Dr. Joan Winch interviewed for the City of Cockburn Aboriginal Oral History Project (2001)
The City of Cockburn Aboriginal Oral History Project records and summarises the oral histories of eleven indigenous people with a custodial or cultural connection to the Cockburn district. In this interview with Dr. Leonie Stella, Dr. Joan Winch talks about her childhood in the Fremantle and Willagee areas, her memories of the growth of the Cockburn area, and her work in the field of Indigenous health.
This is an edited transcript of the interview with Dr. Joan Winch, speaking with Dr. Leonie Stella at Coolbellup on 17 July 2001.
Leonie Stella (interviewer): Just so I can test how well the recorder is working, Joan could you state your full name and date and place of birth?
Joan Winch: Sure, My name today is Marie Joan Winch, I was born with the name Heath, and I was actually born in the King Edward [Memorial Hospital] in June 1935. After that we lived in a humpie down in Collie – Dad must have gone down there after my brother was born (Brian in 1934) – because he was working on the Railways – he was working on the railways all the time but that particular time that was down in Collie.
LS: So as a small child you lived in Collie?
JW: Oh, well we lived there – because he moved around in the railways – we came to Fremantle maybe when I was about … well when my other brother was born (Jimmy in 1936), so I think we came there (Fremantle) in about 1937 – I am assuming we came there in 1937 when I would have been 2. Because I can actually remember coming face to face with myself. You remember in Coles they had these big columns that had mirrors on them? Well I remember coming face to face with this kid in a pram, which I realised was me! So I was in a pram or one of those little stroller things and I thought – Oh? There’s a baby – no, then I realised it was me. So I was pretty young …
LS: Yes, that’s quite an interesting thing for a small child isn’t it?
JW: Yes, so I remember my brother in arms sort of thing so you know, we were pretty small then.
LS: And did you just say (off tape) that your mother’s country was Esperance?
JW: No, my father – my mother was from Wiluna – she was taken away when she was two, up to Mogumber Mission [Moore River Settlement] – she was a Wongawal, Ngaanyatjarra…Yeah, they used to call it Moore River..
LS: So your Fremantle connection was as a child?
LS: Where did you live when you came to that area?
JW: Yes, well we came to live … I think it was horse stables from the main building there at the Maritime (Fremantle) Museum which, when I was there, was the old ladies home – when we were kids. And that was 5A Skinner Street..
LS: At the back of the Arts Centre?
JW: No, Skinner Street is up around the corner sort of thing – there is Finnerty Street, but Skinner street goes along the top there, just down the bottom of the hill where those flats are now – that was a big open space there when I was a kid. And there was a little laneway – 5A Skinner Street – I believe it is still there, that house – it was sort of like a sideways house [indicates with hands diagonally across the block] and I think there was two bedrooms came off there, and a kitchen, and a cellar underneath it. But we were happy living there until the War years and then in 1942 the Americans came. I remember the Americans came – I remember sort of playing around with the guns on the little beach there – down the bottom – which is now the wharf because they have dredged it out. We had to leave that area because when they were practicing guns out to sea, from the top of the hill where John Curtin is now, well all the windows used to shake and break, so… And the Army barracks were down this side, and the Amy base was up top, and the Americans then took over the Old Ladies Home – it became an American base [now the Fremantle Arts Centre]. So we went out then in 1942 to Palmyra and I must have been … I started school at East Fremantle, but I was still in first bubbs when I went out to Palmyra. So I was about 5 or 6.
FAMILY LEISURE ACTIVITIES
LS: Where did you go for leisure activities – your family?
JW: ‘Round Palmyra?
JW: Well of course it was all bush there, you know? Down the end of our street it was bush – from Stock Road – that was the bush, you know? Because we used to do a lot of walking in the bush – there was a lot of picking wildflowers, and just walking around the bush and things like that on weekends. And the other thing that we used to do was swimming down Bicton, in the summer time that was one of the big activities – and nobody had cars or anything like that, it was generally walking around everywhere.
LS: Did you go out to the Lakes much?
JW: Bibra Lake?
LS: Or any of the Lakes along there…
JW: Well Bibra Lake was the one that we used to go to. And there was so much water in it in those days, because the kids used to swim there, in fact we used to do a lot of swimming there. It was harder to swim across in that water than it was to swim in the river because it is all fresh water. Yeah, we used to go down there all the time. And of course there was a lot of brumbies, you know, wild horses you’d come across – lot of kangaroos, and a lot of … well even so down the bottom near Willagee, just down where … at the bottom of the hill I suppose where those car places are now [sales yards corner of North Lake and Leach Highway] there was the wool-scourers, and we used to walk out the back of the wool-scourers there, quite often you’d see kangaroos just hopping around, you know? I had a friend lived in Aurelian Street, and they were sort of just on the edge of the bush. And there used to be a lot of the possums in the trees, so it was quite wild, yes.
LS: Any other wildlife? Like … well I have lived here all my life and it is only recently that I have ever seen the Southern Brown bandicoot – dead ones on the road mind you … do you remember ever seeing those?
JW: No, couldn’t say that … but I remember seeing a lot of racehorse goannas – they always used to be running along the fence – there was heaps of those – And of course there were blue tongues, there was a lot of those. And strange as it may seem, I never ever saw a snake in my travels..
LS: No, … they keep out of our way eh?
JW: Yes, never saw a snake, but there were those little berries and that we used to eat – those we used to call Swan berries, little sweet limey green berries – and that grew actually all around the local area, and they also grew up near where my Auntie lived in Como – out here way we used to get them too, so they seemed to be quite a lot of them. But I haven’t seen any for years and years and years – those very sweet little berries, greenie colour. And wild carrots, you heard of wild carrots? They used to grow near the jarrah trees…
LS: Do you know any other name for them?
JW: No, just called them wild carrots – nobody told us any name – tops just like other carrots, and they tasted like carrots – exactly the same thing – and when you pulled them out they were sort of white, they didn’t have a thing like carrots at the bottom, but you know how when you pull stuff out of the ground it looks all white and there is just a stem, well when you chewed that up it just tasted like carrots. So we just called them white carrots…
LS: What about quandongs?
JW: No, we didn’t see any quandongs – think the quandongs have been growing down towards – along that beach road [Cockburn Beach Road] – because we used to go out to …, another place we used to go out to, was ride our bikes out with Dad down to Robb’s Jetty, and go fishing. Because people always used to go fishing out there. And there were I think quandong trees out along that way.
LS: Yes that’s what I thought, I live down that way now, near that lake – Davilak, Manning Lake.
JW: Never went to that Lake…
LS: You said you went fishing – what did you go fishing for?
JW: Fish I guess! [laughs]
LS: Yes [laughs] – but what sort, herring, or crabs?
JW: Whatever you could catch, but oh well not crabs. We used to go crabbing and prawning down in the River, down Bicton, crabbing and prawning every summer. Every Saturday night we would all – because we had to walk – Dad and Mum and that we all used to walk around carrying the things – the nets over our shoulders, ‘cause it was only just the hand ones, dabbing nets. And we used to go down there in the evening, or end of the afternoon and sit on the side until it got darker and then we’d go and do our crabbing then. Or Dad would do crabbing, and all the kids would go too I s’pose.
LS: You didn’t ever go for the little crustaceans, like the gilgies?
JW: gilgies? Um, just trying to think if there was any gilgies… [pause] Can’t remember any gilgies, I remember picking up leeches!
LS: I read that that Manning Lake had been called Gilgie Lake, so I wondered.
JW: Oh, was it…
JW: Mm, of course you can’t move in a very big radius when there is no transport. Our radius was you’d go to Fremantle, and you’d walk out to the bush for flowers, and you could go crabbing so when you think of it about Rome Road would probably be a fair way from our place. And then down to Bicton, we used to walk and then over the other side closer to Willagee. But Willagee wasn’t Willagee, Willagee was just bush in those days.
LS: Do you remember what else was in Willagee, what kind of establishments?
JW: In Willagee? Well in the early days only bush, and actually I have written an article in Bessie’s Brollie (see attached essay) about how the destruction of Willagee took place.
LS: Is that a reference to Bessie Rischbieth?
JW: I don’t know …[passing the journal over]…
LS: Oh yes, it is. That is one of my favourite photos, [Mrs. Rischbieth standing under her brollie, in the front of the bulldozer to stop filling in the river.]
JW: Yes, I wrote that article about how when I came back in the 1950s how all that beautiful bush land that we knew of as our bush, was getting bulldozed and you just got to see sand. It was absolutely terrible. There was that other little spring there, down the bottom of the hill opposite where the Willagee Hotel [being demolished in June 2003] is – on the other side of Stock Road there [intersection with Leach Highway], and now they have it so that it is sort of like collects all the storm water, a storm water drain there now, but that was before a little spring.
