What about the world today doesn’t make sense? The world doesn’t make
sense and all the governments in the world are to blame. You wanna know why? I’ll tell you why – the aeroplane. How many are flying around in the upper atmosphere at one time – thousands! And they’re wondering why the world is being eaten up – the atmosphere is being eaten up by the petrol fumes.
Look at New York and England! Their main airports never stop, there’s planes coming and going every day. It’s got to be warming the atmosphere up so that’s where global warming comes from, but you can’t tell the government – they don’t want to listen.
It’s all about the big dollar.
What annoys you about the younger generation? They think they know it all.
They’ve got all the answers. I cop that a lot off my grandkids. “We know this Pop... That won’t happen to us...” – that’s their answers. But it does come back and bite ya! You can only be there to try and help when you can.
What was the naughtiest thing you did in your childhood and teens?
Nothing! Everyone kept an eye on me – that was the problem! You couldn’t do much, we never had a telephone and Dad would know by the time I got home what I’d done if I did anything wrong. He’d be waiting at the gate and that was it. Someone would get the message to him.
What is the craziest night you’ve had? The first time we won the grand final at Warren football. I don’t remember anything for a week, we lived in the pub for the week. That was years ago when I first moved into first grade and we were only young fellas!
What did you get up to growing up? We used to ride our bikes out of town, put them in the scrub where they couldn’t be seen, and we’d go walking around chasing rabbits. That’s how we filled some of the days in. We’d bring them back in town and we’d have a feed of rabbits!
What is your favourite decade and why? I suppose the ‘60s when I was in Nanima Mission, they were the happiest, even though we lived under pretty strict rules with mission managers and you couldn’t go into town without a note from the manager.
We didn’t wanna go in half the time anyway, and if we did, we had to be out of the town limits by sundown or the police would pick us up.
But it was a good life and I loved going to school. I liked being there with all the other kids.
I only wagged once! There was a corner where the bus used to be able to look over the river where we all used to swim, and the day I wagged Mum happened to be on the bus. I didn’t wag a second time.
All us bigger boys had to take care of the wood for the elders when Dad and that were away doing seasonal work, and it was our job to make sure there was enough wood to keep the oldies warm and cook their food.
It was a good life living on the mission. It’s a pity they closed them down but that’s another one of these white fella ideas. They said it’s to integrate us with the rest of Australia and move us into the towns. They think we’re stupid! The only reason they did it was to stop us having an unbroken connection with the land.
If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would you do or change? Oh
dear. I wouldn’t want to run. You’ve got to be a brave man to do it. I don’t think I could do it. It’s bad enough here when you go to the Land Council’s meetings and you’re just arguing with the locals. How could you go around with everybody in Australia with a point you wanted to get across? There would be a lot that weren’t on your side.
I’m not allowed to run for Lands Council anymore because I had a stroke last time when I was running the Housing Company. That was bad enough, just the stress of it.
What improvements would you like to see in our region? What I’d like to
do around Burrendong Dam is go right around and have a walking track where you can show people what eatable plants we used to eat as vegetables with our meat, because some of them taste lovely.
What is your proudest accomplishment? Getting the Australian of the
Year award for Dubbo about 15 years ago. It was for working with the elders.
I used to take them all around Australia in a bus once a year. We would get back to Dubbo and the wife and I would sit them down and talk about where they would like to go the next year, and that would give us 12 months to work on raising the money.
We did some touring around! I suppose I’ve been around Australia five or six times now with them. We would take them everywhere. We got caught in a bank robbery once, so we’ve done some funny things in our time while we’ve travelled around.
I flew them up to Darwin and we went to Kakadu to the big crocodile river and there was only one big fella. We couldn’t get near him – the person driving the boat tried to sneak up on him for us so we could get a good photo.
What really surprised me were the amount of Vietnamese that were rowing around in little canoes and my elders were betting on which one would get taken by the crocodile. It was frightening when you thought about it!
– Interview & photo by Sophia Rouse