|Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Recorded: May 6, 1998
This is a transcript of the complete original interview conducted for the Australian Biography project. Each transcript page covers one videotape (approximately 35 minutes). There is also QuickTime video of the full interview available. To play the video, click on the icon in the right hand column. In addition, each question in the transcript is linked to the video. Clicking on a question will play the video from that point. (Help with this feature.) Optionally, you can download the video file for offline viewing (approx. 10MB).
The interview has been left it in its original state so that you can get a sense of how the conversation developed. The repetition of some questions, or a question followed by another question, is often due to the end of a particular tape or some other interruption, and has been indicated at the appropriate place in the text. There has been minimal tidying up of the text so that the flavour of the encounter has been kept.
What took you overseas on this big trip?
Well, the first big trip I made was, you know, right around to most of Europe and ... and to America of course, and that was the instigation of Paul Hasluck who was then the Minister of Foreign Affairs. And now we were ... we were very good friends in many ways because he ... he has an affiliation with the Northern Territory, as Minister for the Interior at some time and he's felt obliged to look to the people in the Territory and do what he can to help Aboriginal people, particularly, and he ... he was a bit of a father figure in a sense, you know, to me and we all knew him and he knew us and he knew our families and I think he just felt, well I'm going to send this person overseas because he had objections from the Department of Foreign Affairs. So he sent me right around to educate me on, you know, what the world's all about and I appreciated that initiative on his part. I always found him a good bloke. I didn't agree with everything he said about Aboriginal Affairs, some of his policies and so on. But he was a ... he was a product of his time like we all are and you know he ... we developed policies and that's where he was.
What did you learn from your trip?
Well, I learned, you know, many things. I suppose just off the top of my head, was that how insignificant Australia is in world affairs. We're really nothing, you know, in comparison to the great powers and the great numbers of people that exist in other places. For example in China and how powerful that is and was and is and is going to be. America of course, you know, it was really the hotbed of everything, you know: finance, political movement, creative ideas and so on, and then in Europe, and I've always, was ... was enthralled by Europe you know, like Germany and France and England and so on, the old buildings but what I was looking at really was, was all decaying, going away something that was you know. Not a ... it was a type of has-been civilisation and was ... wasn't what we expected at the end of this century you know, to be the powerful forces throughout the world. And you know, the people are there and all that, but I was looking at history decaying in front of you, the old buildings and so on. But I enjoyed that but the people I met they were really interesting. They gave me some good ideas.
How did you get on in America?
Well, I ... I was sort of shocked by America in many ways. You know I didn't like the ... the ... the black Americans too much you know. I thought they were very cheeky, a bit arrogant, aggressive and not much depth. And that was a very superficial judgement on my part. Later on, I began to appreciate them more and I began to meet more of them. But I met people like you know Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young and so on. And Jesse Jackson is just something again right out of this world. He's a great American. I met a lot of the white Americans too that were in powerful positions. They arranged interviews with me. I can't remember their names but. you know, I was impressed by them too. But I thought as I think with most white Americans, they're naive, you know, they live in another world. They sort of ... they sort of listen to themselves too much and they don't really attach themselves or their agents to the grass roots of the issues they are dealing with. Very technically great but in terms of sensitivities towards other people I don't think they got it ... They are very creative people, very energised people and come up with lots of good new ideas but somehow or other, there's nothing at the end of the sausage machine in terms of the reality. But, you know, it was good to meet them all and perhaps my judgement once again superficial on them and that's ... that's not fair to them.
What did you learn from Jesse Jackson? You spent some time with him, didn't you?
Yeah. I learned a lot from Jesse Jackson. I ... one of the things I did learned was that, you know, go for it, don't stand back. Get up there and have a go. Say your piece, you know, and put it together so people can understand it. And Jesse Jackson always was and is today a man of the people. He was ... He's been condemned by the press in America on various occasions for this and that but he's always been basically true to himself and true to the cause, you know. Obviously, he's ... he's in the ... in America where publicity - personal publicity and general publicity - can make or break you, you know, but he sort of managed to survive all of that, beyond the Martin Luther King era and so on. But I think with what I ... with the trip itself right around America, I suppose, you know, I ... I really learned one, you know: we've got a long way to go here in Australia. We don't know anything about other countries. We're, sort of you know, very sheltered from other countries and the experiences they are having in terms of race relations, in terms of the economy, in terms of revolutions of one kind or another, physically or otherwise. And you know, we're not subject to new ideas as other people are. New ideas are being forced upon them. Here in Australia we can take it or leave it. Like it is now today with multiculturalism. People think that can sort of you know handle it now at their convenience. No, it's flooding in. Multiculturalism is flooding all around us. It's too late. It's a new ball game today. But 1960s, you know, we could sort of sit back a bit more casually. We can't do that in 1990s.
