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On Australia Day, the wise words of an older Aussie


TODAY, 26 JANUARY, IS AUSTRALIA DAY. It is also my step-mum's 90th birthday,

She is just an ordinary Australian woman. But she has memories.

Brought up a Sydney girl, she remembers the building of the harbour bridge. And the arrival of American troops in World War II . And snow in Wahroonga. And serving as a nurse in the war.

And working with Pastors Len Barnard and Colin Winch of PNG aviation fame. And working as a volunteer in a Romanian orphanage.

She has stories to tell, although she may be just an ordinary Australian woman. She is just 12 years younger than Australia itself.

She remembers Curtin and Menzies and Whitlam - and even Scullin and Lyons. And reckons they are all just a bunch of crooked politicians. She reckons nothing much has changed over the years.

But she remembers. And with each passing year the memories of our elders becomes more precious.

She has this to say. "Peter, if you don't love your neighbours, then you can't love yourself."

Wise words from a woman in her 90's.


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Phil Fitzpatrick

I never met Malcolm but I heard a lot about him, especially during the Adnyamathanha versus Barngarla Native Title claim proceedings. I spent a lot of time with John McKenzie and Pearl. Pearl used to take my kids out hunting for bush tucker. This was all when I was in the Relics Unit working with Bob Ellis, who still keeps me in the loop about things Adnyamathanha.

I'm sure I must have run into you from time to time.

Lately I've worked with Mick up at Roxby, mostly fighting with the Kokatha. Now I'm retired but I still potter around in Papua New Guinea and I'm working with Batjala rangers on Fraser Island recording sites.

The poor old Batjala were broken up by the government, squatters and missions and their memory of their culture is nowhere near as strong as the Andyamathanha.

Marvyn McKenzie

Nhangka Phil. I had the honour of knowing all 12 of the surviving Wilyaru men who were alive in the early 1970s.

They are all gone now. Arty Wilton was the last one. I went out bush with him in the late 1990s.

Did you ever meet my grandfather, Malcolm McKenzie?

Peter Kranz

Funny stories from Mum (in her 90's she still has a great sense of humour).

1. - In the 1920's and '30's there was lots of hemp growing on the river banks along the Hunter valley - a legacy from the old sailing ship days, when hemp was essential for making rope.

"The cows loved it, and used to browse along the riverbanks chewing it all day. So most of the milk sent from the Hunter to Sydney in those days was laced with hemp, as there was no pasteurisation."

"No wonder the Sydneysiders were so happy."

2. - In the '80's Mum was on her way to Romania and met up with her grandaughter who was studying in Germany at the time. They splashed out and as it was New Years Eve, and decided to stay in a posh hotel for a night.

They noticed a large bowl near the lift full of what looked like After 8 mint chocolates. Mum surreptitiously took a handful and put them in her pocket while no one was watching. "Can't let these go to waste!"

Later that night they were watching NYE celebrations on the TV in their room and mum took out some of the chocolates. "I think we'll enjoy some of these."

Grandaughter looked in horror.

"Grandma, these aren't chocolates, they're condoms!"

Peter Kranz

And a bit more about my step-mum's sacrifces. When she was young her parents were farmers in Maitland. They had to build their own house, and she remembers her 'bedroom' was the verandah, which had a leaky roof, so in wet weather she slept with an umbrella at her side.

She woke at 4 am even when a child to help her Dad milk a herd of 80 dairy cows. The bathroom was the laundry trough, and Friday night was bathtime.

When she married she fostered autistic kids, and later took in her elderly parents when they both suffered from Alzheimers.

Later her first husband was injured badly in a laboratory explosion, became severely disabled and developed Parkinsons. She nursed him for ten years.

In her seventies she volunteered to work for a year in a Romanian orphanage after the fall of Ceaușescu. She says the conditions there were far worse than she experienced when she was a kid.

People like this all deserve to be Australians of the Year.

Peter Kranz

Bit more of Adam's background (which fits in with the story of the importance of mums)...

Lisa May was a single parent raising three sons, the Goodes boys, Adam, 14, Jake, 12, and Brett, 10. Lisa May had separated from the boys' father 10 years previously, and had recently chosen to escape from an abusive partner.

She chose not to be a victim, not to wallow in a past that saw nine of her 10 siblings taken from their parents; saw her removed at the age of five from her parents at Point Pearce, an indigenous town on the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, 70km from Wallaroo where Adam Goodes was born on January 8, 1980. She chose to devote her life to her sons.

His father moved to Queensland while Goodes moved between Wallaroo and Adelaide and Merbein (in Victoria) with his mother.

"I'm very grateful to have a mother who wanted something better for her children than what she had growing up," says Goodes.

"There were sacrifices she made to make sure we went to school. To make sure we did our homework. To make sure we were well fed. I have no doubt she's proud of us, but we're forever indebted to her for those sacrifices she made for us."

He's been recognised as much for his community work as his footie success - domestic violence awareness ambassador, working with kids in youth detention centres, and establishing the Go Foundation with his cousin and fellow Swans great Michael O'Loughlin to create indigenous role models in all walks of life.

His Dad was part-European, and Adam was teased a school for being a 'coconut'. But instead of feeling bitter, he chose to get even on the football field. The rest is history.

