Wood: So, where were


loved sitting around the fire, they

you living on the station?

Eric Rolston was only nine but he

didn’t have gas until the 1970’s but

was allowed to drive the station

they use to get us to light the gas.

car, a Volkswagen, and all us kids

Sharmila Wood: So on the

it was only our family who stayed

would jump in and go up to two

stations, did your mum make your


mile creek- no adults.

clothes for you?

Yeah, another incident happened

May Byrne: Yeah, she used to

inside the shearing shed, did you

when we were in Glenn Florrie.

make shift dresses. I used to see

guys sleep on cyclone beds?

Johnny Rolston used his plane

her on the ground there, you know,

to search for two boys who were

just cutting it out.

missing from Red Hill Station. They were walking to Mount Stuart Station. He came back and gave the news that they both

Andrew Dowding: And so how old were you when you guys came off the Stations? Were you school age? May Bryne: Yes, we were school

mums’ older sister’s son and the

age then…. We lived on the reserve

other was my young uncle.

with the now new houses with my

really young at that time on Glenn Florrie?

shearing quarters in Glenn Florrie,

Andrew Dowding: When you say

perished, one of them was my

Andrew Dowding: So you were

May Byrne: We used to stay in the

dad working at the local garage. The local garage was a contractor for taking Station mails and food out. I went on a trip with my dad,

Yes, the Station owner children

he couldn’t read and write, but

and us got on well, we used to take

they would stack the mail for each

them looking for Ngudgarla (bush

Station, first one was Mount Stuart

gum ) lollies off the trees.

then onto Wyloo and then onto


May Byrne: Oh no, we used to have we used to sleep on the ground outside with a calico ground sheet. Andrew Doding: So pretty rough? May Byrne: Yeah, we had a rough life! We had no mattresses either in the old reserve, but they were happy memories!

Sharmila Wood: So what was it that you liked most about the station? May Byrne: I loved the bush, because I was so happy in the bush, you know? That is why I am living out on my country in the bush‌ so peaceful.

Junba, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014


Peter Henry Derschaw

They used to always say I was

time and lived life pretty hard,

born in the 1942 blow. Today, they

like during the winter mustering

call it a cyclone. I was born on the

season when we had to get up at

station, and followed my father

daylight and finish dark you know?

around on the stations, and then

It was 4.00 am ‘til dark. But that

he actually got a job at the Comet

was only six months of the year.

gold mine out at Marble Bar. I sort of grew up there, and I went to school in Marble Bar. I don’t know what for, but I went to school. I didn’t learn anything, that was at Geraldton High School. I was waiting as a apprentice diesel engineer, but I started working on the station in 1957 and I ended up preferring the station life. I was on Muccan Station along the De Grey River. We used to check the windmills and muster sheep during the winter season. We’d be on horseback.

run and clean the trough. We had to clean the troughs every couple of days because the sheep didn’t like dirty water. I’ve been in and out of everything, until 1963, that’s when I left the stations completely. I liked working on the station. That was the only thing at that time. If you didn’t work, there was no such thing as Centrelink. We didn’t know anything about that until I turned about thirty. We earned about three pound eighteen and we managed to live with that. The

My dad’s mother’s brother sold me

only thing we could get on the

a horse from Warrie Station and

stations was Cabin or Champion

the horse came off the Fortescue

tobacco until we got to town, and

Marsh. I used to ride horses when I

then we used to buy all types of

was very young. And the horse was


named Swagman. But when I went to Geraldton High School I took the horse to Limestone Station, and I haven’t seen the horse since.

Peter Derschaw in Port Hedland, photograph by Jetsonorama, 2014

We also had to do the windmill

We never used to ride without spurs at that time and I had to ride buck-jumping horses. I was good at it…six months of the year was

The manager at Mucken Station

on sheep, then when the weather

was Dave Schillings at the time. I

got hot, we had to go on the cattle

was only there seventeen months

side, that’s on the east side of

before I moved to Warrawagine,

Warrawagine. All the cattle could

but you know, the time used to be

come out of the hills, you know,

very slow in them days, not like

and go down on to the river flats.

today. Maybe because we worked

We only had horses to round them

hard sitting in the saddle all the

up with no airplanes to drive ‘em


out from the hills. We had to set

get up onto the horse, more or

onto the horse. That’s how I get on

fire to logs around the rock holes

less break the horse in while we’re

a buck-jumping horse very quick.

and things to get the cattle down

sitting on their back…mules were

Use your knee, not just swing and

into the river flats. We have to be

the worst. You got on a mule in the

swivel around on your stirrup.

waiting all the time for them…

morning, you couldn’t get off him

we was the outside musterers, the

until you got back to the camp at

ones to bring the wild cattle in. A

night, because if you got off them

lot of times, when they are getting

out in the paddock, you’d never get

close the cattle break out, so we

back or you’d have to walk all the

had to chase him and tip him over,

way by yourself.

cut his horns and whatever else, you know? Then bring the coaches and let him go, untie the mickey straps, wrestle them, jump off the horse. The moment they broke out, like the fresh bull, you couldn’t let that bull tire…you had to catch them while they were more or less in full flight, and then catch them off balance, and tip them over by the tail.

horseman, but I’ve never ever seen them mount a horse the correct way…If I showed a person now how I was taught to get on a horse, they’d laugh at me…There were a

We used to get a lot of good riders.

lot of stockmen in Warrawagine,

Some of them, well almost all of

real top-class, and they was all

the Warrawagine horses there,

Aboriginals. When the white

they used to buck a lot. We used

jackaroos used come and see how

to get jackaroos coming up. they

we’d mount a horse and things

would go and get a job, but they

like that, they never expected to

couldn’t ride these horses. So I

see, how quick we used to get on a

used to end up with one for every


day of the week because I galloped them every day to bring the wild cattle into the coaches. A lot of

I’ll tell you we used to get ten bob

people had four, some of them only

for every trucking cattle - I got

had two, and I always had one for

thirty three, and the closest one

every day of the week because

to me was twenty, so I was pretty

I could ride ‘em, you know, the

good at the game. Well I went

rough ones, the buck-jumping

there ‘round about ‘58, and I left

ones. My horses never used to

there when I turned twenty-one.

get tired because I kept changing

I had my birthday on the back

every day.

of a horse.

