Australian Biography

Charles Perkins - full interview transcript

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A lot of white people, who admire and are very much drawn to the complexities and the meaning in Aboriginal culture, feel worried about it because if they really did adopt it as the soul of the country, and dance corroborees and so on, they're worried that they might be accused of culture appropriation. In other words, some Aborigines aren't as generous as you are in relation to their culture, and make white people feel a little bit as if it would be wrong of them to adopt it, as it were.

Yes, well we've got to overcome that embarrassment bridge, because the Aborigines feel one way, and white people feel the other. White people feel, well, why should we have any part of that, anyhow. It's a waste of time, it doesn't have to do with us. And Aborigines are thinking, well, white people don't want to have any part of it, you know. So there's a mixture of feelings in all of that, but you know, the essential element is we've got to grasp that nettle of, you know, a number of things. One, we've got to come together. One, white people have got to recognise this was Aboriginal land before they came here. They haven't been here that long. There's been all of these things that have happened. Accept the history of this country. Then it makes it easy for us to come together, but if we don't accept the history of Australia, we don't come together to be able to work out an arrangement in terms of, you know, the merging of cultures, and Aboriginal performances, and white people being part of it ... Well, I've seen some: a lot of white kids doing dances, the emu dance, the kangaroo dance, on the stage at high schools, when Aboriginal people said, 'Come up and do it with us', and they ... you couldn't get enough of them up. They all wanted to get up there on the stage at the one time, and they loved it and enjoyed it, and what we've said to them straight afterwards, we said, 'That's part of your culture. That's what you've got to learn', and they all liked that idea, see. But they've got no embarrassment about the past, or about current relationship. They just ... they're honest. They just like it. They want to be part of it and they think it's a good thing, and you know, it is a good thing. I mean, if white Australians go over and sort of sing an Aboriginal song overseas, or sing it in the schools, or speak it instead of French, German, Italian, Dutch, why not an Aboriginal language, and like to, and are happy to speak it. Well, that makes them a better person, you know: greater skills and all the rest of it, and I think, what I mean by soul for Australia, is what we haven't got at the present time, which allows us to sort of develop an identity, develop a self-respect about ourselves, a dignity, that's on firm, solid ground, and I think that's the basic ingredient that's missing in this country at the present time, and I think most people, maybe do not understand, in my mind anyhow ... is that they don't understand it, because they're searching for other things, you know, other means, or other things that would say, 'Well, that's what ... where we belong, that's what I identify with, that's what makes me an Australian', but if we can develop this soul, I think if ... and all of these things I've spoken about, then we're there. We've got something, you know. We've got something to hang off. We don't have to sort of try and pretend we're, you know, better than the Yanks at being what they're good at, or the British, and try to crawl to the aristocracy, or trying to be as ... older than Europe, and you know ... We're ourselves, and we can just walk the world, and people would be pleased to see us, and we'd be proud of ourselves. And that's what I mean by soul, and I think it's a ... it's a wonderful thing to have, you know, and I think Aboriginal people are going to play a role in that, in participation, but also in providing some elements of that. I mean you know, the soul is a total mosaic, isn't it, of everything? And you know it's not all Aboriginal; it's not all white; it's not all Italian; not all Greek - it's all of those things, or a nice mixture that just blends together, and when you see an Australian walking down the street, you know, everybody will say, 'Well, you know, that's an Australian'. Why is he an Australian or she an Australian? Because they're this and that, you know. And I think that's important.

Because they're what? What characteristics do you see as being Australian?

Well, you know, what makes an Australian? Well, I think what makes an Australian, when we have received this soul and this identity with the soul of Australia, is that we walk differently; we talk differently; we're more respectful of other people; we're more compassionate; we're more educated in a social, academic sense, perhaps not an academic sense, as equal to them, but in a social sense; we're more flexible; we're more generous people, without being stupid we're generous; and we're more kind to each other within this country, never mind to other people outside of it. So you don't have to walk round down London Square with a boomerang stuffed in your back pocket and a koala bear under your right arm to say, 'Well, look, I'm an Australian'. You stand apart as an Australian because you have a certain standing and ability to stand there, the characteristic. That's what an Australian is.

And what's an Aboriginal?

Well, same thing. Same thing.

What is the meaning of 'black crows and white cockatoos' in your life?

