Fam­ily re­flects on history of change

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

■ Grow­ing up on the re­serve in the 1960s, chil­dren of Roe­bourne would make their par­ents cringe af­ter slid­ing around on the mud banks by the Hard­ing River, re­sult­ing in very dirty and worn cloth­ing.

Josie Sam­son was one of those chil­dren who grew up on the re­serve in a house with three other fam­i­lies.

Mrs Sam­son re­called many nights build­ing their own beds to sleep un­der the stars.

“We would all use the kitchen and mainly slept out­side. We used to sleep un­der our old tents made with four star pick­ets and a long piece of wood across the ground,” she said.

“I’ve got lots of mem­o­ries of the re­serve grow­ing up and sleep­ing un­der a tent. I still miss the re­serve be­cause af­ter rain we would go play in the river.

“Mum would take our dirty wash­ing down to the river with the dog and scrub­bing brush and would spend all day wash­ing our clothes while we played in the river.”

Josie’s mother Vi­o­let used to work for a few shillings a week at Mount Welcome sta­tion pol­ish­ing coins, while her fa­ther worked fur­ther south in ex­change for sub­stan­dard food ra­tions to bring back to the fam­ily.

Mrs Sam­son and her fam­ily moved off of the re­serve in the 70s when they were re­lo­cated to the back of the Roe­bourne ceme­tery.

From there the Sam­sons were the first fam­ily to get a house af­ter the gov­ern­ment moved them to their cur­rent lo­ca­tion ad­ja­cent the old butcher shop.

“It re­ally changed my life be­cause we were ac­tu­ally liv­ing in a house. The last house we left on the re­serve had a mud floor, it was like a lit­tle tin shed,” Mrs Sam­son said.

“We had noth­ing across the river so when we moved across over here we had to start mop­ping and sweep­ing the floors. Back in the old tent we never had that be­cause we just had mud floors so we would go out and get wood, but now we had gas stove and all that.”

When the Sam­sons moved to Roe­bourne the town was still alive with cloth­ing stores, butch­ers, taxi ser­vices, banks and the old Chi­nese res­tau­rant where Ngar­luma Yind­jibarndi Foun­da­tion now op­er­ates from.

Josie went to Pam Buchanan’s kinder­garten and en­tered an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem which was rapidly chang­ing. Pre­vi­ously in­dige­nous and non-in­dige­nous stu­dents had been seg­re­gated and in­dige­nous peo­ple never left the sys­tem with qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

With the turn of na­tive ti­tle, Mrs Sam­son said ev­ery­thing be­gan to change for the bet­ter.

“When we were liv­ing in the re­serve the peo­ple never had much work. Na­tive ti­tle came in which gave us lee­way to get jobs for the young fel­las,” she said.

“Now we’re all work­ing to­gether be­cause we were out of sight out of mind be­fore — all that’s chang­ing now which is bet­ter for the peo­ple.

Mov­ing for­ward, Mrs Sam­son said Roe­bourne and its peo­ple had to strike a bal­ance of in­dige­nous and non-in­dige­nous in­flu­ence in lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Mrs Sam­son said the com­mu­nity now needed to push to get their own peo­ple into the top jobs in lo­cal in­dus­try and cor­po­ra­tions.

“I think it’s about time now they be up­grad­ing and lift­ing our own peo­ple in these po­si­tions so that we can run and cater for our own peo­ple,” she said.

“It’s im­por­tant to have men­tors in these com­pa­nies be­cause we know how to deal with our own peo­ple. It’s im­por­tant to keep these jobs be­cause they will all be mums and dads one day.”

Josie’s mother Vi­o­let agrees, adding money was no longer scarce for in­dige­nous peo­ple in Roe­bourne with many suc­cess­ful role-mod­els al­ready mak­ing head­way with their own com­pa­nies and in larger in­dus­tries.

For the near fu­ture Josie said im­proved hous­ing and ed­u­ca­tion were the big­gest hur­dles to en­sure the cur­rent chil­dren in Roe­bourne had ac­cess to em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and a good qual­ity of life with­out hav­ing to leave their home­town.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Vi­o­let and Josie Sam­son used to live on the re­serve in the 1960s.

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