Did you meet any indigenous Americans? Native Americans?
I did on later trips, a lot of indigenous Americans and I've made several trips to America since then and I met quite a few of them: the Navajos, and the Apache, the people further down south and some in New York City, you know, and others to the west of New York, I can't think of the places themselves but I found them very good, very much like the Aboriginal people, you know, being used and abused and exploited but some of them are starting to get on their feet a bit. In Canada, it ... it ... it's really rather sad there because the Aboriginal people or the Indian people that are living on reserves are status Indians and ones, their brothers and sisters, physically their brothers and sisters, living off the reserves, are not regarded as Indians and it's sort of ... they've divided the Indian communities and the Indians have ... have agreed with them and they are going along that. So I found that rather objectionable to my way of thinking. But I see very similar things between themselves and ourselves here in Australia. With the black Americans, there is some ... some similarities too but it's not so much tied with the land and tied with the culture. It's more with, you know, personal relations, race relations and ... and you know equality and society, human rights questions and so on, but with the American Indians it's all of that but it goes into land and culture, so it extends more. I think my ... what I learned from America, is that you know you can, you know, the ugly, and the bad and the beautiful all together in one and it's very easy to fall from one to the other and that really it's for you to create your own circumstances if you're able to and, you know, you've got to be very careful. There's temptations just around the corner, whether it be drugs, loose living or things like that. And I think it's not a very good society myself.
In respect of the leadership role that you are about to extend back here in Australia among the Aboriginal people, did you learn more from your contact with the black Americans or with the indigenous Americans? Which seemed to you to be most relevant?
Oh, I think they both had something to contribute to develop ... my personal development and my view of, you know, indigenous affairs and race relations. So I ... I was able to get from both, you know. They were both very helpful to me in broadening my vision of the world, what Australia is all about, how we should relate to white people in this country, what we should do for ourselves personally as a community of people. So all of the experiences and discussions I had with all of them are very helpful. You know the American Indians were tied to the land and the culture, as I said before, and the others were sort of you know talking about race relations and what could be done about it and what you can do in terms of legislation and so on, so it was beneficial all around but, you know, it just wasn't a place to live, America, to me. [INTERRUPTION - PLANE]
When you came back to Australia from that trip around the world, you made a major move didn't you? What made you decide to go to Canberra?
Oh, it was late in 19 ... in the 1960s and we'd set up the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs and I felt, at that time, that I would put myself more on the national scene, that I ought to do more on the national scene for Aboriginal people in other States if I can possibly do that and that Canberra was the place to create a national agency or platform on which you can reach out to people in more remote communities in ... in the respective states. And that we can do a lot for New South Wales but what about every where else, you know? And I wanted to sort of stimulate Aboriginal people and white people to sort of reflect on Aboriginal people and what can be done about the situation, which was very bad at that time, on a national level and so the only place to go for that was in Canberra. Because the amount of monies they were spending on Aboriginal people in Canberra at that time was virtually nothing at all of any significance. And the attention they were giving to Aboriginal people was very ad hoc, you know, piecemeal and so on. There was no co-ordination. So I thought, well perhaps I can make a contribution to that.
So it was really following the 1967 referendum that the Government decided it had to actually do something. What actual job did you go to in Canberra?
Well, I was ... I applied for a job as a research officer when the ... in the newly established office of Aboriginal Affairs under Barry Dexter, Dr. Coombs and Professor Stanner and there were two positions going in the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. It was a very small office set up by Harold Holt, you know, and responsible to him. And I thought, well I'd apply for one of those positions and I was the manager of the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs in Sydney at that time. I got interviewed for it like everybody else did. And you know there's not many jobs in Aboriginal Affairs, very few, very few and they wasn't many Aboriginal organisations either and I thought, well, I'll get in there and I can sort of deal on a national level, make some contribution there. And ... and I didn't get the job. They told me, 'No, you can't get a job', you know. Not that you can't get the job but we don't want to give you the job because you're qualified beyond what we really want. It's a liaison officer type position and I was very disappointed. And I thought, well, that's the way it goes. Then they said, 'But we'll offer you another one which will be a research officer because you've got a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney so take that job', [which] Barry Dexter and Dr. Coombs had offered me. I said, 'Well, that's fine', so I took that job, you know, and I was very pleased to have that. But one of the things that really caused me to go to Canberra as well was the death of my friend called Boomanulla Williams. He's an Aboriginal bloke that was working with me at the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs when it was really tough going, you know. We used to virtually have no money at all to do all the things that we wanted to do and the enormous needs of the Aboriginal people at that time but he's ... he's an Aboriginal fellow from Cowra and he was a good friend of mine and he got killed in a car accident and I thought, you know, what a great loss he was to me as a personal friend. So I felt something, you know, about Sydney. I didn't want to be associated with any more, which I would have gotten over of course but then I said, well there's an opportunity in Canberra as well, so that was just another underlying feeling that I had. But the bigger feeling was, get on the national scene. And then they offered me the research officer position and I took it. I thought that was fine.