Well, from ... For me, from Aboriginal culture I've always understood white cockatoos, to give you an idea: be careful, watch out, you know. Galahs have somewhat the same [meaning]. They're sort of keep you aware of things that are going to happen, and be careful, be cautious, but they're all part of your make-up, you know. You welcome them, and they welcome you. They make you happy. And the crows, well, the crows are, sort of, not my mentor, but my ... who keeps a lookout for me. And I remember when I was very ill, and I had this kidney, when I lost my kidneys and I was on the machine, I'd see nearly every day for the time ... Every time I got on the machine, I could see out the window, a little part of the window, about that much by that much, [STRETCHES WIDE HIS ARMS] and two crows would fly across there every day. I could hear them coming and I'd hear them going, and I'd ... they'd keep an eye on me, and I always feel that that's the way it is with me. That's all come from, you know, Aboriginal culture to me. Some people might say, 'Well, you know that's not ... It's a coincidence'. But that's all right, they can believe that, and I'll believe something else. But my mother has always inclined me in that direction, you know. The two crows look after you, keep an eye on you, which you ... The crow is indestructible. You never see a dead crow in a park or on a highway. You never see baby crows. You ... The crow is a sort of a ... it looks after himself. He's a certain type of animal. More so than any other animal, he's indestructible. He's got dignity. He's ugly as anything, but he's there and, you know, protective of his own, and he's watchful of everything. So I just have that understanding, which most people wouldn't appreciate, I suppose.

And are you indestructible, Charlie? What do you think's going to happen when you die?

Yeah, well, I got a feeling, you know, I'm a little bit indestructible physically, psychologically as well, but it's really ... it's like everybody's the same. You stagger on from one crisis to another, and you try to overcome that in the best possible way, until you meet your final hurdle which you cannot cross, for despite your want of trying to, you can't overcome. But I'm the world's longest living kidney transplant. I got other things wrong with me, that, you know, would cause problems, severe problems for lots of people, but I hold them within me, and I contain them, and I balance them out. And I'm probably pretty lucky too, because I think my ... what I've inherited from my Aboriginal ancestry has strengthened me a lot, you know. Well, I think it's, you know, my blood and my heart and all that. They're very good and they sort of contain me over severe illnesses, which in many cases would have caused problems for lots of people, and you feel a bit indestructible, but you know, I think in the last, you know, ten or twenty years, you know, everybody gets a feeling when they get to my age, I suppose, you know, we're not immortal, something's going to happen soon, but then what's going to happen when you do pass away? Where do you go to? And nobody's really got the answer. Everybody tries to provide an answer for themselves to give themselves a sense of security, and certainty and comfort in the final analysis, whenever that will be. But you know, I think the great hope for everybody is that they have the opportunity to die with some dignity, and that, you know, they would have ... possibly have some inkling of what's going to happen, but really they're not going to, you know. And I know, I sort of nearly passed away, died on the table twice actually, in the last six months, on the operating table, when I had a heart attack, and I saw nothing, but, you know, that was only a short space of time. But you just never know. Nobody really knows. I think that's fair enough to say that. We all speculate. But I think, the passage of your life from one to another is ... all you can hope for is there'd be some dignity attached to it, you know. It's done the right way.

What do the Arunta people think?

Well, the Arunta people, the Aboriginal law is, you know, it's, you know, today it's the same as tomorrow, as it was yesterday, and you know, there are things that happen to you, and I can't say too much more than that. But you know, everything progresses from one to the other, and everything is connected. Living today, like tomorrow, and then all the plants and the birds and the trees, they're all part of your existence while you're here, in a very symbolic and spiritual way, and they're going to be the same afterwards. But its ... it's difficult. Nobody really knows, and I, you know ... I certainly don't know.

Your mother was such an absolutely huge force in your life. When did she die, and how did that effect you?

Oh, she died quite some years ago now - twenty years or more. Well, my mother was everything to me, you know. There's only three, four people in my life, five people, I really held in high esteem, you know, my mother, my wife, Ted Noffs, the Reverend Ted Noffs, and the two other people I thought were very good people, and you might think this is rather surprising but, the present Pope, and I'm not even Catholic, and the other one is Mohammed Ali, who I met on a number of occasions. And I'm perhaps his only real friend that he had ... that he has in Australia. But those sort of extraordinary people, to me anyhow, were the greatest influences on my life. Certainly my mother. Well, your mother's everything. I mean there's nobody more than mother.

What's your greatest hope for your grandchildren? Your grandchildren carry Aboriginal blood. They will have a white education in a good family with enough money. What do you think their future will be?