A lot of people say they’re a good

There were never too many white people, sometimes the musterers cook, but the rest of us is all Aboriginals. Especially mustering wild cattle, we never used to have a jackaroo muster, it’s too dangerous….I’ve seen bulls ripping horses to pieces. That’s why we stopped having white people with us in cattle camp, because they face up to a bull. Well, that bull is

With the buck jumpers you had

very quick. I see it jump like that

The horses we had to ride, if there

to get onto the saddle before they

before the horse could move. Yeah,

was ever a movie camera, the

could buck. But I had a good way

not a good sight….but what a bull

things we used to do, and still

that I was taught, to heel-lock the

can do to the them!

survive today…no one would

horse and have your rein folded up

ever know, only I do and no

the right way, and the horse’s head

other people that’s still alive…

would be more or less under your

Sometimes we had to leg rope

shoulder. You put your knee into

them and put the saddle on, and

the shoulder and swing from there


So you had to be very experienced, if a bull break you have to be on him straight away to knock him before he tires, but if that happens,

and he is tired you go got no

We never carried anything with

were no buildings around the race

chance of throwing him. When

us, and a lot of times, we never

course then…we had to lock them

we got desperate to get enough

used to bother about eating. In

up at night. We had to build a yard

truckin’ cattle, then we would use

the rough country, you know, the

that used to hold them overnight,

all these different tricks you can

horse would lose a lot of shoes. In

but we used to camp there, near

take your hat and fling it like that,

our saddle bag was a horseshoe

morning time around the race

and he’d go up to that and we use

hammer, nails and horseshoes.


ropes and different thing.

A lot of times you had to pull up,

I used to like mustering wild cattle better than sheep, because sheep was too slow, but once they got into the coaches the wild cattle, it would take them two or three days

you’ll feel the horse limp a little bit, jump off, knock a shoe on and off again. We had to keep up with them wild cattle…it used to be a very quick job at that time.

At that time, there was a lot of these bunkers built during war time that you’d crawl in, you know…well that’s all covered over now. We used to sit in those old fox holes because the wind

to calm down. I tell you they were

We couldn’t fit much in our saddle

used to be very cold in the winter.

very slow to drive along, you know,

bag, lunch in there, and chunks

Usually, we sat on horses and not

from camp to camp. So we had

of salted meat and we had to just

inside a house.

special people doing that, but we

tear it open. We’d eat it as we’re

was always on the outside, in case

going along.

we find more wild ones and bring them in.

They bought the bull buggies in around about ‘64 or ‘65 maybe.

We would never see the station

That’s why I left, I knew that was

owner but on the cheque we used

happening. I caught the tail end of

We used to have a cook and old

to get under the signature was

the good station days, without the

Austin truck, they used to set up

‘Trustees of Mark Rubin’. So he

helicopter and bull buggy. And the

camp in any new area that we

was the owner. I’ve never ever

sheep, the wool price dropped here

came into. We used to sleep on the

seen him. His son was around a

and they were getting rid of the

ground, we had our own swag…eat

few times.

sheep as well. There was nothing

out of a plate, no tables or chairs. In the mustering camps, we had a cook and a yard man to keep the fire going, and collect wood.

All the cattle would ship out of Port Hedland. And we used to tail the put on the ship, around the race course. There


really left on the station for me because I was a horseman…It’s all done, and I’m not going to stand around just opening the gates.

Photograph of Peter Derschaw as a young man, photograph by Jetsonorama, 2014

Amy Coffin

My childhood name is Amy Coffin.

Derschow, by hand, it was like a

I was born in Redcliffe, well, that’s

washing machine used to be white

what they used to call it then. My

as anything. I was moving around

grandad started the station there

all the time, until the first job I had

and he died- poor old fella. I was

when I was on the station with my

born in the cart shed, out on the

aunty, they would give me shoes,

station, these days BHP has got a

or a hat. The only place I got a

canteen there. I left when I was

pay was for ten shillings, then I

three years old. I’m eighty eight

got a raise, it was for around two

now. We had four brothers but


they’re all gone, only five of us left now out of six girls.

I used to get up about three o’clock in the morning, cooking

We went to Western Shaw,

for about forty people, especially

prospecting around with a horse

at mustering time. I used to go

and cart; we went past Hillside

get the bread, mix it up, go and

Station, right out to a place called

do the washing, cook breakfast.

Tippleton, rolling around like

The boss got smart, and I walked

gypsies. They used to get gold and I

out, you see. I just took off. On

liked using the tomahawk, but once

the weekends they’d let us go into

I chopped my cousin’s finger, and


she had blood coming out. I wasn’t left alone after that and they took away the tomahawk.

I was at Woodstock with mum, my husband rode a bike down to Woodstock, he was on Mulga

There was no playing with dolls,

Downs but he had a fight with Lang

but climbing trees instead. Once

Hancock. Les was cousin for Lang.

