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. This recorded conversation between Dr. Leonie Stella and Augustine (Aussie) [Oswald] Hart took place in Mr. Hart’s home in Coolbellup in 2001. Full audio and transcript below.
About Augustine Hart
Mr. Augustine Lindsay [Ossie] HART was born on July 27, 1934 and reared up in Pinjarra. His father probably came from the Collie district, and his mother was from Wiluna. As a young man Mr. Hart travelled all over Australia working his way through nearly every state.
He worked for the Cockburn City Council for 34 years, until his recent retirement. Mr. Hart and his wife Jean (previously Walley) have had nine children. In this interview Mr. Hart shares his recollections of being called up to do National Service, and avoiding being sent to Korea. He also speaks about the wide variety of work he has done, especially in the Coolbellup/Cockburn area.
Mr. Hart is looking forward to taking his wife and some of their dependent children or grandchildren on a touring trip across some parts of Australia during their retirement.
Leonie Stella (interviewer): I think Lennie [Collard] has explained the project to you Mr. Hart – it is about including the stories of Aboriginal people who have made a contribution to the history of Cockburn, in the City Council’s library collection…you know? So the children of the future can see achievements of Aboriginal pioneers in the area, as well as non-Aboriginal pioneers.
Augustine Hart:I think I understand that …
LS:So now that you are clear about that, and you agree to participate, can I just start – to test the recorder, by asking you to state your full name?
AH:Oh yes, Augustine Lindsay Aussie HART.
LS:And your date of birth?
AH:27th of the seventh [July] 1934.
LS:Thank you – that’s alright, so can you to start by telling me how you came to be living in the Cockburn Area?
AH:Oh, I travelled around a lot, I worked all over but I was reared up in Pinjarra.
LS:So is that where your mother’s people were?
AH:Oh, no, no – I think my Dad came from Collie way, my mum was from the North [Wiluna].
LS:When did you come to this area, after you had been working in other places?
AH:Yes, I worked all over the place, in nearly every state in Australia.
LS:What sort of work were you doing?
AH:Oh I travelled, fruit picking, cane cutting, Main Roads,
LS:Sounds like a pretty interesting life…
AH:Yeah, it was … before I got married …
LS:Yes, pretty hard life was is?
AH:Well … yeah, sometimes, pretty hard work yeah, money was very small them days but it was better money than today … because that money went a longer way [indicates with his hands] Pounds, shillings and pence – everything was cheaper.
LS:Do you know what year it was that you came to WA – came back from the East after you had been travelling?
AH:Oh, it would have been around ‘58 I think.
LS:And what sort of work did you do then?
AH:Oh, I worked for um … what was it, that big company – Thiesse Brothers, and Mundijong Railway, the standard gauge from there – Jarrahdale to Kwinana.
LS:Oh, yes, how long did you work on that?
AH:Oh right through…
LS:What right through for a couple of years?
AH:Oh no, that went on for years …
LS:I see, so what were you doing, laying the sleepers or on the train?
AH:No we were doing culverts under the railway line, and I’d drive the [bull]dozer, they were building it – the formation and everything…
LS:And then you came to Cockburn?
AH:No, I went from there up to Armadale, and I finished there – I worked on the Brick Works in Armadale for what, maybe 18 months.
LS:Mr. Hume was at Armadale too wasn’t he?
AH:I don’t remember …
Working for Cockburn Shire
LS:When did you come in to Cockburn to work?
AH:Well I worked in the one place in Armadale – brick works for about 18 months and then I got a job – they laid us off and I went on and got a job at the Armadale Shire for a couple of years, that’s when I came here.
LS:Did you transfer from one shire to the other?
AH:No, I didn’t – I knew you could do that but I left it too long… so I started in Cockburn here, went down the old depot and got a job and I been here for 34 years…
LS:34 years in the same work and area?
AH:Yeah (probably started in 1966).
LS:Did you join any Aboriginal organisations while you were working there? Like Southern Suburbs Progress Association or anything like that?
AH:No, I was always too busy. I raised 9 kids…
LS:9 kids, yeah … so what kind of work were you doing for the council while you were doing that.
AH:I started off labouring, ended up driving machines right through until I finished [12 months earlier].