Well, I don't know, naturally enough, and who knows what the future will bring for any of us, you know. Tomorrows could be anything, but I would hope for my children and my grandchildren, that they would take advantage of a number of things. One, a good education I give them, and good health, and some good social training. Everything else is up to them. It's their road that they've got to go down, and whichever option they chose, and whichever path they chose is entirely up to them, but my obligation to them is to make sure they get a good education, they have good health, and their good social training. They're respectful of people and other cultures, and they know who they are, and they can, you know, use their talents to the best of their ability. And I don't think you can hope for anything more from them, and expect any more from them. And I think that, you know, whatever they want to do on the basis of those three criteria, well, they should do. If they find that they want a satisfaction in following a particular path, go for it. But I always try to say to them, you know, all the time, you know, you've got to have the courage of your convictions. You've got to, you know, like in all my life, I've always said, if you're frightened of something, still do it. You've just got to do it. But if it's the right thing to do, then you can be bet ... you're sure to your last dollar, you're not doing the wrong thing. And I, you know ... I hope they can have the courage of their convictions, and maintain that courage all their life, because you need a lot of courage in this life, to make some of the choices you have to make. That's natural. I mean, you can't sit back like an amoeba and just regenerate yourself. You've got to be an exciting, dynamic human being, and there are choices you're going to make that's going to cause you some difficulty, and if it requires some courage on your part, then do it.

Speaking from your own experience, how important do you think education is in the future of the Aboriginal people in this country?

Well, education is ... and information is power, and that's what this society's denied us: education. They've told us we're having education and they've denied us that, because once we get the information and knowledge spread throughout the Aboriginal community at a higher level than we've got to now, say five times higher, things will change. If the Aboriginal community were educated there wouldn't be an Aboriginal problem. There'd be a white problem, which it really is at the present time. Aboriginal people, if they've got the educational ... behind them, they've got a reasonable health, anything is possible, and so really in the final analysis, Aboriginal Affairs doesn't depend on governments, missions, white people, unions, it depends on Aboriginal people themselves, and we've got to get off our black arses and do it ourselves. And education is the key along with these other elements, you know, working in unison with it - reasonable home, reasonable health - for us to sort of get up from under and do the things ourselves in the way that we think is important. Then we can eyeball white society and we can work out the terms of the relationship in a much better way than exists at the present time. And I'm very disgusted with a lot of our whites ... or black academics, I should say, our black academics, who have come through the system, and have not allowed for this flood of Aboriginal people into the universities, and the areas of higher learning, by not fighting for Abstudy, which was the Aboriginal study scheme to stay in existence, which it doesn't exist at the present time. We've now become part of Austudy, which you know, no Aboriginal person, plus white kids, can't live under. Just too ... It's just too miserable an amount of money. So we've denied ourselves the one opportunity to really get out from under by having a decent education, by you know, deny ... by getting rid of the Abstudy scheme. And so I'm really disgusted with the black academics for that. They've done us a disservice.

Why do you think it is so difficult for the Aboriginal people to get the level of education that they need for what you're talking about, given that there have been scholarships and so on in place?