I don't know why there have been so many criticism about his award both from the 'right' (because he is indigenous) and from the 'left' because somehow he's 'sold out'.

I say he's a great choice.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Adam Goodes is the subject of an upcoming "Who do you think you are" on SBS this year sometime. They have done the filming at the South Australian Museum and other places. The one on Michael O'Loughlin a couple of years ago was great.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I think his mother's name is Lisa. She must be Adnyamathanha. Because they are matrilineal, Adam would take his affiliation from his mother.

If she is Adnyamathanha she probably went through the Colebrook Home in Quorn. They were still rounding up kids and putting them in homes in the 1970s. Community Welfare was very active in those respects.

There were also homes in Port Augusta and at Point Pearce so she might have gone there. The homes were paid an allowance, depending on how many kids they had on the roll. During some of the Native Title studies I did it became apparent that the homes were actively collecting as many kids as possible, for the most trivial of reasons.

The experience was very traumatic for the kids but ironically many of them got good educations from the practice and did well in adult life.

Sounds like his Dad was a white fella and they just lived at Wallaroo in Narangga country on Yorke Peninsula.

He speaks very well and in a measured way, so despite being a footballer he's a worthy recipient.

Mrs Barbara Short

Thanks Phil, for all that information. I thought you would know a thing or two about these people. Maybe he is mixed race.

I guess Adam will have plenty written about him this year. He will probably be given plenty of opportunities to speak and will have a chance to put forward the Aboriginal concerns.

I feel that his appointment is all part of a plan to get the Aborigines given their correct place in the Australian Constitution later in the year.

Phil Fitzpatrick

The Adnyamathanha come from the Flinders Ranges, Barbara. The name was invented in the 1930s by the collected survivors of the original tribes, Kuyani, Jadliaura, Pilatapa, Jandruwanta and Wailpi. It means 'hills people'.

The reason they all got together under the name was because their numbers had dwindled so much there weren't enough of them to continue with the Wilyaru initiation ceremonies.

They were under strong pressure from the missionaries to abandon the ceremonies but they resisted and that's what helped them to survive to this day.

The missionaries succeeded in stopping the ceremonies in the 1940s but I had the honour of knowing all 12 of the surviving Wilyaru men who were alive in the early 1970s. They are all gone now. Arty Wilton was the last one and I went out bush with him in the late 1990s.

The other thing they had going for them was the fact that they were a matrilineal society and had strong women who shared much of their traditional knowledge. Nowadays the young men go up to the Pitjantjatjara lands to be initiated.

The people on Yorke Peninsular are called Narangga and I don't recall any Narangga family called Goodes. There aren't any families in the Flinders Ranges called Goodes either. Adam doesn't look like a Narangga or an Adnyamathanha man. Maybe the journalists have got the details wrong.

Corney Korokan Alone

Belated Happy Australia Day to our Aussie friends, near and far!

Mrs Barbara Short

Phil, I thought you'd be pleased when you heard of the Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, from the Andyamathanha tribe on South Australia's Yorke Peninsular.

I was a bit disappointed when I heard it was a footballer but then I realized he was the fella who stood up to the 13 year old girl who called him "an ape".

But he realizes that the person who needs support now is the girl.

He also commented - "That's what I love about Australia: we can do things the way we want to do them, because that's the way our country is - no matter what culture you come from, you can come to Australia and practise your religion, you can practise your beliefs, and you shouldn't be judged for it."

He also commented - "It isn't about us wanting to get our land back and it's not about compensation, it's about wanting recognition we were the first Australians."

Australia Day used to be called "Invasion Day" by the local aboriginal people but hopefully, with recognition in the constitution, that they were the first settlers, the day can be celebrated and have some meaning to them other than "invasion".

Phil Fitzpatrick

I don't know how old you and Peter are Trevor but we must be about the same age.

When I was young I lived in a village in England with my parents and maternal grandparents.

We had no running water, it came from a well in the backyard, and no electricity, using paraffin lamps and candles for light.

Cooking was done on a wood stove and we ate what we grew in the garden or from the land that my grandparents farmed. There was no telephone and news came from a battery operated wireless.

I may be getting on a bit but all that doesn't seem so long ago in my mind.

What I do know is that those times helped shape many of my attitudes which I retain to this day. I don't recall them as particularly difficult times.

In that sense I can empathise with Peter's step-mother, even if only in a small way.

At the same time I suspect that what now forms the hooliganism on Australia Day and other similar events is tempered by having been given everything on a platter.

Trevor Freestone

Sorry, I don't believe your stepmum is just an ordinary Australian mum; like so many of our ancestors she is a remarkable woman.

The youth of today cannot imagine how much she has achieved in her life time. Remember she grew up in a time when there were no mobile phones,party lines if you were lucky, no computers, more horse drawn vehicles than cars,and a real sense of community.

Pubs closed at six if you were fortunate to live near one, stores closed at five o'clock, and closed Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Supermarkets had not even been thought of. The baker and milkman delivered their wares in horse drawn vehicles.

Life was so much different then and our older citizens did indeed achieve so much. They all need an Australia Day award.

Peter Kranz

To be factual, she was born in Maitland of Scandinavian parents then grew up in Sydney.

She has the honour of being the youngest female singer to the inmates of the old Maitland gaol in the '30's. (Now a museum).

Her church was giving a hymn concert to the inmates.

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