LS:What sort of machines where they?
AH:Trucks, dozers, loaders, backhoes, yeah.
LS:Do you remember any particular projects you were doing that you could talk about, was it just general maintenance or special building projects [see below reference to roads and Manning Park etc.].
AH:I done a lot of roads when I first come here, Coolbellup was only half built,
LS:What about 1960 something?
AH:Yeah, it was only half built, no shops, no pub no nothing – and we done a lot of roads through Coolbellup…
LS:So there would have been a lot of bush then? A lot of wildlife still?
AH:Oh, even here across the road here – that was all bush there, and we used to hear all the birds there singing there, but they knocked all the trees down and built houses. Some of them kept some trees there and the birds come back.
LS:Yes. Any of the marsupials – kangaroos or bandicoots – quenda..
AH:No, no, there used to be a long time ago but not know…and I think they [bandicoots] are around Bibra Lake.
LS:Did you play footie at all?
AH:Oh well when I was young but not around here…
LS:And you said you had 9 children, what are their names?
AH:Oh, I lost two in this house – well one, and the other one I brought home and she died here …18 year old girl – was cancer …
LS:That’s very young isn’t it, it must have been a shock …mmm?
AH:Mmm, [emotionally] it is hard for me to leave … I will be going in the next couple of months.
LS:Ah, ha, where are you going?
AH:Port Kennedy, yeah opposite…[a daughter]
LS:Are they [Homeswest] building new places? [a bulldozer was working on the block during the interview]…
AH:No, I am buying me own …
LS:Do you think that will be good – to move closer to the sea?
AH:No, [unsure of question]
LS:Have you not got any choice? [being in Homewest property]
AH:Oh, no, no – I have got plenty of choice, I could stay here if I want, for the rest of me life, but we wanted a change you know, [because] we lost the two girls so we’ll move out in a couple of weeks.
LS:So how many grandchildren have you got?
AH:19 and one great grandson…
LS:19 – that’s really good …. Can you tell me anything about – like have people told you any stories about the history of this area? Stories you could share with the general public if this went into the library –
LS:Nothing about people working as trackers or shepherds…
AH:No, I was that busy working, [I didn’t have time for stories or socialising] Sometimes I was working 7 days a week, and when I worked on the rubbish tip down at Bibra Lake I was working 7 days a week, I didn’t hardly have enough time to see my family growing up…
LS:No, all that time working to keep them eh?
LS:And what about the land in this area, are there places that people particularly like around here, or prefer to be near?
AH:I couldn’t say..
LS:Can you tell me anything about other Aboriginal people in the area that you would consider leaders – or tell me the names of people like that?
AH:Oh, well, I will tell you what – I was the first one here!
LS:You were the first one here?
LS:How many houses in the street then?
AH:Well this was the last house was built in this street, and I heard that everytime the builders come here, they was pinching … somebody had been pinching the timbers, and the bricks and that … even the neighbours used to tell me about it! [chuckles]
LS:But there weren’t any other Aboriginal people in the street at that time?
AH:No, no, no – none in Coolbellup, only me…
LS:Only you? How did that feel?
AH:Oh well I was first one here, and a couple of years after some more drifted in, and then some more after that.
LS:And you said that was about 1958 or a bit later?
AH:Oh, after, well after but I don’t know what year – ’65 maybe, as I said I was 34 years here in October …
LS:And did you have the children when you were came here, or did you have them after you came here?
AH:No, I had about 4 about half of them when I came here I suppose, yeah.
LS:And where did you meet your wife?
LS:And is she a local [southwest] person too?
AH:From Medina yeah…
LS:And family maybe from Pinjarra too?
AH:Oh yeah, yeah…
LS:She wouldn’t have had time for any other work apart from bringing up the children either, would she?
AH:No, she never worked,
LS:Did you ever use any of the kindergartens or pre-schools in the area?
AH:No, no, no…
LS:Just all the time bringing them up by yourself, yeah
LS:Until they went to school? They went to the Coolbellup school?
AH:Yeah, they used to go to Coolbellup and some to the High School, Hammie Hill.
LS:Are any of those children of yours working in the area now?
LS:So they have all got married and moved away, or ..?
LS:Any still at high school?