Now at the Foundation, you'd had quite a lot of freedom to work out what needed to be done and to do your best to make it happen. When you went to Canberra you were in a great big Federal bureaucracy. Was that very different? Was there a real adjustment problem for you in doing that?
Oh yeah, tremendous adjustment. In the Foundation we really had not much money and we could do certain things and we helped Aboriginal people as we felt the need and we were fairly flexible. But in Canberra it was the bureaucracy. At that time in the sixties and the seventies, but certainly in the sixties ... and when I got to Canberra, the bureaucracy was the king. You know, you got ... there were certain guidelines. There were certain procedures and you got to do it this way and no other way. And they were very strict about discipline within the public service and who was going to speak out and, you know, who could and who couldn't. Well, obviously, most people couldn't and the only people who could did in a very restricted way: that was the secretaries of the Department. So it was all very much a tight ship and I went into that situation and I'm not like that, so from the very first day I walked into the office, I was in trouble because my mental attitude and my feeling and my character was just not compatible with the public service system. So I had to make some adjustments to, sort of, get used to the system first of all and find out what it was all about. And I think it was good for me to, sort of, have that experience. And I didn't like it at all: writing letters in a particularly way you know; not being so friendly to other people. Everybody, sort of, had an attitude to each other from the top to the bottom and ... and there were certain procedures you had to follow all the time in ... in not only letter writing but in, you know, talking to people and so on. And in meetings and so on. And I just didn't like it. But I was ... I liked it in one sense because it was ... it was dis ... it was bringing about some discipline within myself, which I thought was good.
Were there any other Aboriginals in the Department, in the Office of Aboriginal Affairs at that time?
There was. There was Margaret Lowry, Reg Saunders and Phillip Roberts. Those were the three other Aboriginal people and they were the research officers ... not research officers. They were the liaison officers for ... They were appointed as a consequence to that first advertisement for those positions and they were ... They were very good and they used to travel around and talk to Aboriginal people but you can imagine how in the whole of Australia it is just not possible to relate to everybody. So we were set an impossible task but I was in the office doing research work. Well, it was very good and the work I was doing we, sort of ... what were the needs of Aboriginal people, where were the greatest disadvantage and you know to prioritise them and just an enormous was facing us. I don't think we realised the ... the ... the ... what was in front of us at all. I certainly didn't.
You'd shown a great deal of initiative and really entrepreneurial capacity up until that stage. Was there any outlet for that in those early days?
Not really. We could do things, like we established for example such things as a sports ... the National Aboriginal Sports Foundation. We set about establishing Aboriginal Hostels Limited. All of those things and most of what's today in ... in ... with ATSIC and with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs arose out of those early years in the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. Because that later became THE Department of Aboriginal Affairs in 1972, of course under Whitlam. And everybody was absorbed in the Department and a lot of the thinking was done in those early years and they came to fruition from 1972 onwards.
When you were first appointed, Gorton was Prime Minister but Billy McMahon pretty quickly took on that role. During that period under the Liberals, was it an easy road for those people who were working in Aboriginal Affairs?
No, it was difficult, you know. Gorton couldn't care less about Aboriginal Affairs and Aboriginal people and nor could Billy, to his ... Billy McMahon but Billy did have some compassion now and then, providing, you know, it was brought to his notice by Dr. Coombs and Barry Dexter. And obviously he got on well with Dr. Coombs and Dr. Coombs was able to talk to him about certain things. But really if he didn't have to deal with Aboriginal Affairs he wasn't bothered at all and you couldn't blame him for that. I mean, he's a white person after all. He was Head of Government, who had Aboriginal Affairs right down on the bottom of the rung of the ladder and you know it was no, it was no political problem to them. It was no embarrassment to them. They couldn't care less you know. And so that's the way it was at that time.