They're all miserable scholarships. They're meaningless scholarships. You can't live on an Abstudy scholarship -- Austudy scholarship, if you're white or black in Australian society. It's just too tight. The costs are too high. But added to that, there's two other things. There's the disadvantage [that] Aboriginal people live in, in terms of housing and poor health and so on, and the second thing is Aboriginal culture. We are what we are, you know, because our cultural background. I mean, we don't necessarily see things as other people see them, and we have a way of dealing with each other and other people, that may ... is not too commercially oriented, and it's not exclusive. I mean our family is everybody. Aboriginal culture. Everybody. There's certain levels. Everybody at your level are your cousins. The next level are your aunties and uncles. Next level your fathers and mothers, your grandfathers. So nobody's excluded. It's a very inclusive society. And that's why we are as a community, and we sort of ... It has its disadvantages, but it's got a bigger advantage because you've got lots of friends, and you've got lots of relations. And everybody's supposed to look after each other, which is not always the case, today in Aboriginal society, but that's the idea. Well that culture tends to draw you back a little in terms of excelling academically or professionally, because you can't get out too far in front. You can't excel to much above the others. It causes some problems. But Aboriginal culture, you know, [there are] other things to it. It's a greater appreciation of other things that people don't care about: trees along the footpath here, you know, they're beautiful. The lawn, the grass on the lawn, the air, the birds and the water and the beaches, and things. I mean we take a lot into that ... that into account, you know, Aboriginal people. It's all part of us, and the land itself, which is part of the culture, because you perform ceremonies, when you get into a traditional situation, for that. So all of those things are pulling us this way, and white society is pulling us there to be more exclusive, more nuclear family oriented, more competitive, more commercial, more hard-nosed, less friendly, and in relationships - in a very formal way. Well, Aboriginal culture is not like that. It is different to that, so we got a clash of cultures, which doesn't help us, you know, in some ways. But where's the best benefit? Isn't it better to be like that, than to be that way? Because when you've achieved all you want to in the material, the old saying is, 'Is that all there is?' You know, and that isn't all there is. When you've got all the money you want, and everything you want, isn't there something else? Have you missed something? And then isn't friendships and compassion and kindness to each other and helping each other, and being part of a bigger community, and no loneliness, no broken hearts, no dispirited feelings, no psychiatric cases, no necessity for mental institutions, or too many prisons. Isn't that better, you know, in the final analysis with people? So this ... this is pulling us all the time, and so we find it hard to be an Aboriginal person in white society. We live two lives all the time. Like me, I live two lives. I can go out and mix in a community, and I could stand for the Board of the ... of the International Grammar School which I'm standing for tomorrow night, and I can fulfil that role, but that ... then I come away, and I'm somebody else again. You're sort of acting in a sense, your life, you know. You're fulfilling two roles, which is a bit hard. But every time I walk on the street, most times, nine times out of ten, somebody's making a judgement on me. If you do something, you may [be] judged. If nine, ten people walk past there, and somebody does something wrong, and that somebody is an Aboriginal, people are bound to remember that, but if it's nine white people doing the same thing, they won't remember that. And we find Aboriginal people, that every time we go out on the streets, we go anywhere, every day is judgement day. We call it. And it's hard. It bears down on you psychologically. It scars you a little bit. And you get a little bit angry at that, and when you haven't got the equipment to compete, or to combat that, in terms of good education, good health and a reasonable home and so on, it becomes a little too much. And you know, hence it causes problems in lots of communities and with individuals. So, that's what we've got to work out amongst ourselves, and when Aboriginal people are drinking too much, and being a bit anti-social and so on, we're not trying to be that way, so much, we're screaming out for help. Only people are not hearing you, that's a problem in this country. And when we ask John Howard, for example, to apologise, we're not saying apologise so there'll be litigation as a consequence of that, or we'll sue the pants off him. We're saying apologise, so as to create the psychological grounds so we can all then relate and forget about the past and not let it be a burden. Remember it, but not ... and we move into the future as friends, you know. I mean I think the good thing about Australians, black or white, is that we're, you know ... we're pretty forgiving people. And if, you know, that sort of element is taken away, that characteristic from the Australian make-up ... and I think that's his big crime. And with Aboriginal people, you know, it's very hard to be a participant in white society, because you've just ... for me, from the day I was born 'til now, sixty-one years old, has just been struggle, and that's why sometimes I've said, when you've asked me previously, I wouldn't mind dying. Well, I wouldn't either. I'd be very happy. As long as I can die in dignity, I wouldn't mind dying. Well I wouldn't either, because what's it been from beginning to end? Just a constant struggle, in the police compound, from one institution to another, getting out in the workforce and being condemned all the time there and watched under a microscope every day, everything you do, and then, you know ... and living out in the society wherever you go, not everybody condemning you, but you sort of feel uncomfortable. Where do you lodge? You can't go and get a room. Every time I've every wanted to buy a house or go and find lodgings I've always sent my wife in. Never once have I gone in. You know, and these sorts of things, I mean that's not very nice. And there only small things. And you imagine for other Aboriginal people, if that happens right around Australia. So that's a lot of our people in this country at the present time, in 1998. Now maybe in another twenty years time it will be better, who knows, but I'm fairly pessimistic of the future.