AH:Yeah, the youngest, well the youngest one who died – she had a little baby and we’re rearing him up – but she went to the High School – and we got two more – or one more still to go at high school…Corella School…
LS:Corella is the name of one of the local schools?
AH:Yeah, Corella – and its an Aboriginal name too …
LS:Yeah, the name for a bird is it…
LS:So you said you were the first Aboriginal person in the area, but later on were there any Aboriginal people who took on leadership roles in the area?
AH:Oh, well I don’t really know, I didn’t mix up with any of them, when the rest of them drifted in or kept coming in…
LS:Too busy working?
LS:If I was to ask you to recall one Aboriginal person in the Coolbellup or Cockburn area who had done something for their people could you remember anyone?
AH:Ahhhm – mmm, around here – well I can’t really, but there were others come in well after me like Garlett – I reckon, he is a priest or something, he came, and I don’t know if he is in some organisation but I think he is in the church.
LS:Yes, the Uniting Church I think, I am interviewing him next week. Have you been a member of a church in this neighbourhood?
AH:No, no – I only go Christmas, Easter – and I am Church of England – who esle? Oh, Kicketts, I think some of them drive a school bus – going picking up kids – Aboriginal kids.
LS:Did you have much to do with the church when you were a young boy?
AH:oh yeah, I used to – I was nearly an alter boy once! At one stage [chuckles]
LS:How did that come about?
AH:Oh, down Pinjarra…
LS:Did you mum and dad go to the church?
AH:No, my dad was that busy, he used to milk cows 7 days a week – out of Pinjarra – that’s in the 40s and depression days.
LS:He was hard working too?
AH:Oh yeah, we was running a farm 5 mile out of Pinjarra. And that was during the War and you got search lights going over and over, like that from coast to – you know [waving his arm to indicate right across the sky West to East, from horizon to horizon] and then from Mandurah to Rockingham, Rockingham to Mandurah, Mandurah to Bunbury, and after 6 o’clock you weren’t to have lights burning in the house – everything had to be out…
AH:That’s right, yeah
LS:I was born during those…
AH:Oh, were you, yeah, I started school when I was six, must have been 1940,
LS:1940 you started school? I started in 1949 …
AH:Yeah, that was the blackouts, but obviously if you could get outside you could see these searchlights going back and forth …
LS:Do you remember being afraid in those days, or was it just a novelty?
AH:Oh, no, it was compulsory to have eveything out – you know, Lights Out! No lights burning in homes. That’s because the Japs were coming over, when they bombed Darwin and Broome…
LS:Yes, they got pretty close to Fremantle too didn’t they?
AH:Yes, and they put the foreigners in the internment camps, they had one up in Holyoake, and Northam and up in the hills. And when I was going to highschool I had … there was a German bloke and he had a son and a daughter who went to school but they put him in… I remember that, Hans somebody …forgotten his name.
LS:Down here at the council were there other Aboriginal people working with you?
AH:Aaaah, well I had my brother with me for a while, Arnold, but he left and he hurt his back after 2 months I reckon …and there might have been a couple come after but I can’t remember – and that was at the old depot down on Forrest road here – now they got a big flash one.
LS:So was that that area on Forrest Road where they are now starting to do some development on?
AH:Right on the corner there?
LS:Corner of Stock Road?
AH:No, no, no – here – on Forrest Road – old depot, there is a bit of a museum there, you know they got all the old trucks and bits and pieces, and wagons they got there.
LS:Oh have they?
AH:Then they made another museum down there near that other Lake down there [Manning Park – Azelia Ley homestead].
LS:Do you know anything about that lake? Davilak
AH:No, no – they changed it though, it was Manning Park but I mean its Azelia homestead where they got the museum there. But they got old tractors, and graders and coaches and … I helped to put them in there….
LS:Oh did you, that’s kind of what I meant before when I asked if there were any projects you had done as part of your work with the Council – did you have to grade the ground or …build buildings…
AH:No, they did the buildings but I put all the machines in there,
LS:So did you bring them in from somewhere on bigger trucks and things?
AH:Yeah, well they were donated and they’d bring ‘em down, and we’d put a big winch on them and tow them into place, inside.
LS:I don’t suppose you remember what years you were doing that?