Now what role did you play in organising the Aboriginal protest about this lack of attention to Aboriginal Affairs?
Well I made it my business to go right around Australia as much as I can and let Aboriginal people know we got to do something about this. I tried to stir up their thinking, you know, to get them to think about their own situation, what're they going to do about it. To project on the national scene and not, sort of, be too inwardly looking into their communities, to broaden their perspective and that's ... that was like ... I'd tried to do that in the first five or ten years of my existence in Aboriginal ... in Aboriginal Affairs.
Did it get you into trouble?
Oh, I was always in trouble. I was in trouble every week for one thing or another: speaking out, not talking to people in the right way, refusing to write letters that I thought were not correct, being aggressive and perhaps insulting to certain people, who I thought were racist or stupid or both - politicians as well as bureaucrats.
Who had to discipline you?
Well, Barry Dexter took ... had to do that you know. He had to do all of that and, you know, that was his job, and he was very good really. He gave me you know a long lead and I was able to sort of do lots of things but then ... then, now and again he had to pull me in because the politicians were complaining. You know here's Perkins running off and calling us racists and ignorant and stupid about Aboriginal Affairs, which they were, and Barry agreed with me but he's, sort of, had to perform his role too, which was to discipline you know bureaucrats within his ... in his office or within the Department and I happened to be one of them. And so I don't blame him for that. But you know, I had my role to play too and my role was to sort of stir up the Aboriginal people, or not stir them up but get them to, sort of, realise their position and let's do something about it. And you know ... and obviously as a consequence of my efforts and other people's efforts we had ... we began to develop marches and demonstrations and sit ins and objections to the system of government, whichever political colour they may be. And the bureaucracy and the way it was sort of very impersonal and arrogant towards Aboriginal people, as it was to everybody.
Was there a problem that you saw yourself as an Aboriginal and they saw you as a bureaucrat? Was that a difficult thing?
Yeah, that, that was hard. That was hard. And it's very hard when you see that there are needs that are not being met and you see the disadvantage Aboriginal people are being faced with. And you are actually seeing the results of policies that are totally inappropriate for Aboriginal people, where young black babies are dying with high ... because the high infant mortality rate and people are not focusing in on that at all. Mortality rates are high. You know, not enough housing and people are sleeping out in the open or in overcrowding conditions. And when you see all of that and people don't do anything about it or couldn't care less, well, you've got to say something and that's been my life. That's been my way and that's been my responsibility in all my life is to speak out and it's got me in a hell a lot of trouble. And I didn't want to speak out. I don't want to be aggressive to people. I regard myself as a pretty friendly bloke and a reasonable good natured person. And even though I have a bit of a quick temper but I'm not have any hard feelings or bitterness towards anybody but on a numbers of numbers of occasions over the years from 1968 onwards or even before that, I felt obliged to say something, to speak out and it got me in a hell of a lot of trouble. You know, disciplined by the bureaucrats, demotions, no promotion, sidelined in the office, writing letters to myself, nothing to do, people ignoring me, cut out of conferences and seminars, no travel, being banned from the Department for a whole year without pay, with three children. I had all of those and you know ... and then parliamentarians slamming me in Parliament and I no ... know I couldn't reply to them. And newspapers condemning me, and myself personally and my family. I had to put up with all of that but that's the way it is, you know. That's the way we were and that's the way we are likely to stay.
There was, during that period, that period under the Liberal Government before the Whitlam Government came in, there was the famous tent embassy. Who's idea was that and could you describe that whole initiative?
Well, I've seen ... well, I've seen reports and I've heard people making statements about the embassy in the last few years and I find it rather amazing. I thought it was my idea. I still think it's my idea to this day. I remember when I was on the kidney machine and I was on the kidney machine here and ... where I lost my kidneys and I had to go on to machine three times ...
Why don't you tell me about that separately?
... And I was there on the kidney machine at home and these people came and saw me: a fellow called Michael Anderson and Kevin Gilbert at different times and I said, 'Why don't we set up our own embassy in front of Parliament House. We'll just go and get a building or something, or at least why don't we put a tent up or a tin shed?' So that was how the concept came about and I thought I was the one who started that but I see that everyone else has claimed credit for it and well, perhaps they're correct, I don't know. But I know that right throughout the existence of the tent embassy ... the embassy, I was the one who fed them, clothed them and they all had showers at my place. I looked after them and everything, you know, but now some Aborigines are trying to rewrite history to suit themselves. And I find it rather disappointing.