I found a mud lark nest with my

We got married; he’s back on the

sister. Mum and dad was on the

horse and straight out in the bush,

other side of the hill, working. “Let’s

kids crying out in the background.

get up and get the mud lark, have

My husband rode a bike down

a look at it,” I said. “No dad might

to Woodstock, he was on Mulga

see me,” she replied. “No, I’ll watch

Downs, but he had a fight with Lang

out,” I assured her. She climbed up

Hancock. It was wartime when we

the tree, and I told her to throw it

were married; the Japanese bombed

down, as soon as it hit the ground

the airport in 1942, that’s why I

the birds were finished.

couldn’t come in from Woodstock

As I got older they used to send me to the station. I’ve never seen women wash clothes like Nanna Amy Coffin in her Port Hedland home, photograph by Jetsonorama, 2014 183

to have Peter. When we used to hear a plane we’d run for our lives, duck behind the bushes.

I wasn’t working then. When he

boss left cool room open- Maggie

White flour bags, hessian, we used

was born, we waited and waited

was the worst. Maggie, maggie

to boil them and I’d sew them with

for the shearing team to come,

its open. Singing out. The Mrs,

my hands, sew clothes, my dress,

early morning in the big ’42 blow. It

right behind, I come to shut it. Oh,

just about end of the war we was

flooded town, water went right up

heavens, she nearly dropped dead.

still giving coupons then. Women

to the bar. We were sleeping out in a tent, under a bough shed. My Dad used to cart sheets of iron and then just put bushes and Spinifex on the side, used to be cool.

This old man, old Scotty Black used to be out the doggers, we used to have Sunday off. Oh, I know them. We could have lunch home, boss, Amy, did you make a cake for

used to dress like the men. I do crocheting, some lady showed my sister and I’ve carried on. I used to knit too. But there were no knitting needles during the war. I used to make my own knitting needles

Dad used to shoot all night, my

Scotty to take bush? No, well you

brother and I used to get up, skin

can go and do it. I had to go and

all the roos and hang them. I don’t

cook this cake. I put all the herbs,

Strikers used to have plenty of

know how much we would get; I

spice, put it in that cake. Make one

tucker, tins of jam, couldn’t read

never used to handle money. They

for the boys out back too, made

had to open it to find out what was

used to paint it with brine. In our

another one. What happened she

inside. They were striking for a

T-model Ford, we’d tie ‘em up and

gave the wrong cake away to Scotty

long time.

the truck used to get them. First

Black, he was stuck one with the

pay I got was one dollar, cooking

backfired on us badly.

for forty people, with no washing machine.

Used to get gold, tin, knew how to work. Station people said they’d

Oh, we did alot of funny things.

starve, but they had so much

Sometimes the manager’s wife was


We used to get sheep meat on the

around, used to have fun trying

station, we had to kill the sheep

to dodge her. I used to sew, break

to get the dripping. At Bonney

the needles, with hand and foot-

Downs we would make a roast, or

machine. Every time they go away

a stew, lamb fry. They used to kill

we’d get into the phone, wind it up.

a bullock, I would dress that on my

Sometimes ring, Nullagine just to

own. Hang it up there to sit, go out

be a nuisance, other ones had no

mustering, cut it all up, that’s all

phone anyway.

they had.

from fencing wire.

We used to like going across the

They used to have a lot of sugar, go

sandy creek and jump onto the

in with a knife, chop it up, we used

spokes and go for a ride. We used

to run out of sugar, Aunty Maggie

to live on pig melons cook it with

used to jump through the window,

sugar if we had sugar put it in

another time they had box of eggs

the meat for veggies, biggest mob

there, all her foot was full of eggs.

everywhere. They wasn’t wasteful

Blame the tom cat. When they’d be


sitting having dinner, we’d be The

Amy Coffin as a young woman on the station, photograph by Jetsonorama, 2014 184

On the way to the shearing shed, Minderoo Station, around 1914, Forrest Family and Minderoo Station, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia

Black Eureka! Jolly Read, Author, Kangkushot, The Life of Nyamal Lawman, Peter Coppin and Yandy, the award winning play about the 1946 strike. On a winter’s day in June 1863,

event was recorded in the journal

ore industry that developed across

three Kariyarra men set off from

of the government surveyor,

the rich Pilbara spinifex covered

camp to a nearby mangrove inlet

Ridley, who wrote that both parties


on the north west coast bounding

‘making friendly signs, advanced

their traditional country and the

towards each other, but their

vast Indian Ocean.

courage failed them when within

They called this place Marapikurrinya and because of three reliable fresh water soaks in

two or three hundred yards of us, the natives made off for the sandhills’.(2)

Those first recorded shared ‘friendly’ gestures quickly transformed into the heavy hand of authority as squatters and explorers ventured north, staking claims over the Pilbara lands that

the area it was a popular meeting

On that day, June 23rd, unbeknown

for 60,000 thousand years had

place. In the clear turquoise

to those three retreating men,

belonged to 31 traditional language

harbour waters, fish of all varieties

Marapikurrinya was already lost to

groups successfully living within

‘were teeming and along the banks

them. The government navigator

sophisticated social, religious and

of the mangrove creeks, where

on board, a man named Hunt, had

cultural systems.

the beautiful jabiru stalked, they

decided to name the harbour after

found crabs and oysters.’ (1)