LS: Oh yes, you could trace a little line through there down stock road to the valley at Hilton on South Street, a lady told me once that they had to move from there because it was too wet for her mother’s health.
JW: yeah, so if we were going to go out there we would take our billies and that. We didn’t have to take any water because we knew where to get that water, fresh water, and we’d just light a fire …
LS: So that spot would be opposite the pub …
JW: Yeah, in that hollow, but they made it more of a hollow, it wasn’t such a big hollow in those days. My girlfriend’s Dad had a little sort of a farm affair, it just kept the family, they had a cow and chooks and stuff like that, and their fruit trees, and that. And it was just near her place, she just lived down Aurelian Street, and so we used to walk over, out of school sometimes. Sometimes she had to take the cows out, you know – to get some greens, greeneries. And we’d take them over, which now would be over High Road which on the other side of High Road [Leach Highway] was the shit dump – you know for the local area, because everybody had to … they had the lavatory pans they had collected up and that got dumped there. So over there it was really high green grass, you know, for the cows there. And a lot of mushies! We used to get huge big mushrooms the size of dinner plates.
LS: Where was that dump?
JW: Just over what is called Leach Highway now, half way up the hill …
LS: Willagee side or where the factories are?
JW: Where the factories are.
LS: Behind the cemetery –
JW: Behind the cemetery, yeah, that’s right, that’s where we used to take these cows and take them for a walk after school.
LS: And that’s where the pans were emptied – still in the 1940s?
JW: Oh, Yeah, in the forties it was. Yeah, I always say if anybody put a house there they’d have a good garden now [chuckles].
LS: How long did you live in that area before you moved – Fremantle/ Cockburn area?
JW: Well, I was always around that way, you know, Fremantle Cockburn, but we went there in what did I say, 1942 – I must have been about 7, and I left there, well Dad … We moved to Elvira Street, 18 Elvira Street and we lived there and the boys went to sea, I ended up going nursing.
LS: What were the boys’ names?
JW: Brian, and Jimmy we always called him Cobie, still Cobie, Brian is dead but Cobie is still kickin’. [laughs] And they both went to sea, I must have been about 18 or something like that yeah.
LS: What year was Brian born?
JW: Year before me – 1934.
LS: And Jimmy?
JW: 1936 – all together [chuckles]
LS: One after the other yes, So Elvira Street, and then where?
JW: Yes, well Elvira, Dad was still there when I first went nursing, first of all I went down to Woodside in East Fremantle, and then I went over to the Home of Peace.
LS: Alright, just before we go onto your training I want to just stay with that area for a minute. While you were living in the area, and growing up in the area did people ever talk about the early days, about whether Aboriginal people had worked for particular families, or worked as trackers, or at Robb’s Jetty, or?
JW: Our way, nobody ever did … nobody talked about Aboriginal people, that I knew of but how would they be working there? Because all those people living in Palmyra then were working class people in those days, they never employed anybody…
LS: No, no. But did you every hear any stories passed on about early contact days, or about how their Dad’s had worked in certain places like Robb’s Jetty…or on the harbour…
JW: No, because Dad used to… well what Dad used to do in the Depression years was he used to, well he must have lost his job with the railways because he went up to Perth working on doing the Langley Park, you know? They were fixing up Langley Park – it was a swamp – and they were making it into parklands and they were gettin’ meal tickets for it. So he used to ride his bike up to Perth, and then ride his bike back, and then he – I can always remember him coming down the little laneway on his bike – he’d hop on his bike then and go out to Spearwood and pick onions all day long, and then for that he’d get a bag of onions – that was his wages that he got.
LS: So was he actually a ‘susso’ worker?
JW: Yeah, yeah…
LS: That’s what he had to do …?
JW: Yeah, well he didn’t have to go out to Spearwood, but he was working up at Langley Park for that, or what became Langley Park.
LS: And did your mum work?
JW: Mum – always, well in those days she didn’t, when we were in Fremantle she did, but not when we went to Palmyra. She was working in that American laundry, near Jennings shop there, opposite that there was that American laundry where she worked then.
LS: Where did you say that was?
JW: Down Finnerty Street there, you know where I think its that second hand shop now – a corner shop – well behind that they had a … it was only just an ordinary old wash tub with you know, the old cement ones, and she… [worked there]. This old girl – she had women working with them, washing the clothes – mum was a washer woman. And other people inside the room used to do all the ironing, and you know all that sort of stuff. She was making a quid in the war years – that old girl.
LS: For the Americans that were there?
JW: For the Americans, yeah, and mum used to work down there, and she also used to do cleaning and that around Palmyra, and Rowney’s the butchers, and a lot of the places – I just can’t remember them all…
LS: What was your mum’s full name?
JW: Lillian – she was actually taken away and given a European name, like Lillian Bookett she was given – that’s how she got married [the name she had] … But I found out years later that her name was Wangawal, she was a Wangawal, taken away from Wiluna – Ngaanyatjarra. But she never found that out in her life. She died when she was 42, she was very young. She died when I was… just before I turned 14, when she died.
LS: And your Dad’s name?
JW: Philip Heath.
LS: And his people were Nyungar, Esperance way?
JW: Well his mother was Nancy Coyne who was I think born in Albany, and part of that group …. mixed up with the Portuguese [sealers]. But she was actually born in Albany, I never met my grandmother, but I met my grandmother’s sister. My grandmother was dead when I was still not old enough to be able to meet people I think.
LS: And her sister’s name?
JW: Emily Farmer, part of the Farmer tribe…but her maiden name was Emily Coyne.
LS: OK, so you …
JW: I want to tell you about Stock Road though, because in the War years it was just a bush track and we used to go through there and there were carpets and carpets of the yellow orchids, you know about this high [indicates with her hand about 6 inches high] 6 inches off the ground or something. Not only the yellow orchids, but carpets and carpets of catpaws which are about that high, and oh they were the most beautiful… things. And that was from going along McKimmie Street into and up to Stock Road. And then it was just so beautiful, they were just so plentiful, and of course the orchids and that were absolutely magnificent. And we liked to go further on where you got all those beautiful kangaroo paws and they’d all be sitting back there against – they are more North towards the jarrah trees. And as we used to go through there quite often we used to come across soldiers because they were up at the Melville camp there [on South Street] And they used to walk up that track from where it is now South Street, isn’t it? Yeah, the old place where the old Melville camps were. And we often came across these soldiers, and they had to hot foot it all the way up to Canning Highway to catch a bus to Perth. I s’pose young fellows, wanted to go to Perth and that.
But the Stock Road was of course the Stock Track, for the cattle to come through, and down to Robb’s Jetty. In fact when we were in Fremantle they’d bring the sheep down on the train and then the guy would be on horse back, and the dogs they would come, and they’d bring like … the whole of Finnerty Street would be chock a block with sheep. And they’d bring the sheep out because they’d be over the road from us where they’d got those flats there now, and they would just bed them down for the night you know. The dogs would be running around, and the guys would just be in their … . I don’t know what they did because I wasn’t allowed out, but I s’pose they had a bed roll [laughs]. And they’d keep the sheep there over night and the next day they would take them down to Robb’s Jetty and be killed to eat. But we were so thrilled when we were kids you know to see all these sheep and it was so lovely to see them all walking up the street going baaa, baa, baa [laughs]
LS: You’ve mentioned Robb’s Jetty a couple of times, can you tell me anything more about that beach area or bush there?
JW: No, ‘cause we only used to ride down, go down Carrington Street, when we lived in Palmyra, and go along on our pushbikes and turn down Clontarf Road, and go out that way past the Newmarket [corner Rockingham road] and go out with Dad. But actually he didn’t like taking me much, you know, he’d much rather take boys, but sometimes I’d really make him take me.
LS: Did he do beach fishing, or…
JW: No on the jetty,
LS: Oh, of course…
JW: Yeah, and you’d got a lot of fish there because of the killings and there were a lot of sharks and that there too in those days, weren’t they? Well, they even had that shark proof fence in South Fremantle didn’t they – stop you from getting eaten by sharks, I s’pose [laughs]. Yeah so do you want me to … I can tell you about …. hideous old story, its all over the place isn’t it?
LS: Its fine – You can tell me what ever you like!
