Jeannie Roberts is a Nyikina Mangala woman from the west Kimberley. Due to circumstances she describes in this recording, she started in Fintona's junior school in the early 1960s speaking no English and having just acquired a new mother. Although she identifies with the stolen generation, she was not herself stolen.
Jeannie describes her time at school and her return to the Kimberley as a nurse and again as a teacher. When her son started school she began working on women's issues. She has held positions dealing with employment, health and women in prison, in many parts of Australia.
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This Release should be cited as: Roberts J, Harper C & Lush M (2011). Jeannie Roberts, belonging to two worlds. Fintona Oral History Group Release 3, http://www.fintonahistory.com.au
Audio file: Roberts_64bit.mp3
Size: 17 MB
First released: 2011
Description: Jeannie Roberts Interview
Duration: 36 minutes
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Chance was probably the main factor bringing Jeannie to Fintona rather than some other school in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, but Fintona did have a record of interest in Aboriginal affairs.
Margaret Cunningham was the owner/principal who awarded Jeannie a free place. One of the teachers employed by Miss Cunningham (first appointed in about 1938) was Yvonne Nicholls who ran a school discussion group and in 1952 published a pamphlet called 'Not Slaves, Not Citizens'; about injustices to aborigines (Broome, 2010). Miss Cunningham also knew missionaries at Aurukun and Fintona had a social service group which supported this mission
Attitudes at Fintona developed as they did in the community at large, and by the mid 1960s the Aurukun service group was having talks from people vehemently opposed to many of the institutions involved in the daily life of some aborigines, including the mission at Aurukun.
The group turned its attention to more local events too, and Pastor Doug Nicholls (later Sir Douglas, not a relation of Yvonne Nicholls), who was then leading the Aborigines Advancement League, addressed the whole senior school. It is perhaps not insignificant that he was one of very few invited speakers to arrive at the school by tram. In 1967 Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of a constitutional amendment that placed aborigines on the same footing as all other Australians.
Broome, R (2010) At the Grass Roots of White Support: Victorian Aboriginal Advancement League Branches 1957-1972. The La Trobe Journal 85:141-156
Recollections of Mary Lush, former member of Aurukun service group