Well, I don't think we've got the character of politicians, who can make the best laws, who can decide on the future of this country in the best possible way for all of us, never mind Aborigines, for everybody. I don't think, you know, they've got what it takes. I think that this society's too greedy. And we should be paying ... if necessary, in practical terms, paying the politicians three times the money they're getting at the present time, so we're getting quality people there, who make quality decisions. And take the unions, for example. They're the big movement in this country. When have they every turned their mind to helping Aborigines? When have they had a national strike for Aborigines? Never. And so on. And it just ... So that's why I don't know they've, you know ... they've really got the vision [of] what this country's all about. Now, through this reconciliation process, and what's happened in the last year, perhaps, you know, I should change my mind, because I've just seen hundreds and thousands of white people coming forward now, which I just wouldn't believe before. And I was watching them down at Bondi. I was sitting at the back, sitting in the car watching for half a day, watching all these people, and white people coming to sign the Sorry Book, you know, and I was thinking, 'Who are they? What are signing that for?' And they were just ordinary people. And then I saw them putting their little, you know, hands in the sands, and I saw how many there were, and I thought, well, that's pretty good, and then I read in the paper yesterday that ... or today I think it was, a million people have signed the Sorry Book. I thought, that's not a bad number. But I get despondent at times when I hear people like Alan Jones, who are pulling this country down. You know, for monetary gain, causing controversy for their personal benefit. And even John Laws, while everybody suffers as a consequence of their remarks, or it retards progress, they just go on enjoying themselves and think it's wonderful. So, you know, perhaps there's a bit of optimism mixed in amongst the pessimism, but the future should be good for us all. It should be good, but it's difficult to imagine it sometimes with the type of people we have in this country.

You've had this tremendous anger in you, from your childhood, and from all the slights that were imposed on you there, and that anger has given you the energy to accomplish all sort of things. Do you regret having spent your life so angry?

Yeah. I have. Yeah. I do. I wish I could have spent it a little more comfortably, a little more satisfactorily, and be a little more satisfied with enjoying the ordinary things around that everybody else seems to enjoy: going to pictures and taking time off. Like, most people go to work, and come home, and they just enjoy what's around them, but with us, it's a cause every day, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. The cause is with us because it's part of us, and we're part of it, you know. We're it. We're the so-called 'problem', and we have to deal with it. But I ... I've lost ... As I said before, I never had a childhood. Up to twenty-one I never existed. I just survived, and after that time it got a bit better when I got married and I sort of saw things in a different way and lived a different life. Well then, that was okay, but up to twenty-one, the best years of my life in that sense, never existed. Very unhappy.

Are you?

... I'm angry with ... angry that I was deprived that. But I suppose boys and girls brought up in institutions feel that way anyhow, but I, you know ... I felt it a bit more than others, I suppose.

Are you proud of your accomplishments?

Oh, in some ways I am, but not really. I think that that was my lot. I had ... that's what I had to do, and I reckon my accomplishments weren't that great. I think that I did what other people would do anyhow, and you know, everything ... like with everything in life you know, you ... like the Ten Commandments, not one person every wrote that. Or shall we say Shakespeare, everybody made a hand in that, and like the things that I've done in Aboriginal Affairs, it's as a consequence of history and a consequence of other good people round the place making it happen. So, you know, you're just part of the equation.

You feel optimism because of people being prepared to say they're sorry about the stolen generation, about the past treatment of Aboriginal people ...

Yes ...

Does Wik and Mabo give you optimism too, the fact that a High Court has found in favour of Aboriginal rights?

Yeah, I'm ... I was pleased they did that, and I was pleased, you know, where Justice Brennan -- his remarks and so on - that he wasn't intimidated by politicians. And Wik decision: I was pleased that Keating made a stand on the Native Title even if he got some of the legislation wrong. And I'm really pleased that in the last two or three years there's been a movement from amongst the people of Australia in terms of wanting to be part of reconciliation, which I never believed in the first place, by the way. I thought it was a waste of bloody time, you know: reconciliation. What was it? Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Well, what have the Aborigines got to reconciliate for? They never did the wrong thing, it was done to them. But never mind, I ... but I think there's something in it now, because it's brought a lot of these other things into play, and I think that that's the chance for good relationships in the future. But you know, I think that if it doesn't change by the turn of the century, then I think what ... we've got no option but to become violent towards each other. It's ... it seems the only way that you can get some of these people to understand, you know. It's like a little boy stealing lollies, until you smack him on the hand he won't stop stealing lollies. And you know, it's a crude sort of an analogy but that's the same in this country. They have never grasped the nettle because they've never had to. Nobody's forced them to face the reality of what's happening in this country, and what they've done. And do we need bloodshed in the streets? Is that what they want? Do they need killings in Parliament House? Do they [need] shooting and burning of houses? A riot down the street with people getting killed, black and white? For somebody to get up and say, 'Hey, we've got a problem in this country [with] the indigenous people. Let's do something about it'. Or are we still going to have these selfish, stupid remarks of Alan Jones's and people who ring him up, you know, making those silly remarks that are just going to lock us into a history, into a backwater.