Hedland. From that day onwards,

The men were standing in the surf fishing with their spears – as their ancestors had done for millennia - when they were confronted by a bizarre sight. It was like nothing they had seen before. A wooden barque with four strange figures, men like them but fully clothed and, astonishingly, white skinned, were standing on the deck as the boat entered and dropped anchor in the inlet that Captain Peter Hedland had first sighted two months earlier. The

the Kariyarra men’s lives - along with the destinies of thousands of Aboriginal people across the ancient and wide Pilbara lands were to change forever. Marapikurrinya became Port Hedland and in the next 50 years it was developed by the colonists from the Swan River Settlement 1700kms south as the main north west port for its sheep and wool industries, later cattle and finally 100 years later, the major exporting port for the massive iron

Just 38 days after Hedland’s Mystery dropped anchor, a young man named Charles Nairn carved his initials into a white gum growing on a river bank, marking the first white settlement of the north west at De Grey station. Tragically for the traditional owners, within a few short decades vast tracks of land in the country they called Pilypara - meaning dry country in the Nyamal and Banyjima languages - were taken up by the squatters and their lives became subject to the restrictions and laws enacted by the colonial

authorities now in charge of

dirt floors, while others had their

because the boss used to have a

Western Australia. Those laws

children forcibly taken from them

meeting about the blackfella, every

were often brutally implemented

and sent to institutions under

place, everywhere, and maybe

to protect the squatters’ interests

harsh government policies that

another whitefella say, “Oh, they’re

and the so-called ‘pioneering spirit’

nominated local police as their

happy. They’re used to it, so keep

came to mean murder, sickness,


them like that.” Maybe they used

dislocation, cultural extinction and slavery for the Aboriginal people living in their distinct communities along the coastal lands, across the rust red gorges and ranges and into the Great Sandy Desert.

Pilbara Aboriginal people – like

to talk like that to keep us down.

Indigenous people everywhere -

‘It was cruel. My word, it was cruel

were not counted as citizens under

all right.’(5)

Australian law and by the early 20th century they had become virtual slaves in their own land.

By the mid 1930s, people were beginning to resent this disparity and their lack of freedom and

Top Nyamal Lawman, the late

wages. There was a growing

Peter Coppin – or Kangkushot

undercurrent of resistance and

as he was known – recalled: ‘...

discontent and eventually a white

in the early days...there were no

miner and contractor, Don McLeod

Aboriginal people sleeping in a

- who employed local Aboriginal

house, nothing. They don’t want

men and paid them well - was

any blackfella to sleep among

approached by a few concerned

them white people. So we were

leaders to discuss what action

kept separate. But they used to like

could be taken to improve living

our work, you know, when we were

conditions and give them proper



and pearling bosses. Men were

For their toil, they were paid a

After several years of planning, a

rounded up in chains by boundary

pittance or nothing at all, receiving

series of extraordinary meetings

riders, others - with their families

modest supplies of tobacco, flour

of more than 200 Lawmen from

- relegated to camps with no

and sugar. A white jackaroo on De

across the north took place at

housing along the river beds to

Grey station in 1877 was paid 5

Skull Springs in 1942. From these

become the stockmen, musterers,

pounds for his work, while in 1885

historic meetings, it was decided

cooks, housemaids and shearers

Aboriginal workers received no

that the station workers and their

for the pastoralists.

money for shearing 13,200 sheep in

families would go on strike on

six weeks.(4)

International Workers’ Day, May 1,

These laws came to control every aspect of Aboriginal people’s lives from birth to death, including whom they could marry and where they could live; banning them from entering townships after sunset and placing them under contracts as indentured labour that barred them from leaving their employ without the permission of the station owners

As time went by, ‘mardamarda’* –


people fathered by whitemen who

As a young man, Kangkushot

claimed ownership of the land but

remembered, ‘We were all camping

The first wave left the stations as

not paternity - were consigned

there (in the river bank) in rain

planned, after Lawmen Dooley Bin

to the outskirts of townships in

time...They (the squatters) never

Bin and Clancy McKenna, under

corrugated iron humpies with

give us good houses...Nothing,

dangerous conditions, delivered on

foot and horseback secret strike

It was clean right through...We

be used as slaves on the stations.

calendars to the workers. They

came from every station, like from

We got no proper pay, no proper

were marked with a cross on May

Yarrie, Limestone, Warrawagine,

houses – just a bit o’ tin, a bit o’

1 and the days marked off until

all them sheep stations.’ (8)

paper bark, a bit o’ blanket, down

the cross was reached, designating the day to walk. The second wave followed in August when people from outlying stations came into Port Hedland on horse trucks and the train for the annual race meeting. They refused to go back, telling the white bosses and police that they were joining the strike.

The strike lasted three years, infuriating the Department

It was, in historical terms, the

pastoralists, and saw the gaoling

beginning of the movement which

with hard labour of McLeod,

eventually saw Aboriginal station

McKenna and Bin Bin for some

workers throughout Australia

months in Port Hedland. To

achieve award wages in the 60s.

survive, the strikers collected and sold pearl shell and buffel seed, they mined for manganese, beryl

strikers at the start that they must

and tantalite, went ‘yandying’ for

stay strong to fight the squatter

tin, and shot goats for their skins.

and the government, and keep

But there were plenty of starvation

‘Narawuda’ and all it represented


It was their ‘Garden of Eden, a paradise of waterlily pools, birds and rushes where the sacred sticks of the desert people were buried’. (6)

They endured great hardship,

As Professor Patrick Dodson, former Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation says, ‘The Pilbara strike was an important and inspiring milestone in the battle for justice, rights, equality and recognition for Indigenous people.’

physical danger, violence and threats from the government and police but they stood firm and their bravery and determination

‘We’re on the freedom track to

finally forced changes that helped

Narawuda,’ Clancy told them.

initiate the restoration and

‘Don’t sit beside the road!’(7)

recognition of the basic human

During the following months,


for Native Welfare and the

Bin Bin and McKenna told the

at the forefront of their minds.

in the river. That’s how we lived

rights of their people.

hundreds joined the strike from

Eighty three years after the three

27 stations across the Pilbara in

Kariyarra men took refuge in

what became Australia’s first

the sandhills, the 1946 strike -

major strike by Aboriginal people,

sometimes referred to as the Black

20 years before the famous Gurinji

Eureka - represented a huge step

strike at Wave Hill in the Northern

forward by Pilbara Aboriginal


people to regain their ground.