AH:No. I done a lot of work around about there, I done all the walkway around there,
LS:That heritage walk?
AH:Yeah, I done that,
LS:So that would have been what, about 1979 when they were doing all that 150 years celebration stuff was it?
AH:Yeah, and I done all that at the back, went from Azelia, through there up to the lookout, and I done that one out there at Bibra Lake.
LS:And so you had to grade a walkway there too?
AH:Yes, I put the grader up, but I got all the limestone put down ….
LS:Does that mean you were actually working with a shovel or …
AH:No, machines, loaders, yeah and well a roller comes along after to all the tracks.
LS:Where did they get the limestone?
AH:Oh they carted it down from Wattleup.
LS:And so somebody else carted it in for you to spread?
AH:Yeah, that’s right. A lot of the roads to I helped to build, the new ones.
LS:That’s quite an interesting thing to have around isn’t it? Like, to be able to say everytime people go out walking and think “Oh Ossie put this road down here”?
AH:That’s right, and while I was out there at Bibra Lakes – that’s when I started working on the rubbish tip – around Bibra Lake. I was working 7 days a week there…
LS:And did you just have to keep pushing stuff in and … moving stuff…
AH:Yes, and push it over and then bring a bit of clean stuff in and cover it, keep covering it over and over so the loads can come back on the trucks.
LS:I might see where we are up to on this tape and just turn it over before it runs out…
LS:So if we are going to put this transcript on the shelf in the library, I like to put a little biography with it so that the children in the future know who people are – like sometimes I have gone to look up things and I will see something with my family name but I can’t tell if that person fits into my family, or are they from somewhere else? So I like to ask a few questions about who is who in your family. I will start with your name and address, and then your date of birth, and can I ask you your Dad’s name?
LS:And your mum’s name?
AH:Topsy … she was a DANN before she got married.
LS:And you said she came from the North?
LS:And your children’s names?
AH:Sharon, April, Yvonne, Lynnette, and then I lost two, I lost Dorinda and Gail, [my sons are] Lindsay, Austin and Steven.
LS:Which one was first born?
LS:Do you remember the year?
AH:Oh, no, no.
LS:But perhaps in the 1950s? Do you know how old she is now?
AH:No, I can’t remember – I can think of names but dates I can’t.
LS:Your wife, her name? And her family name before she married?
LS:And you have lived in Pinjarra, Armadale, Cockburn for 34 years and worked in other states – working before marriage. You went to school in Pinjarra, and you were a member of the Anglican church for a while in Pinjarra.
LS:Do you speak the Nyungar language, as well as English?
AH:No, no, never – none of us speak any…
LS:Did you do any training or other education apart from high school? Like some people go back to TAFE or something later on?
AH:Oh, yeah. Well, I done 3 years in the NATOs…[as National Service conscript]
LS:Oh, three years in the NATO’s how did that come about?
AH:Well it was compulsory.
LS:It was compulsory, so was that in the forties or fifties?
LS:So it was a call-up in the fifties then was that the Korean War?
AH:[firmly] Yeah, that’s the one! And I wouldn’t go! When I was called up [to go overseas]. My brother went, and he came back shell shocked!
LS:Oh, what was his name?
AH:Arnold, that’s the one.
LS:So what year did he go away?
AH:‘53 I think, and he came back about 1960 I think.
LS:So did he/you go with the Army?
LS:Did you have any choice about whether you went into the Army, Navy or Airforce?
AH:No, just the Army.
LS:So what happened, did you come home one day and there was a letter or …
AH:Yeah, yeah, they just did that … and then [when told later to report for overseas duty] the armed police – you know they had these [indicates with fingers stripes on upper arm] military police, they used to try and catch me. They’d come out to the farm, and there was a big drain there going along, and you got to come over it, drains and bridge and gate there, and the dairy farm there, and if I saw them I used to jump on my little horse about that high [indicates Shetland height] and go and grab me rifle and go bush – go to the back, – to the corner through the back where we got 20 acres of bush where the cows go in through the winter time, and I would ride out to the estuary and I would camp out there for two or three days [laughs] …
LS:What up around Yunderup estuary or Peel Inlet or something..?