JW: Well after the War – like if you say what did you do on the weekends – one of the things we used to do was go to the cemetery! We used to walk up the road to the cemetery, and then down the back of the cemetery was all the people – like Chinese names and things like that down the back of the cemetery, so we thought it was wondrous all these jolly Chinese characters on the grave and stuff like that. Yeah that was one of our little outings [chuckles] – down the cemetery of all places, which I shouldn’t imagine you’d ever see kids doing now wanting to walk up to the cemetery to have a look around …
LS: Oh I don’t know, my kids did liked to…
JW: Did they? And we’d sort of look at the flowers that the rich people put there and the other thing was that in Fremantle where the playing fields are near John Curtin, that was a cemetery, and that was a cemetery when we started going to school sort of thing. And there were some places, I remember, we used to look down … there was a little place that you could walk down into … places where they kept their people sort of thing?
LS: Oh, yes, like some Italians had those little crypts?
JW: Yes, crypts, …
LS: Was that near John Curtin or further over near Stephen Street?
JW: No, it was right where that John Curtin Playing fields are now, because we used to cut through there to go to school. They took the old tomb stones out to [the main cemetery] – and they are still out there – lined them all up there as you go into the gates at Fremantle, on the right hand side, just past that standing area, holding area I suppose you’d call it. There are all the old tombstones that were there. Yes so we did like to walk around though, the cemetery and see what was there. It was amazing because after the war they had all those nissen huts on that place where the army used to be in the war years. And then of course housing for people – usually if you were in the Army you had housing for your family there. I had a friend there, Cynthia. She was telling me too, that sometimes they’d be digging away there and they’d come across bones. They never took the bones out, all they took was the tombstones and that out of there, so sometimes they’d come across bones. And she said they found one bone there with a ring on the finger – something like that is quite bizarre really isn’t it? But I actually didn’t see anything like that, but maybe that was their stories, I don’t know.
So the other thing that I could say that is very distinctive about that place is that there were all these beautiful flowers we called pincushions. I don’t know what they call them, scabiosas or something, I forget now – little round flowers, in fact they still – must like the limestone – because I see them down round when I go home to Ravenswood. Going through that limestone country, I see them on the side of the road…
LS: Are they pink or blue?
JW: Well they are different colours, deep winie colour, and pinkie colour and mauvie colours and even a white colour …
LS: Do they have a light grey green foliage?
JW: I don’t know, I will have to have a look when I go through again. Yeah, and they were all growing on the side because up on the top of that hill there was – we used to call it Werringah Hill,
LS: Which one did you call Werringah Hill?
JW: Just where Finnerty Street goes down, Skinner Street goes across and there is that big hill – goes there [drawing on pad]. Well this guy, I think he was pretty rich, he had shares in Metros – and everybody was pretty poor so anybody who had a quid we thought was pretty rich, and he had shares in the Metro Buses, but his daughter was a friend of mine – Lillian Marinka her name was and she had a couple of brothers, and so we used to go up to that hill and it was quite a wonderful place really, it still is you know isn’t it.
LS: That bit that is still limestone in front of John Curtin is that the bit you mean?
JW: No, up above facing the ocean and over Skinner Street that way… East Street came along here, John Curtin Playing fields were there, and Museum down here, on James Street – and Canning Highway or Queen Victoria Street goes down that way – James Street goes up to Ellen and then High Street – and this is the limestone hill – but this is a little limestone hill which came from about where the Army place is here and the name of this street is Tuckfield and so it came from there goes along and up like that to near East Street (northside of John Curtin). And that girls – Lady of the Mission place was over there (other side of East towards Canning Highway).
LS: I don’t know that one…
JW: It’s still there, but we didn’t know what it was, it was just a place with a big fence around it, Nuns weren’t allowed out! [laughs] And this was all sort of …
LS: What you called Werringah Hill…
JW: We called it Werringah Hill because the Werringahs lived at the top of the hill! [laughs]
LS: [laughs] a family name?
JW: Yeah, well you’ve heard of Billy Werringah haven’t you? He had that, was it Billy or Donny – I can’t remember which one – he had that Crocodile farm in Freo? [down at the fishing boat harbour]
LS: Oh yeah,
JW: He was one of their sons, they lived there in Freo.
LS: Did you go to the boat harbour much?
JW: Boat harbour? There wasn’t one there?
LS: Well they have been down there since 1890s or whatever, but you know? Down the boat harbour, South Bay, the fishmarkets jetty?
JW: Well, yes after I got married I used to go there all the time, fishing,
LS: You used to go fishing there?
JW: With my husband yeah,
LS: Fish off the little jetty or …
JW: The little jetty, there yeah, and where there was that old jetty that used to go out for the sailing ships that was sort of being wrecked there … and they had the caves there … where you know where the cave is?
LS: Near the tunnel?
JW: Yeah, oh the tunnel, there were caves in there, a lot of people used to live in there you know?
LS: [raises eyebrows]
JW: [laughs] In fact my first husband asked me to go and stay there – I said ‘go on – I am not a cave woman’ [laughs] I wasn’t stayin’ in a cave, I can tell you right now – he was a Norwegian fellow. He said, “so and so, my mate’s wife is here” – and I said, “I don’t care, I am not going to go and live in a cave”. But mind you houses were very hard to get in those days. [chuckles]
LS: Yeah, I remember my parents had to share houses in those days.
JW: We always used to share a house with people, yes. And not only Aboriginal people – mainly it wasn’t Aboriginal people that we shared our houses with…
LS: Can I ask you about that husband? Was he a fisherman?
JW: Yeah, he was a seaman, but he became a fisherman, yeah. Harry Knudsen his name was [pronounced ka-noodsen]. I have got a daughter, my only child is Lillian, and he is her father. But he is dead, he died actually on the Esplanade there, he was an alcoholic.
LS: Did, he, mmm. Sounds like an interesting character.
JW: He was, very interesting, yeah. He was a very interesting person. But he had a … well, it was no life. His mother and father were killed in the war years in Norway, and his sister brought him up, yeah not a good life.
LS: And what year was your daughter born?
LS: So we got up to talking about fishing off the jetty there…
JW: Yeah, we used to go fishing, fishing off the mole there, we used to go fishing off the south mole, more the south mole than the north mole. Because it is harder to get to the north mole.
LS: we have skipped a bit so lets go back and … do you want to tell me a little bit about your nursing training?
JW: Oh I didn’t do my training until just recently really.
LS: Oh OK, so we can keep talking about your life then, perhaps where were you living at the time that you married this man?
JW: Fremantle, and I was working at Woodside, working at the hospital at Woodside, but in those days you didn’t really need a ticket, you know to get a job.
LS: Sort of like a nursing aide?
LS: Was that the first job you had?
JW: Oh God no, I had heaps of jobs.
LS: Alright then let’s go back to school.
JW: Yeah go back to school, high school [laughs] Mind you I want to tell you that I did spend a lot of time at Bicton. I was in the Melville swimming club and stuff like that, I used to be swimming there, and we did spend a hell of a lot of time there and the boys were in the sea scouts you know so we spent a lot of our summer time… we spent by the river there. I did go to Princess May High School – I went to second year high school and then I left because Mum died. Dad couldn’t see any use in schooling – nor could I actually at that time. So I left when I was 14 during that year, and mum died in the October and I didn’t go back to school after that year finished.
Did I tell you that we used to go walking along Carrington Street just to have a look at new houses? No I only got to the cemetery didn’t I? Well going up to where South Street is, that was the end of the Beaconsfield tramline there at the corner of Carrington Street (on South Street). So we would just go past there and it was a sort of wonder, you know after the war years and like every weekend in the winter you could walk up there and you could say ‘oh look they’ve put the roof on, or they are doing this, or doing that’ and it was just so exciting to see houses getting built. Because you never saw that when we were younger because of the war years, see?
LS: So would that have been the new Hilton housing project?
JW: No, no that wasn’t even… oh it could have been – I don’t know what they’d call it down there on the west side of Carrington Street? Is that Hilton?
JW: Isn’t it Hamilton Hill? Oh it might be Hilton on the west side there. Dad got a house in Hilton [later on] he got a pensioner flat there in Collick Street about 1959 I think, round about 1959, and that was just about the end of the line then too.
LS: And that is not the spot where you watched them getting built?
JW: No, no that was off Carrington Street – go past where the tram finished (on south street) and just walk down the hill. Those houses have been getting pulled down now – and I thought oh look at those houses, I saw them getting built- now they are getting pulled down. New houses getting put up there, yeah so that was fun.
Sometimes we used to ride our bikes out a long way, not in the summer time, but in the sort of spring I suppose. Right along Carrington Street to where those Lakes are on the – down near well Wellard way I should imagine – we used to ride our bikes out there. Sometimes have a little picnic and go home again.
LS: Would it be the Beeliar Lakes?