What was your idea in suggesting the tent embassy?
Well everybody else has an embassy and we were a nation of people so why don't we have our own embassy? Then we could entertain all these guests from overseas. Then we could relate to all these other embassies in Canberra even though we had nothing. I didn't know where we were going to get the money to do all of that and who was going to work in it but I ... I thought well, if we had an embassy then we could do lots ... lots of other things which was, you know, a little unreal in consideration of what the responsibility of embassies are but we thought, the concept is good, let's try to do something about it.
And putting up a tent on the lawn in front of Parliament House and saying that was your embassy, didn't that also have some sort of political, provocative objectives?
That was the whole idea as well. The politics of it were very important and you know, lots of things flowed from us, from that, that we didn't think about you know but we ... the lads went along and did it and they - three or four of them - went along and put up an umbrella first of all and from that, it developed into a bit of a single tent and then into a bigger tent, which I still have possession of. And with all the names and all the things we put on it, and all the signs, placards and I've got some of those. But you know, the ... the political ... the politics of the tent getting erected I think were ... have been enormous and, you know, is still there today of course in another form. It's a more structured building. But, you know, the concept is very important to get across to people, well, there was a nation of people here before white people came. This is our embassy. Sure it doesn't look much but it's there anyhow and you've got to take notice of it.
What effect did it have politically?
Well, I think politically it had the best effect on the Aboriginal people, and I think that's always the best effect. You know, if the Aboriginal people are not interested in doing it, well it's not even worthwhile bothering with the struggle and that's what I've always told Aboriginal people, 'We've got to get off our black arses and do something ourselves and if we do it, then others will follow if we give the leadership'. And the politics of that, it was most important for our own people: hey, we're a nation of people. This is our focal point. Let's gather around and focus in on the embassy, you know. And the embassy was the focal point for demonstrations, sit-ins, messages to be conveyed to government, you know, getting world attention on our plight and all that, inspiration as well, you know. The psychology of the tent embassy was very important for Aboriginal people in my mind. The second thing was the physical presence of the tent embassy in front of Parliament House. No politician could go into Parliament House without turning around and looking at the embassy there and saying, 'Them bloody blacks, they're still there!' You know, but every day they've got to remember the blacks are there, the blacks are there, the blacks are there and they're not going to go away and that made them think and it disturbed them. They couldn't sleep at night - some of them. It, you know, disturbed their conscience and that's what we wanted and we made them feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. And they wanted us all to go away and disappear and we weren't going to do that.
There was an atmosphere at the time in which you were sort of running up to an election too, with McMahon, and Whitlam getting very close to winning. What was the relationship between the Opposition at the time and the tent embassy?
Well the Opposition and the Government were all worried about the embassy. Nobody wanted it. None of them wanted it there to be quite frank: Labor nor Liberal because Labor thought well, if we're not in power, well, we can be a little bit more friendly but when we do get into power, we hope the thing would just disappear you know. And so we realised ... we realised that and they knew that as well and so they played, you know ... everybody ... the political parties all played the game to suit themselves really. But we did get more sympathy and more understanding from the Labor Party than we did from the Libs. Some of the Libs came over, you know, and spoke to us and some of the National Party people did as well, but their visits and their support was very few and far between. Basically more from the Labor Party came over and ... but the support was mostly from the general public. The general public are the ones that helped us more than anything with their contributions, their words and so on. And other times some, you know some person was not pleased ... were not pleased at all with the embassy and they threw things at it, tried to burn it down a couple of times and, you know, tried to punch up people there and all sorts of things but, you know, you expect that. And I ... I received ... I must have received about, oh, thirty or forty death threats in that time which you know ... you expect.
Where did they come from?
From all around, all around the place.
What kind of people?
I don't know. They ... they didn't ... they never signed their named these people, these very courageous people. You know, they ... you know cuttings of myself with a rope hanging around my neck and knives stuck in and saying, 'Your next Perkins' you know. Well, we can just throw them in the bin most of them. Others, I referred them to different people but you really can't trace that.
Now during this period, the early period that you were in Canberra, you faced a major health crisis, didn't you? Could you tell me the story of your health problems?
