Something, Less

Interviewing Kath

Liam James

Two people sit across from each other in a small café in a library, the younger sips on coffee, dissonance fills the room, a letter rests on the table in front.

Do you have your reading glasses. Yes. I thought I would just start with, I have been going through mums archives and this is a little letter I came across, I imagine you haven’t read it. (Silence) Does your mother have any information on Alfred Baker. On Alfred, yeh. I have done a bit of family history research. (A longer silence). Where abouts are the Tasmanian state archives, in Hobart? Ah, Yeh. Its through the state Library. (Silence continues) Yes I… (Silence). Did you know her? Glady? Yes, yes, she lived in Launceston, years ago, and actually she is my cousin. But here she has your mothers neice. But she is your cousin. But she is my cousin. She must be a little bit confused. Because her, wait on, Gladdys mother and my mother were sisters. So yes she is my cousin. Did you know she wrote to Mum? Pardon. Did you know she had written to Mum. No, no I didn’t, No. Well Patracia is still in Hobart. If this was 94. Well Gladdy and Bruce, her husband, they moved to Hobart years ago, oh, many years ago, let me think, and they just had two kids, Patricia and John. Gladdy died, she has only died in the last couple of years. Oh yes I knew them, I knew them well. When you were young were you ever told you were indigenous, or of indigenous ancestry at all? No, It came up more when my sister, her brother in law, he had a relative, Baker, and we had the Baker relatives too, and his sister said that the Bakers were related, and from the Bakers, on my brother-in-laws side, they got there indigenous side so… So that was the first time you had been told? Yes. How old were you at the time? Well Barabara, let me think. Just roughly. Oh about 19 or 20. 19 20. And when you were much younger was aboriginal culture ever taught or discussed within the family and the home, or was it something else, a separate thing? It was a separate thing because there was no talk of it until I was that age, and then I was married shortly after that and it was mainly as I said Barbara and her side of the family. Ok, so from what has been told to me your mother openly spoke about being of indigenous ancestry. Well not a lot that I remember. Particularly before Trevor and Barbra were married, Granny had the appearance of an aboriginal but nothing was ever really discussed. Would you say you feel indigenous at all, or Aboriginal in anyway? No not really, I just feel the same, just, I can’t say that I do. No, that’s fine. So my mother raised us, her children, well she told us we were of Aboriginal ancestry, and did so from a very young age. What did you think about that when she started doing that? Oh I didn’t mind. Well the culture, if it was there, the background, why shouldn’t you acknowledge it. I think that Jennie just used, like you went to the Homework centre, and you seemed to enjoy it. But I think she pushed us to be active at school as well, to be outspoken about it. Why do you think she did it? I think your mother believed it. She was going on what she had heard, what she had been told, and I don’t know who discussed it with her originally. Then she started doing the family tree thing just to see if she could get a background, but I think it came across that Grannys family were English, they came from England and she wasn’t sure about the grandfather. Not one hundred percent sure. But did you ever read that book, from the family re-union. Yes. I had a look at part of it and I couldn’t see where we were connected there. But your Mother believes. Do you think the potential Aboriginality within the family has been something people within the family have been ashamed of or denied it? I don’t think your mother has been ashamed of it. No but I mean other members say your sisters or any of your kids or your grandchildren. Well there is one child who wont or wouldn’t acknowledge. Oh well you know Judith doesn’t acknowledge any aboriginality, but I cant see anything to be ashamed of. They were here before we came here; it was there land. Where do you think that comes from, the denial of it even being a possibility? Being Ashamed, I don’t know, Judith, I mean your uncles they don’t mind, they don’t say anything against it, They don’t lean either way. It is not something they discuss I don’t think. But I think Judith is determined, but I don’t see why anyone should be ashamed. As we spoke about before the majority of the documentation I can find refutes or argues against us being Indigenous. It gets confusing and unsure, there are no set answers. Do you think the family narrative out ways the documentation? Should we trust one truth over the other? Well I think if your inclined to find the truth you have to follow it through. But how do you do it? I don’t know. Do you think that there is an importance because it has been passed in an oral tradition or is the weight in the facts. Well it is mainly about what you hear, what is passed down, if you really wanted to go further into it you would really have to study and find out were it starts. Because of how things were, lost and damaged paper work, lies and cover-ups, embarrassment and denial, what if there can be no resolute answer, always some uncertainty. Does that leave you uneasy? It doesn’t leave me uneasy. I know when I was at school there were some aboriginal children, and they weren’t treated the same. But to me it has always been the same. They weren’t given the same chances. At the time family members started openly speaking about an indigenous ancestry it would of been a damaging thing. Possibly not, Possibly not. Is it something that would of moved you back socially? It wouldn’t of moved you forward and if you had that heritage you didn’t talk about it. Then why do you think it was talked about and not just kept quite? Well I think it was about time, everyone was treated equally, they were the first inhabitants here and why shouldn’t they have the same respect that white people have. Do you think family story telling and family mythology is important to you? Yes it is. Otherwise how is culture going to go forward especially now there is so many different nationalities coming to Australia. The search for an indigenous past has been strong for many family members of many generations. Why do you think it has been so important, especially compared to research into other heritages? I don’t know if it is because the indigenous people have been put in the background for so long that they have become a more or less forgotten people until someone started to stand up for them, so they could have there rights, the same as we had. So you think it is a sign of solidarity? Yes, but its taken a long time for people to recognize the culture of the indigenous. And you don’t want to lose it and the more you hear about it the more you can become involved and really take notice. Were you proud of my mother for supporting and nurturing the indigenous aspect to our identity? Yes, she took a step forward to follow it through. She has looked into proving. Yes, of course I was. Do you think it was right of her to tell children that we were of Aboriginal ancestry when it is uncertain and unsure? Well she could discuss the possibility that it was there, and if you wanted to go further looking into it, by all means. I am not trying to lay blame on her, but the fact that growing up it is what we were told and that it is what we believed, and it is maybe untrue. Do you think that there is perhaps something unethical about it? Or is it a positive thing. Well if they are old enough and they are uncertain and that child wants to follow it through, then all should be done one way or another and see if it can be proved. Does any part of you want a resolute answer? Would it make you feel more comfortable? Yes, particularly if was positive. So you would feel better if it was positive? Yes, but I can see no difference in having indigenous heritage. But you are saying that there is no difference between white and black culture, but you would be happier if our family were aboriginal? Well I would like to know if it was and that way you can connect to the things that you miss out on if you don’t do anything about it. How do you feel about acceptance by community? With some people within the family being accepted, and others are not? Where does it all play out? Well as I said that’s where Barbara and Trevor, because Trevors grandmother, I think it was, was a Baker and was declared Aboriginal. So Barbara and Trevor’s side of the family have been accepted as indigenous. And that Baker was related to my grandmother, so I cant see why it isn’t on her side to. At the start you said you didn’t feel indigenous, but have you ever felt confused about your relationship to indigenous culture? Or have you always felt comfortable with where you stood? I am always comfortable, but as I said it was such a difference at school with the way indigenous people were classed. But no it has never worried me, I have always been happy and if I discovered I was, it wouldn’t change me in anyway. But if I was then it would be nice to know more of the culture.