AH:Yeah, way out the back – ‘cause we used to leave, you know, some sugar and tea out there, we’d go out the camp there and have a good time there, fishing and that. One member of the family had to go, and my brother got sick of the cows – milking – so he went.
AH:And that’s how he got shocked…
LS:And what, he never recovered?
AH:Oh well he is starting to get over it.
LS:How did you feel about being called up like that? You know, into a War that probably didn’t have any relevance to you?
AH:Well I mean that War shouldn’t have been – Australia shouldn’t have been in it at all, but that was, what was it ….. oh I have forgotten his name, the Minister then? Prime Minister after the War?
AH:Yeah, that’s the one, Menzies.
LS:So you managed to hide from them for a while,
AH:Yeah, but one had to go out of the family.
LS:So did you say you were already in the NATOs, you just didn’t go away?
AH:No, no, I only went away over to New South Wales,
LS:So you still had to go in the Army.
AH:Yeah, but after that I was called up to go there [Korea] and I said “No”, I wrote to the Minister for the Army and I said [indicates writing on palm of his hand] – “Not my country, if they come here and you give me a gun I will fight, that’s fair enough, in my books,” [emphasised]
LS:So you were called up and you did join the Army – so what happened then?
AH:That’s when I did that [training] they’d call you up to go over there, and I said No.
LS:So what did you do when you were in the Army?
AH:Train, you know you got to do the training, New South Wales, I think it was Wagga Wagga.
LS:Did you get any sort of fun out of that?
AH:No, but you know they teach you … oh you know you do your orders – what you gotta do – marching …
LS:Did you learn anything useful for you?
AH:For me? Well I’ll tell you what – it will bring you up the right way [chuckles] That’s why I couldn’t understand today [the situation] – they should bring it back,
LS:So you think it is good to have some training?
AH:Well yes, as soon as you are 16 – you are in – [I think you should be in].
LS:So did you do any exams, or get promoted to sergeant or anything like that?
LS:And were there many Aboriginal people in the group that you were in?
AH:Oh you know, there were some, but I think there were others at that other camp…
AH:Yeah, that’s the one? But oh, yeah …
LS:Did the regiment have a name?
AH:I can’t remember, and a lot of them went from here over there. There was one from here, Dessie Parford, he went to Korea War – he was from around Perth, Bassendean or somewhere like that, but he ended up with shrapnel up here [indicates top of head] and they had to put a steel plate in his head – and he only died a few years back, I think 3 years back.
LS:So have any of your kids been footballers or netballers or anything like that?
AH:No, at highschool they played a bit …
LS:With growing up in Pinjarra did people pass on any stories about early settlement in the area?
AH:No, no, oh as I say we were out on one of those farms and it was busy, another bloke owned it …
LS:Was he Aboriginal?
LS:So your Dad had a contact with this man for a long time – that seemed to happen in the South West didn’t it?
AH:Yes, you know he run this one and they’d come and pick the milk up. Or well they’d have these trucks …
LS:Oh yes, I used to do that work with the milk cans out on a dairy farm – my Dad had a friend in Dwellingup …
AH:Did you? That, right?
LS:Yes, the big truck used to come out there and pick it up, and I used to go out in the early hours of the morning and deliver it to Holyoake.
AH:That right? As a matter of fact, I used to drive one of those trucks at Brunswick, I used to drive a milk tanker there, when I was nineteen…
LS:When you were still living with you parents?
AH:Mmm, and Brownes had it – we used to deliver it to the factory that’s all, they had a factory at Brunswisk – oh I have done a bit of work – at Gosnells too I was 2 years driving a truck – for blue metal for that company that makes the blue metal up there, for about 6 months – What – you know, see like when I was in I used to do was just go around and look for work. As I say – I have never been on the dole in my life! I have always worked.
LS:That’s fantastic – [both laugh] That’s what Mr. Humes said, there used to be plenty of work around and you just went around and you got it, but its a lot harder today …
AH:Yes, that’s right. And when I was in Queensland doing sugar cane cutting many years ago, I knew young white blokes they used to go on the dole – three of them, and they’d live in these bloody apartments, and they’d have one pays for the food, one pays for the rent, and one pays for the petrol, and you know … they’d just drive around that part of the coast and I would be thinking aah, but there is plenty of work. Oh dear. But then, you know, they were young.