Well I think it was about 1970 that I began to realise that I was losing my kidneys, you know. Before that I knew it was a case because when I was playing soccer in Sydney, I wasn't ... doesn't matter how much I trained, I wasn't able to sustain myself for a full game. I was losing a lot of my energy and so my kidneys were gradually becoming non-functional and then early in 1970, it was pretty serious and so, you know, I lost them in fact. And I started on the kidney machine here first of all in ... in the ... at the Sydney Hospital, with Dr. John Stewart and they put the ... I forget the term that they use, but they fill your stomach with the fluid and it acts as a kidney and takes all the toxic fluids out of your blood system. Well, that wasn't really suitable and that couldn't last long. It was very early days in the treatment of people who lost a kidney, you know. And so then they developed this new kidney machine and they taught me how to use it. And then I took that with me to Canberra in the boot of the car.
That's a huge business being on a kidney machine.
It was really very, very difficult and it took a lot of discipline and it was really hard I can tell you that, in those early years.
So you were starting in a new job and as you began in that new job you were also on a kidney machine.
That's right. I lost my kidneys after that and if it wasn't for my wife, well, I would have just done myself a long time ago on those, in that year actually. I wouldn't have put up with it.
Could you describe what was involved in for you that year, what your day was like?
Well, you know, to be on the kidney machine ... those kidney machines at that time, it was ten hours, three times a week and you ... my wife was taught to put the needle into me and she did that very well indeed. Your blood is pumped out of you through the machine and then it comes back into your system again. Well, sometimes the machine doesn't work very well. You don't set it up right or the needles might come out and that happened many times. And it's really ... it was really hard to keep going and I was very very weak and I could hardly ... I had to take two or three minutes to tie up one shoelace and put on a pair of trousers took me about ten minutes. So it was very hard but I thought, no, I'll keep going because I had my three children - you know my children, and I said, 'What I'll do is just battle on', and I said, 'I'll get over this', because I had this burning desire to do something in Aboriginal Affairs and I wasn't going to let this get over the top of me but it would have if I didn't have the support of my wife you know. I wouldn't have put up with it but she was backing me all the way so I thought, well, I'll keep going, the thought of the children and all that. And so I said I ... you know, I've got to do something for them. Then I thought, you know, the third thing was the cause, you know. I'm here in Canberra now, get up and do something, perhaps there's something around the corner for you, you know, that could changed things. And that's what did happen later on but that took a while. But to be on the kidney machine in that time was, you know ... in the early 1970s was really hard, really hard. I've had thousands of needles in my arm here and that's why today, and after that time, when I, you know, recovered and while I was on the machine, I said, 'Nobody is going to get over the top of me. Nothing is going to worry me. I'm frightened of no bastards, no governments, no politician, nothing. And I'll go straight in. If I've got to say what's going to be said, I'll say it, come hell or high water, without considering the cost'. And I said that on my kidney machine when I was lying there virtually bleeding to death when a couple of the needles came out and I had to have them put back in again, when my bed was covered in blood, my blood. When I woke up, and I thought, if I get over this, I'll go for it. And that's what I've done and that's what ... and that's why ... that's why I've been in trouble since, since I got off the kidney machine, all the time because I said, 'I don't want to just cause any problems for these bureaucrats. I don't want to cause any problem for the Government, but this is what I'm going to say, because it has to be said'. And that's what I've followed ever since that time that particular path, and that's why, you know, most politicians don't like me and I get into trouble with the newspapers and all the rest of them. But they can all get stuffed because I made that commitment then as you all make commitments. Everybody does when they are in dire straights, when they're in serious trouble.
You really thought you might die?
Oh yeah, I thought I was going to die but I thought if I survived I'll make a couple of resolutions that I'll stick by. That was one of them.
What happened in the end with your kidneys?
Well, I was suffering that much, it was really hard and I thought, well, I'll go home and die in Alice, in Alice Springs. And I was on my way through to ... and we stopped off in Adelaide and we decided to set up there for awhile and they gave us a Housing Commission home that wasn't very good and the water quality in Adelaide ... the water that you need for your kidney machine was very poor indeed. There were lots of problems but I thought, no, I'll battle on a bit more to see if we can do anything and I wished ... we were staying in Adelaide, right next to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital there and I ... I was ... I was really finished. I decided then I'd give it a miss. And I don't know how I was going to do that but I was going to let the toxic fluid build up I suppose and then pass away in that way. I just had no idea. But I wasn't going to put up with it much longer. And I, you know, I thought, one day I thought, well, I'll write a little letter and just, and close it all off and ... but then the next morning I was thinking about all that. And the next morning I got a phone call, and they said, 'Come in, we've got a kidney for you. We want to do a transplant'. And I thought, it was Dr. Coombs or someone ringing me up to ask me about something or other. Here I was working, you know, in Adelaide at that time and there was ... it was just too hard working you know and being in the condition I was.
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