Family reflects on history of change
■ 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.
Violet and Josie Samson used to live on the reserve in the 1960s.