Kangkushot recalled, ‘Anyway, we

The old people remember that

all left. About 700 or 800 people

it was ‘a big story all right, that

from everywhere in the Pilbara.

strike. We were just blackfellas to

References 1. Hardie Jenny, Nor’Westers of the Pilbara breed, Hesperian Press, Carlisle, WA, 1988. 2. Hardie. 3. Read Jolly and Coppin Peter, Kangkushot, The Life of Nyamal Lawman Peter Coppin, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, Revised edition 2014. 4. Read and Coppin. 5. Read and Coppin. 6. Brown Max, The Black Eureka, Australasian Book Society, Sydney, NSW, 1976. 7. Brown Max. 8. Read and Coppin. 9. Read Jolly, Yandy, Black Swan State Theatre Company, 2004. *Mardamarda, literally ‘red red’, name for ‘half-caste’ in Nyangumarta language. (Orthography: Wangka Maya Pilbara Language Centre.)

Pastoralists Association of Western Australia 1932, Courtesy State Library of Western Australia


Spurs, photograph Claire Martin, 2014

Claire Martin

I moved in to a degree in

Aboriginal people allowed to live

communications, journalism

on their land, were those who

Photographer’s Note

and photography and years latter

agreed (or were privileged enough)

found work as a photojournalist,

to work for free - for this right

all the while my lessons in ethics,

to reside in their own country.

anthropology, social work informed

All others were forced to live in

my story telling. I shied away

shanties and towns, completely

from photographing anything

divorced from their land, their

indigenous for fear of perpetuating

culture and their way of life.

When I was in University studying Social work I began to learn about Aboriginal history and culture. I remember even then sitting in class daydreaming about photographing

this paternalistic cycle, instead focusing on marginalization and stigma in developed countries and within predominantly white communities.

The most shocking thing I found on the trip was the unanimously fond recollection of this time among the Aboriginal station workers I met. It seems they felt like the

this culture. I can still picture the

When I received an invite to

lucky ones, able to maintain some

images I used to conjure up – future

photograph a story about the

of their culture – to live on their

photographs I imagined I would

history of Aboriginal stock workers

land, and indeed in this way, they


in the Pilbara I felt the time was

were. Resilience, strength and

right to try and capture those

humor, together with a strong

images I had conjured up all those

sense of pride seem to define the

years ago. I was to be travelling with

memories of this time. There is no

Sharmila Wood, a curator at FORM,

question that the Aboriginal stock

and Aboriginal anthropologist

workers and horse musterers were

Andrew Dowding, both of whom

exceptionally talented and hard

have a strong connection with the


Later in my degree, it was also these lessons on Australian Aboriginal history that encouraged me to abandon my career in social work. Lessons on the Paternalistic thinking that characterizes our history here, on the grave injustice that “good” white people inflicted on Aboriginals – some of them I

region and the people I met. I felt I was in capable hands.

Marlbatharndu Wanggagu - Once Upon a Time in the West is an

am sure believing whole heartedly

The history of Aboriginal

important story to tell, and I

that their actions were for the

stockmen, and domestic workers

commend FORM for initiating

greater good. Nuns, teachers,

on pastoral stations in the Pilbara

the project. It was certainly eye

government workers, police,

was some-what familiar to me. I

opening for me to see the pivotal

everyday citizens…. I did not want

knew that white people “employed”

role that Aboriginal stock and

to get caught on the wrong side of

Aboriginals to work their land

domestic workers played in

history, working within a cultural

for them. I also assumed that

developing the pastoral industry

paradigm that may justify and

“employed” meant forced to work

in Western Australia, particularly

sermonize ideas at odds with my

for free. What I didn’t know was

as this labour, and the imperialist

basic understanding of human

the conditions that this slavery

laws that drove it, are so often

rights, as these people had.

of sorts was justified by. The only



Evolution of the Painted Desert Project By Jetsonorama

“I’m just trying to keep a good feeling going round and around.”

of outsiders coming to take from


and white darkroom. After work I

The question I am asked frequently is what is an old black doctor doing wheat-pasting images of Navajo people along the roadside on the reservation? It’s an unlikely journey. However, upon further inspection it makes perfect sense.

them leaving little in return. My first year here I set up a black would go out into the community to spend time with people as they were doing chores around their homesteads or hanging out with their families, often getting to photograph these experiences. I’d started shooting black and white film in junior high school.