JW: Are they called Beeliar Lakes are they? I don’t know what they are called but you know out along the old Spearwood road, along there and just used to keep on going out to those Lakes – yeah Wellard.
LS: Yes, that’s a long way down isn’t it?
JW: Yeah and we’d do that in the Springtime or winter or in between times I suppose. Yeah. [pause] So we used to have to walk from Pallie, when we were at Palmyra to the Melville recreation ground, Stock Road and Canning Highway. We used to have to walk all the way up there if we wanted to play sport on Friday – well not if we wanted to, we had to, – and we had to walk up there [laughs]. And sometimes we’d play the kids from Beaconsfield and we had to go all the way over to Beaconsfield, between lunchtime – I don’t know what time we started but we had time in lunchtime to run over there and get ready to play sport yeah. So that was another thing that we used to do there.
LS: So this is all still living in the Fremantle area in the 1950s?
JW: Yeah, that’s right. I went to live in Coolbellup about 30 years ago in Torquil Road [now Winterfold]. It was on the edge of the pine forest [plantation] which is now called – what is it, down near the High School, North Lake – Winterfold yeah, they changed it to Winterfold, it was called Torquil Road when we went there. And it was when I was married, that was my second marriage when I married Mick Winch, and we went to live there, was it 66 or 67 or something like that.
LS: And your little girl was with you then?
JW: Yeah, she was 10 I think when we first went there.
LS: Ok, so lets talk about Coolbellup now?
LS: In that year were you aware of who the Aboriginal community leaders were at the time?
JW: At the time?
LS: Yes, at that time?
JW: Well when I first went there there was very little… there wasn’t many Aboriginal people there. I noticed that… I saw Fred Collard, he lived in Samson Street actually, and that was 1973 or something, when I first saw him and Jean. And they had just started to work with the Health Department. They had those Aboriginal Health Workers, I think they called them. Fred was there, and Jean was working then too. Fred was the person … I actually belonged to the Southern Suburbs Aboriginal Corporation when it was formed there – you know, at Paget Street there. Fred and Jean they were the main people in the 70’s that used to sort of be there.
LS: Did they meet in the Paget Street Progress Hall?
JW: Yeah. We used to meet over there in Hilton, I used to be …. [pause] Secretary, I think.
LS: And who was on the committee then?
JW: Well it was mainly Jean and Fred, they were always the main people. But they were the main people at the Medical Service in Perth, you know, AMS [Aboriginal Medical Service] and they were very civic minded. Tom Ford he was there, and Ray. Ray is here [at the Centre] now, a student here and Josie is his wife.
LS: Oh yes.
JW: So this was in the 70’s so that was a long way into the whatever. So then there was the … after probably, I just can’t remember when the law changed, you know, that the Aboriginal people, the Native Welfare Department started buying up houses from the Housing Commission there in Coolbellup, for the Aboriginal people. That could have been early 70’s, just can’t quite remember, might have been ’72 or something like that.
LS: And that was not the Aboriginal Housing Board – that was State Housing Commission wasn’t it?
JW: No they didn’t have the Aboriginal Housing Board then, I was at the first meeting for the Aboriginal Housing Board. The native welfare bought up houses then because they wanted to get houses to put Aboriginal people in.
LS: And what, people coming in from the country would apply for them?
JW: Well anyone really who wanted a house. I don’t know … we didn’t get our house under the… well I wasn’t under the Native Welfare Act because of my father. His father was a … came from Cornwall, was a pommie – so Dad was never under the Native Welfare Department, so therefore we weren’t, you know?
LS: So your Dad wasn’t Aboriginal?
JW: Yeah, his mother was, but this was the law then – but he actually broke the law because when mum and dad wanted to get married and she was 28 and he was 33 they said no. So anyway dad grabbed mum away and they – well it’s a big long story, another story I won’t go into that now. They got married in any case and so mum was then out of the hands of the Native Welfare Deparment because she was married to Dad. See because his father came from Cornwall – my grandfather … So actually under that [Act] we didn’t have to bear the brunt of the Native Welfare Department. Mind you they [my parents] were very careful, a lot more careful I suppose than I am in this day and age – careful of what they said, and what they did, very mindful of behaving themselves and you know, what would you call it?
LS: Always a bit of a fear there of welfare?
JW: Yes, always the connotations… that someone might come and take their kids away, because mum had been taken away too, and she had that experience. So Dad was always very careful, and insisted that we went to school, getting a good education and you know, wouldn’t let us just stay home – you’d get a belt in the ear, you know ‘get back there’ and …[laughs]. But yeah so we weren’t under the Native Welfare Act, so we were buying our house there and then these other people started to … they were getting rental houses in Coolbellup so that is sort of how it came to pass.
LS: And Mr. Winch he was living there too?
JW: Yes, he was – Mr. Winch [laughs]
LS: So this is mid 70s, and you have a State Housing Commission House in Coolbellup, and a young family, so then how did you come to go nursing?
JW: Well I was always working in the hospitals because when I first went there I was working at Mt. Henry and I used to do night shift there, and my husband used to mind Lillian, and I used to be home in the day time. So she went to school, and she had to go all the way over to … when she first started there … to Bibra Lake, there was a Scouts Hall – you know the Scouts hall there?
JW: Well, that was her school when she first started to go to school because the North Lake school wasn’t built, and so all the kids that belonged to North Lake – the older kids, she was 10, so she went over to that little scout’s hall – that’s where she used to go to school. I can’t remember what you asked me now?
LS: Oh, I was just moving you into that part of your life, in Coolbellup and working…
JW: Oh, that’s right, I was working at Mt. Henry and working shifts and was home in the day so if she wanted to come home for any reason there was someone there. So I did night shift for about three years and then I went to St. Joseph’s. Worked at St. Josephs for seven years and I really loved that job, you know, it was really nice.
LS: St. Joseph’s up near Stock Road?
JW: Richmond yeah, so after that the business came in about the um … training for nurses at universities, and that was great. Because here at Curtin was the first training course in Australia, and I had such bad experiences in hospitals with being an Aboriginal, and people always wanting to push you out and stuff like that – the hierarchy in the hospitals was just absolutely terrible. So I thought if I can get into the university – I thought it would be a much fairer way of [building a career] – I felt that they would be treating me much more fairly on my merits and not on what they thought [about me]. So I went to nightschool for 12 months to get my university entry, and then I applied for this nurses course and came here to WAIT, it was [WA Institute of Technology became Curtin University of Technology].
LS: Do you remember the year?
JW: 1975 – yeah couldn’t forget it! [laughs] So that was my ….
LS: How did you cope financially doing that?
JW: Oh financially I had – well just before I came, in the last year when I started going to nightschool, I also got two jobs. And I was working shifts, and I was with my husband Mick, and so I put all my weekly wages into the house. I had a weekend job at the Silver Chain hospital down the corner there [on Winterfold] in Hilton Park, so I used to work night shift there. Not the Catholic one, the Silver Chain one which was just getting built. The Matron came and asked me my name, and said would you come and work here for a while until we get our staff sorted out. So I used to go and do night shift there, and so all that money I put away, and besides that I got the grant of $106 a fortnight, or something off the [government] – because the Aboriginal Study Grants were just coming in – on the horizon. So 106 dollars a fortnight I used to get there and I had that little bit of extra money that I had sort of saved when I was working, yes, so we didn’t have such a [hard time]. Well I mean money was different in those days, I don’t know…
LS: Yes, people keep saying that to me – I think they think it went further…
JW: Yes, doesn’t sound much 106 dollars and of course it wouldn’t even take me to Perth today really would it! [laughs] Particularly in the car. So yes…
LS: Just before we go on with your career, staying with the Coolbellup people, I am trying to collect as many names of Aboriginal people who have made a contribution to the area or their community, whether they have been involved in things like Southern Suburbs, or other things …
JW: Yes, well I was with the Southern Suburbs, but I know the Collards certainly did…
LS: And other people might have been in the sporting clubs or the church…or working around the area… but as you say there might not have been very many people in the area before that…
JW: No, I wasn’t in sporting clubs and I wasn’t in the Church so there is two areas that you wouldn’t find me – and I wouldn’t know who was there! [laughs] But something that they did and I think it was done actually through Fred, is that they had this system where they went and did up the houses and stuff like that. The lawns and stuff like that, you know and one thing and another. And Frank Jones – you remember Frank? Frank Jones, he had a van and he used to go round and do up people’s yards and stuff like that you know, for a reasonable sum of money. And also it was through the Southern Suburbs. Fred was saying well, we will get some paint and do up the houses, and stuff like that for the old people, and well through Frank – Frank was running around doing those little odd jobs and stuff like that – and he took his brother in law who was a dear old soul but also a drinker. So then you had a split thing, because none of the churchies wanted to have anybody sitting there with a bottle of wine in their hands – because, oh their arms are going up, and you know ‘Oh – Heaven forbid’ you know ‘alcohol’. So then poor old Frank was trying to do something for his old …, help, you know – that is the Aboriginal way – if you can keep your family together. So he was keeping his brother in law with him, and he wasn’t doing any harm, poor old fellow, he was just having his swig of plonk and that. And that caused a bit of trouble … So there are often problems between the drinkers and the non-drinkers, or the churchies and the non-churchies.
