I was born and raised in Ballarat, a provincial city in Victoria with a history built on gold. My father’s people were ‘local’. They had participated in the gold rush of the 1850s and had made small fortunes as miners, mine owners and shopkeepers. These people had come from England. My mother was not a ‘local’. She was born on the banks of Orange Creek in the Northern Territory about 100 kilometres south of Alice Springs. Her people were the Pitjantjatjara people; they had come from the Tjukurrpa (or ‘The Dreaming’). As a small child, like small children everywhere, I was colour blind. I didn’t notice that my mother had brown skin and I didn’t know what people meant when they called her an Aborigine or a half-caste. I guess I thought that my family was just like everybody else in the suburban Australia in which I lived.
This myth was first shattered when I travelled to Central Australia for the first time. I was no more than four or five years of age. The Stuart Highway was nothing more than a narrow, corrugated red ribbon that followed the old Ghan railway into the heart of the continent. The vast endlessness of the desert made a lasting impression on me. Alice Springs was still a frontier town of hard cattlemen. From here we travelled to Titjikala, the Aboriginal community where my mother had grown up. Established in the 1940s, the purpose of Titjikala was to provide rationed labour to the white people who ran cattle on Maryvale Station. I had arrived in the immediate aftermath of the equal pay decision, a decision that ended the participation of Aboriginal labour in the northern pastoral industry. This was another world, an Australia that I had never imagined existed. My grandmother and my other mother (aunt in whitefella terms) lived in sheds set on concrete slabs. Everyone at Titjikala lived in such houses.
|Title of host publication||Knowledge of life|
|Subtitle of host publication||Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia|
|Publisher||Cambridge University Press|
|Number of pages||19|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|