I came to work at a small clinic

My junior high school experience

on the Navajo Nation twenty six

at the Arthur Morgan School in

years ago, bright eyed and full of

the mountains of North Carolina

idealism and misconceptions. My

was unique and in retrospect was

first misconception was that as an

instrumental in influencing my

African-American I’d be accepted

efforts to contribute fully to my

by the Navajo who’d share a

adopted community.

sense of solidarity with me as a member of a historically oppressed group like themselves. Wrong. I learned quickly that people here are focused on addressing their daily needs such as herding sheep, hauling water, firewood and/or coal and taking care of family. Acceptance into the community is hard won. They have grown weary

Hugo’s House, Arizona photograph and paste up by Chip Thomas 195

During my family practice residency in West Virginia during the early 1980s, I’d make frequent trips to New York City hoping to see break dancing on street corners and burners on trains. My dream was to become a member of the Zulu Nation and it was during this time I started experimenting with graffiti.

Public Health Meets Public Art The Navajo should be one of the wealthiest groups of people living in the U.S. However, because of the way the contracts were written to exploit those natural resources, the Navajo people are amongst the poorest people in the U.S.

living in the U.S. However, because

My first intersection of public

of the way the contracts were

art and public health occurred

written to exploit those natural

shortly after I arrived on the

resources, the Navajo people are

reservation. Concerned with

amongst the poorest people in

what we considered irresponsible

the U.S. Health problems on the

advertising in that it was

reservation reflect those of other

promoting cheap, sugary drinks

impoverished communities.

in a population plagued with

Rates of diabetes, heart disease,

Type 2 Diabetes, a community

hypertension, alcohol and drug

health nurse and I went out one

abuse, domestic violence, teen

night to correct a billboard on the

The Navajo Nation is located in the

pregnancy, interpersonal violence


Four Corners region of the United

are all higher than the national

States (U.S) The land area is 27,500

average. In the midst of what

square miles in size which is larger

many from outside the reservation

than the state of West Virginia.

characterize as overwhelmingly

It is home to roughly 160,000

dire circumstances, there are

people. Coal, natural gas, oil, and

people living lives of dignity,

uranium are found in abundance

celebrating the joys of family,

here. The Navajo should be one of

farming and community.

the wealthiest groups of people

Photograph courtesy of Jetsonorama

Building Community During my time on the reservation I had been following street art from a distance. Any time I’d go to a big city with graffiti or street art, I’d definitely notice it. In the mid 1990s I did a project I called the Urban Guerrilla Art Assault where I’d place black and white photos on community bulletin boards and in store windows in Flagstaff. In 2004 I travelled to Brazil for the first time and was blown away by the abundance, diversity and caliber of the street art. I returned to Brazil for three months in 2009 and art on the street made by the people and for the people consumed me again. There was one guy whose work I saw and liked as I moved around Bahia. His name is Limpo. It turned out that during my last three weeks I rented a flat immediately

two year archive of negatives

something at the other end to stop

along the roadside. I got a recipe

traffic coming from that direction.

for boiling wheat paste off the

This was my first validation

internet, talked with people

from the community to continue

at Kinko’s about how to make

pasting and it was my first

enlargements and away I went. My

insight into the potential of art to

first forays were at night. I pasted

promote economic independence

onto roadside stands where people

for the roadside vendors. More

sell jewelry to tourists venturing

importantly, I appreciated the

to the Grand Canyon, Monument

potential of this work serving as a

Valley and Lake Powell. As I

tool to bridge cultures and races of

contemplated doing this, I had to


consider how to introduce a new art form into a traditional culture? What imagery is acceptable? After stumbling a couple times, I settled on what I considered universally beloved Navajo themes such as Code Talkers, sheep and elders.

It is through these types of interactions with people as I’m installing art that I get to better know my community apart from the constrained interactions I have in the clinic. Many people don’t know I’m a doctor who has

One of my first pastings was of

been here for twenty six years

Navajo Code Talkers that I pasted

and that I have a sixteen year old

onto an abandoned, deteriorating

half Navajo son. I defend what

jewelry stand along the highway to

I’m doing by telling people that


my project is a mirror reflecting back to the community the beauty

above his studio. I spent every

I was shocked a week later as

day in his studio talking with him

I drove by the stand to find

and street artists from around the

people out repairing it. Curious,

world who’d stop by to share ideas

I stopped. The guys working on

in sketch books, videos online

the stand didn’t know I was the

and street art books. Their energy

person who’d placed the Code

and enthusiasm were infectious.

Talker photo there. They said that

As I left Brazil, the street art

so many tourists were stopping

Last summer I decided to pursue a

community that had embraced me

to photograph the stand; they

dream suggested by a fellow street

and said, ‘keep it going!’

decided to repair it and start using

artist to invite some of my favorite

it again. I asked if I could take a

artists out to the reservation to

photo as well and then told them

paint murals and to work with

that I placed the image there. They

local youth. I called this The

responded by asking me to put

Painted Desert Project.

When I returned to the U.S., I decided to enlarge and start wheat pasting images from my twenty


they’ve shared with me over the past quarter century. It is my hope that a stronger sense of self and collective identity is nurtured through the images, which thereby strengthens the community.