So yes, Fred actually was quite devastated there at one stage because we … and I was working with him to set up – it was with the Southern Suburbs, he was I think the chairperson of the Aboriginal Medical Service in Perth, so it must have been about ‘73, 4 maybe, and he was trying then to get a medical service for Aboriginal people there in Coolbellup. Well, we had a – one guy was there, he was a doctor, oh gee, what was his name …. oh, he was pretty famous, I’ll think of his name – I can see his face now. But he was always helping Aboriginal people and he was quite happy to help. The church had given them a house to run the clinic … the church had said, alright you can park your cars there. But when it went to the Shire Council they knocked it back and they said that – I was away that night so I don’t really know what happened at the meeting, I wasn’t there – but Fred was quite devastated. He said, ‘oh you got no idea what they said!’. People came to protest about Aboriginal people having a medical service there – a centre there. And he said it was terrible [what was said] – and I could see by the way he talked that he was actually devastated by the attitudes of the people in Coolbellup. The little house was – I can’t think of the name of the street, I should it was close to where I lived –
LS: You said opposite the church, which church was it?
JW: I don’t know,
LS: Was it down near the Hamie Hill shops?
JW: No, no, it was up the other way towards North Lake Road there, down the bottom of the hill near those flats, at the end of Winterfold road, although now of course it goes right through, it never used to, it was cut off. And then they made it straight through. But where it ran along the bottom somebody had given them a house. And the church is at the end of that street there.
LS: Is it the same one that Jean had the playgroup and sewing group in?
JW: No, no that was in Torquil Road, see that is Winterfold Road there [indicates on the desk] goes to North Lake, and along this road here is where the church was on that corner. And this road here goes up to the shopping centre,
LS: Goes up to the tavern?
JW: Yes, and its the one that goes across there [behind the shops] and the little church was there and there was this little house practically opposite. And they said “no,”, they said they couldn’t possibly let us have that house as a medical centre because people walking across this (little by road) it would be quite dangerous for them!”. And they might get injured going across there to the carpark!! That was why we couldn’t have a medical centre there – they were that xenophobic, we couldn’t believe it – so racist. Fred said people came out in droves to say why they didn’t want the medical service there. But the child agency, by the time that child agency got put in, and that was just a couple of doors up from where I lived in Coolbellup, that was quite successful.
LS: Do you remember who was involved in that?
JW: No, I don’t. Can’t remember now.
LS: That’s OK someone else has talked about that.
JW: Have they, Ok, but that was quite good, but by that time I was sort of away from little kids and that because my daughter was grown up.
LS: So Fred Collard was an instigator of that, trying to get a Medical Centre in that area, and was the Aboriginal Medical Service operating in Perth at that time?
JW: Oh, yes, ‘cause Fred was the chairperson I think…’73 it started, so the Collards were prime movers really in that area, Jean and Fred and their boy …forget his name…
JW: Neville, yeah.
LS: When did you join the Medical Service?
JW: Well when I started going to WAIT, Curtin doing my training here, I went and worked there in – it must have been ‘75 in the school holidays and stuff like that. What’s its name…
LS: Work experience?
JW: No, just when you go and do … voluntary work and that, Bob Forest, he was the chairperson then. And so I used to go there, and you would take your car, because nobody had any money much, you know, and you’d use your own car if you were going to try and transport people back and forward, and Marlene Jackamarra was there as well, you know, Cory Bodney, Len Dickie, and others I just can’t remember their names now … I used to go there when we had our semester break and go and work with them and that, and it was quite good. In fact Bill was the one that started me on this line of endeavour that I ended up with because he wrote me a letter of support to go to India to look at the programs in India, and DAA gave me the grand total of $600, and off I went to India for 6 weeks.
LS: Was this still 1975?
JW: 1975, yeah. You know the Forests?
LS: I knew Lesley, and her Auntie Tommy -?
JW: They were brother and sister Bill and her, and Lesley is Bill’s daughter. They had a thing called WAIT Abroad study and the Health scientists were go and so I went over to India and looked at the health care in the villages – village programs and stuff. Because I could see that what was happening here was that there was no way that we could ever get over our health problems if we did things the same way we had – with the system that was here you had to learn general nursing, midwifery nursing, and you had to learn child health nursing, before you got to touch people! [laughs] And so our big problems with child health and maternal health, and stuff like that need to be done back the other way. So when I went to India, that was the way they were teaching it, so I thought this is the way we gotta do it, you know. And the way they were teaching [too]. And then I paid my own fare the following year and went to China, looking at the bare-foot doctor scheme. So I went over – I got a bank loan off the bank and went over there. Had a look at that bare foot doctor scheme, and so then I could combine the two, you know, to start the Aboriginal Health Education program.
We started to put it together from an Aboriginal point of view, from an Indigenous point of view I suppose, and it was totally … it just turned it around. And what the medical people were saying was that they couldn’t get nurses, couldn’t get people working in there, why don’t Aboriginal people come in? The Aboriginal people weren’t coming because it wasn’t relevant to them. And even so, today, I always say to people if they say they want to do nursing, well, just make sure that you know what you are doing, because its totally divorced from our way of life and how we see things, you know. So I got to understand the two different programs so I could say that our focus should be primary health care – keep people out of hospitals! [laughs] Not looking after people after they’ve lost a leg or an arm or something – this things happen, you know. Stop the breakdown before it happens, really. So that is my philosophy on that ….
LS: Yes. So then you were founder of Marr Mooditj?
JW: Yes, Marr Mooditj, we started off with the Aboriginal Health Education Program, at the AMS and then we ended up going over to Clontarf – because I got the Sasakawa World Health Prize (1987), World Health Organisation Award, and yeah, that was quite a thrill.
LS: Is that the achievement that you are most pleased with?
JW: Oh well, I don’t know that I was most pleased with it, I am probably most pleased with getting Aboriginal Awards, like Aboriginal of the Year, and stuff like that, because I think if you get recognition from your own people its a bigger thing than if, you know a lot of other awards. I have had quite a lot of awards with other people recognising me, but when you get recognised by your own people it is different. And you then really feel as if you have walked the country mile, or something.
LS: And did that particular award have something to do with you having founded Marr Mooditj?
JW: Yeah, it was because of the Health Program, I got that. In fact when we got nominated, we were over at the old medical service then, in Edward Street, [East Perth] and we got a letter to say that we had been nominated – well we all got excited, and we ran out and bought a carton of champagne, and I brought all the students out and I said, come on, come out here! And we were all having a drink and celebrating, because our program was the first in the world – it had been nominated from Australia, for this WHO award, and so we all got excited. Never heard about it for months on end, and then we got a letter back to say that we had won! We were all stunned, and we didn’t do anything, we just about fell over ourselves saying ‘what? what?’ [chuckles] So yeah, it was quite a big thing.
LS: So can you explain a little more about that?
JW: Well they were primary health care awards, so we were nominated from Australia, and I would say that Fiona Stanley would have had a bit to do with that…
LS: And where did the nominations go?
JW: Oh, there is some place in Australia, I don’t know, from Commonwealth Health, I suppose, and there were two sorts of awards, a WHO award, like for a government organisation, and a non-government organisation – NGO. And ours went through that system as a NGO award. Every year they have a big do in Geneva. Yes so that’s how it came about. And it was for primary health care really – keep the people out of hospital, and [care for them] from a cultural point of view. My program was nominated because – well they tabled it in a lot of third world countries around the world and they said this program is what we think is appropriate for our people, like that – and it was from a culturally appropriate point of view. And a lot of my program is actually. And probably they had to put their dressing on it, work out what their cultural values were and work it out that way, but they could see that it was important to remove themselves from the government sector – because you know how it is. You got that big government bureaucracy – so you have to remove yourself from that bureaucracy so that you can make decisions here and now and have an impact in a positive way. That’s it I suppose –
LS: OK, and the Aboriginal of the Year Award, what other Aboriginal awards have you received?