LS:How did you come to go away for work, was it to get the work?
AH:: Oh you know, it was sightseeing, you know, seeing other places, ….
LS:So it was something you wanted to do, travelling, adventurous kind of thing?
AH:: Yeah, that’s right. Yes it was good, chuckle, I am just waiting for my young sons to get their licenses and we can tour around Australia then.
LS:That would be good, how many will go – your wife and your sons?
AH:I will take my family,
LS:All of you? Those that are still living at home?
AH:Yes, I might get a four wheel drive – I have only got the wagon there, but … I might get a double cab four wheel bar and you get the seat in the back.
LS:Dual cab ute kind of thing?
AH:Yes, might even tow a trailer or caravan.
LS:So that kind of travel has been your main leisure thing?
AH:Yeah, and it will be – see I have been up North, but my wife hasn’t travelled see – I wanted to take her to England because I am retired but she doesn’t like the aeroplane – I wanted to go over there.
LS:What made you think you’d like to go to England?
AH:Oh, [pause] …me old Pommie grandmother come from there.
LS:Right, Yes, I got one of those too…
AH:She used to smoke a bendy pipe [indicates with his hands] see, and she had a little pocket knife with a plug of tobacco scrape it in like, in the pipe and I used to laugh, when I first met her, because she talked funny, you know – broad, and I got a hiding over of it [laughs].
LS:Do you know what county she came from?
LS: Lancashire, so what do they call that, the North country?
AH:Yep. I think so, yes…
LS:A strong accent…
AH:Yeah, pretty broad, and my brother in law is a Pommie too, he came from over there too…East Birmingham I think – he married my sister.
LS: What was your sister’s name?
LS:How many brothers and sisters did you have?
AH:Only the one sister and two brothers, Arnold, but one [Kelvin] got killed in a car accident.
LS:This English grandma, what was her name?
AH:Toddy Coucher –
LS:Toddy Coucher, what a great name for an old lady that smokes a pipe.
AH:Oh yes, she was … we still got relations up that way, they got big farms. My Dad’s Mum, but … – she was Miss Coucher before she married grandpa Jack Hart.
LS:Was Jack Hart’s country Pinjarra?
AH:: No, no, Collie, Williams, Quindalup, all round through that way.
LS:Did they come up to Pinjarra for work then?
AH:No, we left Collie where I was born, and came down this way.
LS:Mr. Hume said his family brought him up this way to avoid the Welfare. He said his father was worried they were going to take his kids away.
AH:Yeah, well my mum was taken away – was stolen, and put down in Queen’s Park when she was quite young – Topsy Dann was taken away when she was small – she didn’t know she had brothers and sisters.
LS:No, that’s very sad….
AH:But I met them all later on, and I think she met a couple I think before she died. But oh, when they died I went up to the funeral, and there was none left – her sisters and brothers. There are a lot of Dann’s you know, sisters brothers and kids, but we don’t see them.
LS:Was she taken from Roebourne or Geraldton, somewhere like that?
AH:No, no she come from – my mum was born in Wiluna. So she ended up in Sister Kate’s yeah. And she didn’t know who her family was, even that they existed.
LS:No, that was really cruel that wasn’t it?
LS:So when you pack up the family and go on this holiday that you have earned yourself, where would you go first?
AH:Oh I would travel up through the North and go through to Alice and then through Darwin, and along that way and back through Adelaide and back
LS:Well that should be a good trip.
AH:It’ll be after I get me new house, and it will be a couple months before I move in – I have got a daughter lives there too, and she’ll look after my place. It’s not that far.
LS:OK. Well, I have covered most of the topics that Lennie asked me to consider, is there anything else you’d like to have go on the record for the future.
AH:Well, see I worked for Cockburn – its a good Council –
LS:You mean they are good to work for?
AH:Yes, very good, when my wife was crook and had to go to hospital they gave me time off while she was in hospital.
LS:When did you finish up with the Council?
AH:Oh, it will soon be 12 months. I told them I could go on for a couple more years but my wife had that open heart surgery, and I had to be able to help her, you know.
LS:Yes. Alright, well thank you very much for sharing that with me.