The Painted Desert Project The Painted Desert Project hates

and that the community feels enriched or vice versa.

stereotypes, respects the unique

Last summer as the first group of

culture in which it operates and

artists was preparing to leave we

spreads love.

did something I’d never done in my

Before the first group of artists came out last summer to paint murals (which included Gaia, Labrona, Overunder, Doodles, Tom Greyeyes and Thomas ‘Breeze’ Marcus), I sent to the non-Native American artists copies of a chapter on the Navajo creation story, a book of images and

long tenure. We invited members from the community to my house to share a dinner with the artists. It was a simple meal shared around a candlelit table outdoors under the stars. How can this type of rich exchange not inform my medical practice, which like my art practice attempts to heal?

observations about the land and

So, what’s an old black doctor

the people, a beaded item from one

doing wheat pasting on the Navajo

of the roadside stands and a film

nation? Like the brothers told me

(‘Broken Rainbow’), in an effort to

in Brazil, I’m just trying to keep

sensitize the artists to the different

a good feeling going round and

world view here. I attempted to


pair artists with various roadside stand owners and arranged for sweat rituals with tribal elders to bless our efforts and give the artists an idea of acceptable imagery and Navajo taboos. It is important that artists come to the project without preconceived ideas of what they’re going to paint. They should also have enough time to interact with community members and absorb this land of enormous skies and stunning landscapes, then create work that reflects this interplay of cultures and landscape. My hope is that the artist leaves enlightened Paste up inspired by Jetsonorama, Photograph by Lillian Frost, in Wedgefield, 2014 198

Seeing the Desert by Julia Fournier

My husband and I drive through the Diné reservation four times a year on the way from our home in Phoenix, Arizona to see friends in Colorado. The trip has become a welcome ritual over the past twenty five years, since it takes us into the company of loved ones, once young like us, now old like us, waiting at the other end of our journey to tell and listen to stories, laugh and cry. We have traversed these same roads for over two decades. The landscape of the road could be perceived as monotonous to people rushing through, impatient to get to whatever it is they are on their way too. Maybe we are a bit weird. We love the road and the landscape. We keep track of the changes, which are few, and exclaim over the same beauty year after year: the sky in its blueness, the clouds and their whiteness, the red or yellow brown land. Sometimes there is a lone horse, with or without a rider or the clouds gift us shapes that remind us of animals or people, even maps of countries. At some point, somewhere along the road we started noticing manmade beauty at the margins of our road.

Paste Up inspired by Jetsonorama of Stockman, 1955 on Indee Station

Giant photographs, or were they paintings? Stuck to the sides of abandoned or unfinished buildings and obsolete tanks, we were confused by them at first. What were they? What did they mean? The speed limit throughout the Diné Reservation takes you through the vast landscape rather rapidly. At first, these images flew past our peripheral vision like ghosts. We tried to take mental note of where they were so we could take it in on the way back through. In September of 2010, we finally stopped to have a look at a handful of the pieces. We tried to watch out for never-before-seen-by-us pieces as we travelled through in November of 2010. We stopped off during that trip and photographed some of the work. After posting a few of the pieces online one woman gave me a name to search: Chip Thomas. Then one day, by coincidence, a high school acquaintance came into our gallery and shop, had a look around, and upon leaving said, “I have a friend on the Navajo reservation, I think you would like his art, I’m going to introduce you.” We were introduced to Chip, known as Jetsonorama in the street art community. I was happily surprised to find out this was the artist we had so admired all this time. We began to follow him on social media and invited him to participate in shows at our gallery in Phoenix.


As The Painted Desert project grew, and the art and artists expanded, the road became more beautiful, more punctuated with images. Unless you have travelled the road, or at all, it is difficult to imagine how different it is to encounter street art in this context. Instead of large images in a dense urban setting on multistorey buildings, The Painted Desert Project pieces are scattered across miles on antiquated industrial leftovers, ramshackle structures and abandoned billboards. Sometimes the pieces seem to be drawing you in to their content and sometimes the pieces call your attention to the circumstances that led the “canvas” to become available. “What happened to the people who lived in those trailers?” you might think as you speed past “Why are these roadside stands abandoned?” Each piece exists in solitude, in a singularly vast and beautiful environment but speaks somehow to the other pieces, as well as to the earth, sky and clouds that surround it. The pieces may speak loudest of all to those of us driving by on the road to somewhere else. “See me,” they say as we go whizzing past, “wonder about me.” Julia Fournier is a former school teacher who now jointly runs The Hive Gallery + The Bee’s Knees resale clothing store with her husband, Stephen. They are the parents of teenage twin boys.


Reko Rennie

As you know this project has been

Aboriginal men and women, who

about the stories of Aboriginal

worked on the stations were an

Andrew Dowding, the Ngarluma anthropologist engaged with the project spoke to Reko Rennie about his experiences working on Marlbartharndu Wanggagu.

experience on Stations in the

important and integral part of the

Pilbara Region, have you got any

success of these stations. And that’s

personal stories about your family

something you can’t deny.

working on stations or farms in this era?

Australia and how Aboriginal

My grandmother and her younger

people survived on these pastoral

brother were kidnapped from their

stations. And this is information

camp on Kamilaroi land, as part of

needs to be shared and told.

former government policy where they unfortunately, like many other Aboriginal children never saw their family again. My grandmother was then enslaved at Angledool mission, learning to perform domestic duties and other practises that would lead the children to be then moved on. Later as a young teenage girl she had to serve another mandatory term of enslavement as part of the Sixpence program on a large

Do you have any reflections on the 99 year lease expiration in 2015 for pastoral stations in the Pilbara? Some of the pastoral stations have large iron ore and precious mineral deposits within the station, how does this not become an issue? I think it’s problematic to grant an individual or organisation a 99 year lease and as a condition of the lease, their main economic stable is to derive from pastoral activities.

pastoral station in northern NSW,

In areas like the Pilbara, its mineral

called Dungalear.

and iron ore deposits are much

Her brother escaped from Angledool mission and later worked at Dungalear until they walked off the station in protest during 1954.

more lucrative then the activities of a pastoral station. I don’t understand how a pastoral station could operate and have agreements with mining organisations on the

What do you think is the

same property. It seems strange,

importance of telling these stories

but then I’m only an artist.

about these men and women?