JW: Oh gee, I was State, and National Aboriginal of the year then, 1987, I got a Pioneer award for starting the program here – at Curtin – and just this last NADOC week I got an award of recognition – they call it the something tree – I have forgotten now the name of the tree – and they are putting the names of people on this tree to show how different people have contributed to the improvement of Aboriginal people’s lives. And my award was for Health and Education, and I got that award on NADOC day. So that was quite thrilling.
LS: So you are on the Health branch of this tree?
JW: Well Health and Education, they gave me two! So that was good, and I think it is for the contributions that people make over the years.
LS: And other State and National awards?
JW: Oh yes, but…
LS: Oh you’ve got a big long list you are going to give me afterwards – is that what you are saying?
JW: Yeah, but to start off with I think it was Citizen of the Year in 1986, and then I got the WHO in 1987, which I told you about, and in 1988 I think it was I got the AM – Australia Medal from the Federal government. And I got a Zonter award as well – from the Zonter women – its over there but I lost the little ticket off it. Was culturally have got to put their and saw that our program was. And the BHP runner up for the pursuit of excellence, and I got an honorary doctorate from UWA.
LS: And is that your daughter up there [in photo of receiving doctorate]?
JW: Yes, that’s Lillian, yeah, she is a social worker now. She has just started working with the Ministry of Justice, working in the area of conflict resolution.
LS: Does that mean she has studied psychology, or is it part of the social work training?
JW: No, no she did social work degree. She has done a lot, she has been working with Derbal Yerrigan, with the Stolen Generation offices, in the Community Welfare, Family and Children’s Services, or whatever they call it these days. She has been working there for about 20 years, I suppose, and she got a secondment over to Derbal Yerrigan, and then another secondment to the Ministry of Justice.
LS: And how does Derbal Yerrigan relate to Marr Mooditj – there is a link there?
JW: Well there always was because we came out of that – that was our mother! We came out of the Derbal Yerrigan, out of the Aboriginal Medical Service.
LS: That is the name for the Swan isn’t it?
JW: They say it is the Swan River, yes. Somebody says it is the Swan River, or where the sea meets the Swan River. So it was always supposed to be the teaching arm for the Medical Service, but the thing has pulled away from that and they have ended up teaching people from everywhere because they’ve got a block release program at Marr Mooditj now. So they are getting students from all over the place, really. But it is a shame really, because the picture was that when we first started setting up programs in education, the aim was that the major medical services would have an education arm, and then as the Aboriginal Medical Services grew and became bigger, they would get a teaching arm in their organisations. So every is …… for what is going on in that community – this is what it meant. So you would be teaching people the necessities to be able to function in your community in the health field. But, like everything else you get a good idea and it all gets stuffed – maybe because of government, you know, you had to sort of become registered, and if you become registered then everybody has to do bits – they go to the sheep race up this way, cattle goes this way, goats go that way, you know – this is the way that it happens. So it took away our vision of how everybody would be taught by their own medical service, in the needs of that particular area. So now they have got a big square and everybody has got to fit in [indicates boxed in with hands] and when they go out there, they go ‘wow – we didn’t learn about that there, this problem here’ and its because it is a different thing, you know.
LS: Sort of like mainstreaming…
JW: Yeah, it was really terrible, I think it is really terrible, because that was our vision when we started, and that was not only just here in Western Australia, but with the Eastern Staters and all …
LS: So is it about trying to make funding more “efficient?”
JW: No, I think it is a form of control [chuckles] when they got control .. if they are handing [out] money they want to have control, and this has got to happen, and that’s got to happen and so on – you know. So they are really taking away the creative means of doing things. Because I feel that … there is a new thing that we have just started here actually, that is the community healing arts – get away from the pills, get away from all that stuff, you know – we have been there done that, hasn’t worked very well, you can only go so far can’t you with pills and potions…
LS: And you know what is needed in an emergency…?
JW: Yeah, that’s right, and it was really teaching Aboriginal people to be able to know what to ask for as well, because nobody knew what to go and ask for. Like I would see people down the paddock, and I would say go up to the Medical Service, and go and see them because that is your medical service. And they didn’t know that that was theirs and they could go there. But see this community healing arts is different. It is from the grass roots, its springing from the grass roots, and it revolves around the rhythms of the body – Art, Music, Dance, Storytelling – those sort of things. And every thing has been taken away from them, now when the people are there talking about their … are in there doing their art, planning their storytelling. Now when the people are there doing all those sort of things it makes them feel good about themselves, and that is a healing process in itself you know. So this is what we are calling community healing arts, and in fact I just was astounded there the other day to hear on the radio that in Japan – and it is not only a groundswell movement from here, it is a world wide groundswell – and in Japan they were saying that they had got the DNA – you know how the DNA looks – like a [up an down] track and they set it to music! And they got DNA from babies, from adults, from flowers and animals, and each one has got their own little rhythms, own little musical rhythms, it was absolutely magic. And I thought this is the epitome of what its all about, and so… and the other thing I heard over in South Africa, when they had all those people in the prisons, and the men and women’s choir and they are all singing and I think that is another good thing they have found – that is a part of it – Art, Music, Singing, all these things that have been taken from us – and there is this big swell [resurgence] coming up and in 10 years it will be common knowledge and we’ll all be sprouting it off, all the time. So I think we have got to do away with all those pills, do away with all this medical model and get back to the basics
JW: – and that’s the whole human race I ‘m talking about, so its probably the only thing that’s keeping me alive, [laughs] now! I can see that this is the ‘swansong’, but I think it is the magic that could heal the Nations – Community Healing Arts.
LS: Thank you, that sounds like a good place to stop.
JW: Well, I don’t mind – we could just take a break.
[The recording resumed a little while later]
LS: How long did you say you lived in Cockburn?
JW: Thirty years. Seven years ago when I retired, I was looking for a house, and down at Ravenswood I thought it reminded me of what Willagee used to be like.
LS: And so in Coolbellup you were working more in the wider community than just in the local community, is that right?
JW: Yes, I didn’t work in Cockburn – I lived there. I lived opposite the Pine Forest, when the Pine Forest was still there, and I saw that Pine Forest really go, because when I was a kid we used to go down there on our pushbikes and I could see all the little pine trees about less than 10 feet tall, you know just growing like little Christmas Trees, and then in no time I saw them all get chopped down because the school and that were there.
LS: Yes that extended right through Winthrop – down that end they called it the Applecross Pine Plantation I think, it ran between the two highways – South Street and Leach Highway, didn’t it?
JW: Yes, it did [aside: I can’t see one – is searching the computer as she speaks] My machine spat the dummie, so I’ll get Jean to get you a copy of my profile.
So, Sullie Humes – his mum and dad there were in Fremantle, and I saw a fair bit of Sullie and his brother, because dad used to drink with his dad –
LOCAL ABORIGINAL COMMUNITY
LS: What was his Dad’s name?
JW: [laughs] Mr. Humes
LS: And did he work in the area too?
JW: He lived in Fremantle, there was only really three recognised – in the early days – there was only two recognised Aboriginal families, one was ours, and one was the Humes, because of the way that the system was, you know. The government line – so there was all these people living in hiding, you may as well say, they were Aboriginal people but they weren’t identifying as Aboriginal people, they identified as other sort of ….Nationalities I suppose. (aside – thanks Jean – we will shut the door ‘cause people are talking out there and it carries).
Yeah, so the way I knew about people was because of Mum, and she knew various people that were at Mogumber, and so those people had then married into ….white society, I suppose [you’d say]. And then they didn’t identify as Aboriginal people because of the sanctions that were put on Aboriginal people in that day. And I know there were a couple of girls that I went to school with that, well one I would have thought was an Aboriginal, but I never found out to this day, but I would say she was. And another one who I never thought was Aboriginal, but she was and her brother was telling me about her later on. But it was really the Humes who were sort of up front as Aboriginal people. Dad used to meet up with old man Humes as I would call him, [laughs] and they would get on the … their house was nextdoor to the wine saloon – I think it was Essex Street that they lived.
LS: A wine saloon?
JW: It was called Con Fernazzi’s – Fernazzi’s wine saloon, it was always called. And they lived next door, I am pretty sure it was Essex – Sussex [Suffolk?] , I would have to go and have a look to be sure what street it was, Essex is where the lights are, isn’t it?
LS: Yes, or is that Norfolk…?
JW: Oh that’s Norfolk, well it wasn’t that one, must have been the next one near the RSL where the RSL used to be…
LS: Arundel has a liquor store in it now,
JW: No it was either Essex or Sussex, one of those.
LS: Isn’t it Suffolk, I don’t know now!
