Cherbourg

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Thu Feb 14 04:42:26 MST 2002


I have just returned from an over nite trip to Cherbourg Aboriginal
Community - located about a 4 hours drive away from Brisbane.  This was an
old Aboriginal Reserve where Aborigines from all around Australia were
relocated.  The community's population is about 1700.  My involvement is
with the Primary School which is run by an ex-student of mine, a truly
charismatic indigenous leader.

He has been at the school for 3 years and in that time transformed it from
a run down no hop and no expectation of any to a thriving, vibrant
community school.  It is the most successful in not the only success in
Aboriginal education in Qld.  Moreover he has done it through
Aboriginalising the authority structure in the school and linking it to the
aspirations of the entire community.

He gave to me to read an autobiography Forcibly Removed (Magabala Books,
2001 < www.magabala.com> by Albert Holt a former member of the Cherbourg
community. This is a wonderful book, simple but straight from the heart. It
truly tells it what is is like to be an Aborigine in Australia. From one
learn all.

The following excerpt from the book is a favourite of mine.  Aborigines
were not allowed to purchase alcohol and the tale concerns how they tried
to outwit the publican called Tiernan, who lived in the nearby town of Murgon.

"They decided to try and fool Tiernan by sending one of their own group
over.  George was the one selected because he looked like a South
African.  When George was challenged, he told the publican he wasn't
Aboriginal, he came from South Africa.  It didn't work.
Tiernan woke to the game straight away.  He said to George, "You're an
Aboriginal from Cherbourg Mission." George went back to the group and told
them what happened.
The next person to try was Dave.  Now Dave had a Chinese look about
him.  When he fronted up he was really surprised when Tiernan asked him
what he wanted. Dave couldn't believe his luck and asked for a bottle of
wine, and away he went back to the group who were over the moon with Dave's
success.
After a few bottles of wine, the group was getting pretty tanked up and
Dave was getting very curious as to why Tiernan served him.  Dave asked
Tiernan, "How come you served me and not the others?" Tiernan explained
because he was Chinese it was okay to sell grog to him.  Dave became so
offended that he exploded, and told Tiernan he was no f...king China man.

Dave was still angry when he got back to the group who were disappointed he
had no grog.  they asked Dave why he came back empty handed.  Dave told
them that Tiernan identified him as a Chinese and not as an Aboriginal
person, so he told Tiernan to stick his grog up his ar.e.
Dad told me all the Murries (aborigines) were angry with Dave, telling him
grog was more important than his identity. The lesson I learnt out of this
story was, that no matter what happens, never, ever, lose your identity".
(pp17-18)




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