Neon installation, Always was, Always will be, by Reko Rennie, 2014

It’s also about the history of

You were able to travel to the

It’s very important these stories

Pilbara and meet some of the

are told, remembered and shared

Aboriginal men and women who

with the rest of the community and

worked on stations, how was this

made part of our collective history

experience? What ideas, thoughts,

of Australia.

emotions remained with you after


you left the Pilbara. It was an experience I will never forget. The wonderful opportunity to be invited onto Yandicoogina traditional land and listen to his passion for the land and life on the station. But also it was chilling and emotional to hear the stories of survival, enslavement and the way of life Aboriginal people were subjected to on a daily basis. There were many emotions and it also caused me to reflect on how life was for my grandmother and any other young Aboriginal man or woman working on a station. It was real tough work, the men were tough as nails and the woman were even tougher to survive and

them in his name and left a large legacy was very interesting. I’ll never forget our visit to Roy Hill Station and the attitude of the station boss, telling us not to publish any myths about

and the fact is that it was stolen and then operated on, doesn’t change a thing. It’s also a reminder that pastoralists are squatters on Aboriginal land.

Can you describe your work in this exhibition, and give us an insight into how it responds to the personal histories your carry as well as the recent experiences in

about the real pastoral history of

the Pilbara. The works vary from neon designs,


to text, to an old painted station

And another story I heard was a former post office worker, who didn’t pass on all the mail about mining licenses to the intended recipients and instead registered

because it still is Aboriginal land

Aboriginal people working the land. If it wasn’t for Aboriginal people working the land, Roy Hill Station wouldn’t have survived. I mean who would of done all the necessary hard work, all day, everyday, for rations?

endure what they did during those

It was great to hear all the stories and in particular I liked the one about people squaring their differences. For one example, if an Aboriginal man had a grievance with the boss you could challenge him and take him on in a sort of station boxing ring. And as we heard some Aboriginal blokes got to give the boss a good hiding and then they’d shake hands.

‘This Land is Ours” on the truck

truck. There were so many amazing quotes about life on the station, from the ‘Sweeteners’ to ‘We worked for Rations’ and one of the best was “Pastoralists = Squatters”. That was why I decided to paint the truck with these quotes from the period. The truck once served and worked on a property and it seemed right to decorate the truck with quotes and text about life on the property. It also a reminder of how political it all was and still is. I painted


The neon work with the two spears and the cowboy hat and yandying bowl down the bottom, symbolises the Aboriginal men and women who worked the land and survived. It’s a symbol of power and survival Australia.

Reko Rennie, Pastoralists = Squatters, 1954 international AR 110 Truck, 2014 205

We worked for rations, graphics & Stolen Land, 1954 international AR 110 Truck, 2014

Neon Insignia, by Reko Rennie, 2014


Horseshoe, photograph by Claire Martin, 2014

FORM gratefully acknowledges

Principal partner IBN Corporation,

of this project and their courage,

the contribution and support

in particular the support of the

artistic excellence and dedication

of the following Marlbatharndu

entire IBN board and Chairperson,

to their practice, which inspires,

Wanggagu, Once Upon a Time in

Lorraine Injie who also provided

provokes and illuminates.

the West partners and individuals:

support, advice and guidance throughout the project in her role as Project Officer, Lore, Language and Culture.

Jolly Read, and Dr Maryanne Jebb who provided well researched and expert writing and advice on histories related to the project.

The entire IBN Staff, including Patricia Ansey, and Jon Aitchinson also played key roles and helped to make the project a reality, as have Jubillee Pagsuyuin, Denise Dann, Daniel Brown, Shannon Wilson, Chona Pawloff and Chris Duris. David Fernandez and Joyce (Jugari) Drummond from the Tom Price office provided invaluable support on the ground.

Andrew Dowding, Tarruru Anthropologist, who led, developed and conceptualized the project, with Sharmila Wood, FORM Curator. Sean Byford and Irene Schneider who helped make the project possible. Viet Nguyen and Ryan Stephenson for their design and IT. Travis Kelleher and Andrew Nicholls for research and transcription.

We’d also like to thank Grant Bussell, former CEO for his passion and commitment to ensuring the Aboriginal perspective on the station era was captured and celebrated.

Lauren Nemroff of the Google Cultural Institue who we are partnering with to host the project online so these histories can reach a worldwide audience. Raleigh Seamster from Google Earth

The State Library of Western

Outreach, for her ongoing support

Australia, National Library of

of Indigenous communities in

Australia, State Library of Victoria

many different countries.

and State Records Office of Western Australia for providing access and use of their images.

Andrew Wilkinson from Charter Hall for his belief in the project.

Wangka Maya, for support on

Most importantly we thank the

language translation.

Yinhawangka, Banyjima and

The photographer, Claire Martin, artist Jetsonorama (Chip Thomas) and Reko Rennie for being part


Nyiyaparli people for sharing their station stories, the elders and old people who lived courageous lives.

Published by FORM

ISBN 978-0-9872624-8-6 Project by Sharmila Wood and Andrew Dowding Cultural Advisor Lorraine Injie Designed by Folklore Brand Storytelling FORM Building a State of Creativity 357 Murray Street, Perth, Western Australia 6000 T. + 61 9226 2799 F. + 61 89226 2250


Project initiated and delivered by

Principal Partner

Project Partner

FORM is supported by the Visual Arts and Crafts Strategy, an initiative of the Australian State and Territory Governments. FORM is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.


Yinhawangka, Banyjima and Nyiyaparli Station Stories

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