JW: Yeah, oh one of those, I will have a look one day, because I remember where I used to go, I will have to suss. it out. And so Sullie’s sister used to go to Princess May, Rose … I think her name was – Rose Humes, and they lived up front – like Billy Herdigan, his mum was Rose Humes, so it was only like those people who were really up front that I sort of knew of. But then I didn’t know everybody, did I? [laughs] But, otherwise you’d sort of know them. And like my Auntie, well both my Aunties married into white society, but one of them, well they more or less cut themselves off – although they are back now apparently – but we missed out on all that contact. Because dad only had two sisters, and they both married into white society – but his other family were the Eades because his mother had a whole family before he was born. She had the two sisters and him – he was the baby later on. So my other Auntie Ettie [his other sister] she used to come and see us quite often in the war years, but her husband was away at the war then, but as soon as he came back from the war that was the end – we didn’t see them again. You know?
JW: So it only recently that they have been able to come back into the Aboriginal community, I suppose…. So yeah, we lost track of those … both those families. We never had … we had a lot to do with the other families. But talking about the Humes, dad used to meet up regularly [with him] and they used to have a few drinks together ….
LS: They didn’t work together?
JW: No they didn’t work together, Dad worked at the GasWorks all the years that … he was manpowered there in the war years. So all the years of my formative years I suppose, that I knew about him … I don’t know how long… or whether he got the job at the GasWorks at Fremantle, I think he might have…
LS: Was that in Cantonment Street?
JW: Yeah. Yeah, he always worked there, all the years that I sort of knew … he was a very good worker, Dad. He sort of fell to pieces after Mum died, you know, nobody had counselling very much back then, not like to day – they just say he’s gone to the pack, is what they used to say. They didn’t say the poor old bugger needs counselling! [laughs]
LS: No, I heard someone speaking about addictions on the radio this morning, about how addictions to food, alcohol or pills or whatever its all just an indication of mental ill heath …. and so if people need counselling and don’t get it then often they withdraw into themselves or drink …
JW: Yes, do you know the name of that chemical thing that causes all this?
LS: What, endomorphins?
JW: No, not endorphins – it alludes me and I really want to find out what it is – No there is this chemical that you need, that keeps you … and it is the same name as the sort of tablet that they give to people with Parkinson’s disease… So anyway, that’s another thing that has alluded me – but yes. And the more you have, you know, you need more all the time – like the driven mice when they are trying to get somewhere and they keep on going and going. Which is what happens with addictions.
LS: So the chemical makes you have the cravings?
JW: Yes, whether its cravings for food, or gambling, or sex or what-ever people have cravings for [laughs] yes, its the same drug that causes it all.
LS: So are people able to take pills to counter act it or,
JW: No, you can’t because the body manufactures this drug, but because they have found out that that then goes into your system and gives you the craving – like…
LS: Like getting an adrenaline rush?
JW: Yes, like getting the adrenaline rush. So anyway we got right away from what you wanted to talk about…
LS: Yes you were talking about families around Fremantle and Cockburn….
JW: Yes, and cause…
LS: There was Lorna
JW: but she wasn’t a Humes -she was Sullie’s wife…
LS: she was known as Lorna Humes wasn’t she ,
JW: Yes, but I was thinking about when we were kids,- she was known as Lorna Humes –
LS: And I was thinking about community leaders,
JW: Yes, Lorna was a great person, she did a lot of work. But they didn’t live in Cockburn…
LS: Oh yes, Sullie is still there – although he did say he went away and came back…
JW: But he’s been in Freo always, because my brothers went to sea, as I told you, and he used to be working, you know how they have people on the gangway to stop weirdos coming up and going through, or getting off the ships and that, well I forget now what it was, but there was an organisation he was in, and with Old Paddy Troy, like Painters and Dockers or something like that. So they were there for years.
LS: Oh yes, he talked about being on the list when they came to call the men out to work on the wharf –
JW: Yeah, that was the Painters and Dockers, it was – so he used to be sitting there at the gangway quite a lot and that was Sully’s job for all those years before he retired. And so ours and the Humes were the only actual up front Aboriginal families that I knew that were in Fremantle. I didn’t even know the word Aboriginal – we were Nyungars, you know, [laughs] So the word Aboriginal wasn’t in my repertoire in those days.
So as I say, Dad was cobbers with him. And what I was saying was that they never used to drink probably the way that they drink today, although we used to think that people were drinking quite heavily and all that sort of stuff, and I know that Dad used to come home with his couple of bottles of beer and we would say ‘oooh’ [draws in breathe in mock horror] ‘Dad’s got beer again’, you know [laughs] but now they arrive home with cartons don’t they! The other thing that we didn’t mention was, Welby’s Wine?
LS: No, what’s Welby’s?
JW: Oh, well Welby’s was the vineyard, up on – well its not North Lake now its …. Gilbertson Road in Kardinya, just down past that BP Station in South Street, well that used to be North Lake Road, and when we were in Pallie – Palmyra, right next door was the wood yard, Monsons – and they had a horse and cart and on a Saturday, Dad and this Bernie Monson would get in this horse and cart and out they’d go to Welby’s. And so they’d go to Welby’s and probably be there all day, drinking wine you know, then you’d hear them, they’d be coming along up the hill – ‘cause we lived halfway up the hill – past Adrian Street, and you could hear all this singing … singing away in Dad’s voice [in a singing style of voice], and the old horse clopping up the hill, and the old horse used to bring them home, you know. He must have known the way, [laughs] and he would stop at our place, and then go into his yard next door. Oh, yes, so Welby’s was a famous place.
LS: So down near Gilbertson Road was a vineyard?
JW: Yes, where Kardinya is, that was a vineyard, yes. Welby’s Wine it was, yeah. And that was a regular track, though not every Saturday but they used to go out there. And Mum was horrified, because she never used to drink or that. But, yes [laughs] and of course there was a law against Aboriginal people having a drink wasn’t it? But actually Dad wasn’t in that law because of his father being a Pommie. But yeah, I had to mention old Welby’s Wines because it was one of the tracks that they always used to go. And of course there was a boy I went to school with Rob Piercey, they had the big piggery there, on the other side – did you hear about the piggery?
JW: Well you know where the Kardinya shopping centre is, you go back that way [indicates North with hands] towards Canning Highway there is a big park there, and where the big park is you’d go back there – I think it is called Piercy Park actually, …
LS: On North Lake Road on the Willagee side… there is a little bit of water in there…Joan lived there…
JW: That’s only a drain … you mean Joan Trainer or Ruth Coleman…
LS: So near Garling … no Joan and Vic and Joan Williams used to live?
JW: No don’t know them, but this Park opposite there where it goes up the hill was this piggery – Piercy’s and that kid used to come to school on a horse.
LS: You said you went to Princess May, did you hear about the celebrations on the 26th July – I think you have to contact someone about it – I can let you know.
JW: Yeah let me know. My brother John went to the East Fremantle re union and he didn’t move very far, he still lived opposite the East Fremantle School when he died [2 years ago?]…
LS: Do you want to stop now…
JW: Well there is a lot of work here, but its nice reminiscing I suppose – that’s what old people are for, that’s all we can do is reminisce and think of the olden days!
Great times we used to have, I must say. Then there was the old trolleys, they used to make great trolleys [hill trolleys] for going up and down the road, and catching frogs in the dams and that you know. It was great fun growing up down there, in fact the reason why I have gone to the place that I have gone now, I live in Ravenswood, is that when I saw it, it reminded me of the days at Palmyra when I was a kid – open paddocks, a few animals hanging around and stuff like that, you know, and only a few houses. And the kids there can still play cricket in the middle of the road and stuff like that, you know. And as soon as I saw it, I thought, oh, gee this reminds me of our place where I was brought up when I was a kid, you know. So …. we did have happy days. We had a lot of walking around on the shank’s pony, and we did a lot of riding around on our bikes too. Because Dad took us to places like the … down past the Swan Hotel – you come from Fremantle?
LS: Oh, sort of, I have a long association with it although I have lived in other places…
JW: So you know the Swan Hotel? Not the Swan, the Bridge Hotel?
LS: Yes, I had a great Aunt who ran it once…
JW: Oh, do you, I hope she wasn’t runnin’ it when I pinched a couple of glasses! And they ran after me…
LS: She might have ! [both laughing]…I can imagine her doing that – was it in the 40s?