If you could have your wish, and, given that you were in charge, or involved in Aboriginal Affairs, when some real progress was made with practical problems, let's not forget that, what would be your wish? What would be your programme, your recipe for fixing things up?

Well, you'd have to do a lot of things, because, one element depends on all the other elements being in place and co-ordinated. You've got to do something about the infrastructure situation for Aboriginal people, which some people say, 'Oh, how boring!' It's important because people live or die by that. That's clean water, sewerage, housing, footpaths, electricity, all of those things, and most communities haven't got them. Then you've got to work out a system whereby Aboriginal people can get education, so that no Aboriginal person in this country, wherever they live, can be ... will be deprived of a university education, because that's where the answer is - in a Aboriginal people themselves. It's not in anything else. But you get the infrastructure right, you get the education right, you help as much as you can to get better employment and so on, but you're waiting for the mass of Aborigines to come through. They've got to come through. And then you don't have to depend on people like myself. I mean, I'm here today, gone tomorrow, and I've only just played a small role like other Aboriginal leaders do, but we're only passing, you know: ships in the night really. And where the answer lies, is with the mass of Aboriginal people, not with the individuals.

What do you do about grog?

That will look after itself. You don't deprive people of grog, or have legislation all the time. If people know that it's not a good thing to drink grog or take drugs, then they won't take it. I mean I don't drink, I don't take drugs, because I know it's bad for me. And my kids don't. So why don't we educate people, so that the drug ... you can put the bag of drugs on the table, you can put bottles of wine and beer on the table, and they don't have to take it, because they don't want to take it. And that's the only time that we'll have ... we'll have, you know, control of these elements of our society, these bad things. Not by doing it the other way. So I think the ... they've got it the wrong way round. And you know I think that's sort of, that's what society I think will eventually come about, but we're going to lose generation after generation of people, white and black in this country. The other thing too is, in this country, it's so good and it's so energetic. We've got good resources that we ... there ought to be no chance for any person, black or white, any kid to be without a feed, or be without a reasonable home or security. No necessity for any poverty in this country whatsoever, with anybody. And you know, all of these things are possibilities. It can happen if we want it to happen. But here we are, for example, on the grog: they reckon Aboriginal people are excessive in, you know, alcohol consumption. Australia is second or third in beer consumption in the world. It's the most alcoholic society in the world. So what people do is they ... they're drinking on, boozing off, and they turn round and point the finger at a Aboriginal sitting there or drunk. Aboriginal people are bad social drinkers. We got nowhere to hide, no place to go, so we're too obvious, and we stand out. White people have got homes to go to, but the extent of alcoholism in this country's enormous. We have in here ... we even have the beer that ... beer is a drug in my opinion. We have the drug barons supporting the Olympic Games. They're the real killers. No good talking about heroin and cocaine and all that. That's nothing. That's the minor game. The big game over here is beer and alcohol, and what it does to people, so, you know, this society is full of contradictions, and that's why I've said that many a times to the people. Don't argue about drugs, leave that. Concentrate on where the six million ... billion dollars of revenue comes for the Government, from beer and alcohol consumption, and I said, 'Then you start to get ... really attack what's happening in Australian society'. And so, you know, these contradictions are what makes you wild with Australian society. It makes you wild to see that all the media is tied up in one or two hands. If you want to object to something, how can you? How can you object to gambling when the television and the press are owned by the same people who have got the biggest interests in gambling, or the biggest interests in the beer consumption, or whatever? It's just ... it's tragic. And you know, it doesn't need to happen in Australian society, but we've got weak-kneed politicians who've got no guts and no character to sort of say something about that.

In a life where there's been a lot of bad moments and bad times ...


... from when you were a small child, looking back what is the worst time of your life? What has been the worst time?

Oh, there's been ... It's very hard to get them apart. I mean going through that ... those series of 'investigations', so-called, into the Department, but really into me, was ... was really traumatic. When I lost my kidneys, that was another trauma that devastated me, but I overcame that. Then, you know, other things: leaving the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the way that I did was another. Oh there's been a series of these all the time. I seem to have them every two or three years.

Has life brought you any joy?

Only the family, but nothing else.

Just the family.

Yeah, just the family. Nothing else. I take no joy in anything else. There's nothing. I don't take no joy in anything else. No nothing. I can't think of. Aboriginal people I find ...

[end of tape]

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