JW: This was in the 50s – Anyway, down the bottom of that … down from that Bridges Hotel there was a lot of castor oil trees … you remember that? A lot of castor oil trees, and a little road went down, and down the bottom there, there was a what they called a capstan – and there was a lot of …. you know what people did in the old days they just threw everything out and it was a big sort of cement affair, where when the old sailing ships used to come into Fremantle they threw the ropes out and then they pull them around and tied them to the capstan. And I remember dad taking us down there and showing us this capstan, and said, this is a capstan, and we were all goggle eyed because we didn’t know what a capstan was so he explained it to us, you know, so he showed us there. And of course there were the old ovens [lime kilns] over there when we were going over to Robbs Jetty, you know how they had the brickworks there? It is a wonder Cockburn shire doesn’t get them done up and have it sort of set aside …
LS: You don’t mean where the chimney is…[near Robbs Jetty] you mean the lime kilns?
JW: Yeah, the lime kilns …
LS: Yeah, they are further down on Cockburn Road aren’t they.
JW: Yes, so they could have that place restored with a sign up talking about the history.
LS: Yes, because it has now got pepper trees and castor oil trees and things sprouting out of it.
JW: Yes, so there was a lot of places of interest around that capstan there.
LS: Did you see boat building going on along there?
JW: Well, when you walked straight down Burt Street there was … you know those old fashioned fences that they have in Fremantle? Um, they had these old fences, and you’d walk through there, and there was this big old pomegranate tree, and the remains of an old house – Anglican Op-Shop – that’s where the place was, we walked through there and down, and it was a little beach [near the bridge and wharf] That’s where we used to go swimming in the early days, we used to go swimming and paddling along there. And Tilley’s boat shed used to be there, where old Tilley was, and I think Ball was there too.
LS: Ball, I don’t know Ball..
JW: Don’t you, well he was pretty famous for fixing up ships there. Even in the 50’s I think he used to be doing that. He was quite a … actually he looked like a ball, and he used have a big fat tummy and he used to take kids and teach them to swim and things like that, and we used to laugh because you’d see him in his bathers like that [indicates a round tummy], and he looked like a ball, and his name was Ball! And there were all these little houseboats there where people used to live, you know, Tilleys was the main one I think – I went to school with a girl called Moya Tilley, and she came from that houseboat. But shipbuilding….? I don’t know, you see because most of my time was after or during the war years when it was sort of barb wired off, and they had the railway bridge there but there wasn’t a lot of work like that being done during the war years.
LS: Back up in the Spearwood area, Helen Cattalini told me that there were Aboriginal people living on the same piece of land she and her family lived on … about where the Phoenix shops is…
JW: Oh yeah, I don’t know who they would be, I know a mob used to come down from Kellerberrin and go over there near the Smelters (South Beach),
JW: You know the Smelters?
LS: Oh Yes – South Beach.
JW: Yes well they used to come down and camp there, and Billy Herdigan could tell you about that – if you went to talk to him, he’d tell you about that. He used to go swimming along with that mob. His mother was Rose – I think, she is still alive.
LS: And Billy lives in this area does he?
JW: I don’t know where Billy lives, he lives up the track now. But he is quite well known, you don’t know him?
LS: No, what does he do?
JW: Well he was working with prisoners – he was one of the famous fighters – street fighters, him and my brother they punched there way ‘round Freo, of course Brian was a bit older than Billy but they were famous street fighters. So Billy’s mother was a Humes and then he spent some time in Fremantle because of his habit of punch first ask questions second, see, and then after many years he came good and he became a Christian sort of thing. So I got Billy working with me years ago, remember when Fremantle prison got burnt – that wing? Well they asked me to see if I could run some sort of a progamme with the prisoners, and so we did an empowerment program with them, and I got Billy to help me. But we had a lot of trouble getting him in the doors, because he had spent a lot of time in prison in the first place, but he ended up working with Sister Bernadine, and then he was working with Outreach, you know the prisoners Outreach thing. I think he did a Community Development Program here, and I am not quite sure, but I think he is working with some sort of mental health program, but I am not sure, I haven’t seen him for a while. But he is a very interesting person if you want to talk to Billy, and he is Sully’s nephew. So of course he is a born and bred Fremantle-ite, but whether he would want to talk to you about these things is another matter. But I suppose he would.
LS: I think I might have met him through Jill here one day. And I will see if he is on Lennie’s list – he has got a little list of people for me to interview.
JW: Oh has he. Old man Humes apparently used to go over to the caves – there is a cave apparently over in North Fremantle were they used to go and play two-up there – have you heard about that?
LS: Would it be near Rocky Bay?
JW: They got caves there? You know where the Pier 21 is, just sort of the other side of that … was a two-up place, and of course the other thing was the sand dunes there. There was a lot of houses in the sand dunes there, before they built all those oil tanks at Leighton, because I know Dad had a cousin out there, Lizzy Daniels – they used to live out there ‘cause the tram used to go over there, over the bridge, and they used to go out there sometimes in the sand hills there. Mmm. That was an Aboriginal group, there was an Aboriginal group there, there was one at the Smelters – and Lizzy Daniels – actually that’s a name that’s been lost to the Aboriginals, you don’t hear about any Daniels. And McAlpines were another lot who were ‘psuedo whites’ – that’s not fair to say that, but you know.
LS: Yes, my mother had a friend – Mrs. McAlpine – we always knew her as Indian!
JW: Yeah, they were Aboriginal … and Jean was a daughter, and I think they lived in Tuckfield Street, I think. Yes, so smelters, sandhills and of course Bibra Lake was a place where there was an Aboriginal camp – opposite Bibra Lake, that Crown Land there – Kenny Hayward’s father was the first Aboriginal person to play football for South Fremantle – Maley Hayward, and he – they were relations of mine through the Coyne’s – his grandmother was a Coyne – and my grandmother was her sister. So what he had to do was go and camp out at Bibra Lake when he wasn’t playing footie, I don’t know why he didn’t come to our place, because a lot of Aboriginal people used to come and stay at our place, and because he was sort of friends with Mum and Dad too. But anyway he was camping out there, there was another camp just down from the Willagee, that I told you about, that old man there – last full blood man.
LS: Oh can I ask you about an old man called Kimba who lived near Hilton?
JW: I don’t know about him, but this old man was called Peter Jackson, he actually ended up being made a ‘citizen’ you know how they did that got a citizen’s paper [gave them an exemption?]. And he was the prop man, and he lived down from the Willagee hotel, near that little water spring I told you about. So he got his water there. And he had quite a … sometimes I used to go past there coming home from school, and sometimes you’d see a whole truck load of people coming down. And I thought they were gypsies because you wouldn’t have thought it would be Aboriginal people coming along in a truck, but they must have been people coming to visit old Peter.
He actually got his citizenship papers and that, and he used to sell props around there to get his money – ‘cause they didn’t get any money then did they?
JW: So that was that one.
LS: And families at Bibra Lake, you said were Haywards and …?
JW: Well Maley stayed then when he was playing footie but I don’t think his wife or family were there.. I don’t really know the names of people there, but Dad used to talk about a lady named Ethel Foot but I don’t know if she was Aboriginal or not. And over at the Smelters, they were the ones that I knew, and not in Spearwood at all. So I don’t know if they went to school, a lot didn’t go to school … they didn’t have to…
LS: What until the 1950s?
LS: Can I ask you about the spelling of Nyungar – people seem to spell it differently, how do you prefer to spell it?
JW: For me its Nyungar – or Nyungah, because – well it was explained to me by my father that people say Noongah because they can’t say Nyungar, and Nyungar is our word because that is our traditional way of talking. People used to say Noongah because they couldn’t get their tongue around Nyungar, so yeah – I have never been a nonga [fool]!! [laughs]
LS: That is a good place to stop!
About Joan Winch
Joan Winch was born at King Edward Hospital in June 1935. Her mother's country was that of the Martujarra, near Wiluna. The country of her father's family was in the South West. Joan and her family moved to the Fremantle/Palmyra area when she was a small child.
In this interview Joan recalls her childhood — shared with friends and family — in the Palmyra and Willagee area. She also speaks about Fremantle and the Bathers' Beach area and describes the wildflowers that grew along Leach Highway.
At the time of interview Joan was Acting Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University and was enrolled in a PhD program. She undertook nursing training in hospitals as a young woman, but returned to studies at WAIT (Curtin University of Technology) as a mature age student in 1975. She completed a Masters in Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University in 1996.
Over the last twenty years Joan has received many awards from the Aboriginal community, the wider local community, and national and international organisations recognising her achievements as a leading authority in Indigenous healthcare and education. In 1983 as founder and Director of the Marr Mooditj Foundation she was Citizen of the Year; in 1987 she was State and National Aboriginal of the year; and winner of the Sasakawa World Health Organization Prize. In 1999 she was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Western Australia.
In 1989 Joan Winch was also awarded a Federal Australia Medal. She continues working in the field of Indigenous Health, and is especially committed to working with Aboriginal people in Western Australia using a 'grass roots' Aboriginal approach to healing.