Know Your Community: Our Stories




The exhibition Our Stories is a celebratory showcase of the Town of Victoria Park’s diversity, community spirit and strength. 
Know Your Nation spoke to 20 people – some attending with family - who have lived or worked in or near the Town. Over a cup of tea and, in some cases, a box of tissues, together we captured some of their stories and memories. What started out as an intergenerational piece focussing on preserving and sharing community history became a frank and open discussion on identity, place-making and courage.  The stories are a surprising display of strength and vitality by the Town’s community that warrants celebration. 

Our Stories illustrates Victoria Park’s marked diversity in age, as well as background.  An ancient land enjoyed for thousands of years by many, Victoria Park has always been “home”. These people form the backbone of our community and its heritage.  For others, Victoria Park is the place of choice to settle after immigrating to Australia.  In these cases the Town has provided a welcome, support and vibrancy, encouraging them to remain and build their future. 
For the Town, established residents, and its newer community members tell a story worth hearing.  We hope you enjoy Our Stories, and getting re-acquainted with our roots. 
We are diverse and we are many, yet we share a common bond that holds us together.


Pastor Albert

social enterprise history vic pk

I was born in a little country town called Gnowangerup in a small missionary hospital for Aboriginal ladies. I spent quite a number of years in those early days with my mother and grandfather. They had a little humpy on the mission reserve and I grew up there. There was just the one room, with an open fire in the middle of the building.  We used to sit around there in the smoke.  When we were ready to go to bed we used to scoop it out, then throw the ashes outside, and that was where we used to sleep.

My family were really a nomadic family.  We never stayed in one place for long.  My family travelled between Thomas River, Cape Arid and Albany. We walked everywhere, though I think grandad had a horse and cart so we used that a bit.  We lived off the land.  My grandad was a shepherd and used to take sheep from Borden to Dillan Bay. It would take about a week. And the family used to follow in a horse and cart. We’d eat kangaroos, emus, bob tails, goannas and berries from the side of the road.  Grandad always used to have a big old gun, which he used to carry on him for this.  He used to fish too, for food, off the rocks. They’d light a fire and cook the fish on the rocks too.

I don’t know whether I was taken or whether mum placed me in a children’s home, but I was one of those who qualifies as being part of the stolen generation.  I must have been about six when I was taken. I never really saw my mum after that.  Occasionally I caught a glimpse of her, but I sort of lost contact with her as a child. That’s really why I ran away when I did; I wanted to make contact with her again, because of all of the years I’d missed out on.

I spent 10 years at a children’s home on a mission. There were times at the children’s home that I enjoyed. I had lots of other boys that I could play with.  And there was one month of the year that I loved; for one month in the holidays the mission used to take us down to Bremer Bay.  There were some kids who were allowed to go home to see their parents but we had nobody to take us so we looked forward to Bremer Bay.  We’d go in a truck. We used to go fishing and swimming and hiking and every other thing that we could and liked to do.  We used to have a treat one day in the month – we’d go to a Wellstead farm.  They had huge mulberry trees there and we’d all come home purple from berry fights. 

At the mission I always looked forward to bath times, in a little tiny tub.  Two of us used to hop in. The superintendent (the one that I used to really love and respect) - I could hear his feet shuffling along on the ground.  He’d come and put us in the bath, soap us up, wash our hair, dry us, make sure we had our pyjamas on and make sure we got into our beds.  Those were precious times.  Some of the other staff I didn’t get on with. They’d give the strap for bed wetting, soiling the sheets.  The boys had their sheets rubbed in their faces.  Some of the boys couldn’t help it though.  In other instances I saw kids copping a good belting.  I look back now and think that this was unfair.

We had missionaries teaching us at school. We missed out on a lot of things on local early education, so it took a lot of catching up when we first went in to the white high school, which I attended when I was about 10, I think. I found all of school very hard.  As Aboriginal kids, school wasn’t conducive to us learning.  One of the drawbacks I saw was that there were so many things us Aboriginal kids weren’t allowed to do.  For example, we weren’t allowed in the swimming pool. In summer I used to peer out the window at my mates, who I’d play football with during the week, with their togs and their towels: ‘Where are they going? Why can’t I go to the swimming pool? We’re all in the same class!’ It took me a long time to realise that there was a colour bar on the pool.  They didn’t mind us playing football, because we were good footballers, but we weren’t allowed to go to the swimming pool, the theatre or out for a meal because we were barred from it.  These questions played on my mind, so the situation wasn’t conducive to learning. Obviously now I can laugh at it. The one thing that kept me going all the way through, though, was my good grasp of English. Right to this very day.  Being able to speak with clarity, it’s been my strength.

I ran away from the mission in 1958, when I was 14. I knew that at the age of 14 you could leave school, that that was the law.  I had a burning desire in my heart to work, to drive heavy vehicles.  But mainly I wanted to reconnect with my mother again.  Mum was quite surprised when I turned up, because you could get in trouble in those days for running away from a children’s home.  She was reluctant to take me back but I think she could see that I would never settle down there again. I started work on a farm.  I loved farm work, out in the paddocks, driving tractors and harvesters.  It was what I’d dreamed of at the children’s home.  I saved a bit of money.  Bought myself a couple of vehicles. The superintendent that I loved had an old saying – ‘What you are as a boy, you’ll be as a man. Lazy? Surely not.’ That stuck in my mind. I was determined not to be a lazy boy.






social enterprise history vic pk

My dad was a refrigeration expert. We moved up to Perth when I was about three. I had eight brothers and sisters, and I was number six. My sister Roma was the oldest girl but she passed away.

My earliest memories are from living in Bulwer Street, Perth, where we lived for approximately 12 months.  Ours was a little old house with a very big yard.  That’s where we were living when Roma died and five of us were in hospital – the Children’s Hospital, Subiaco – after contracting gastroenteritis.  I don’t have any memories of being sick as such, but I do remember it being lonely in hospital.  I remember Roma going in first, then me, then my younger sister Norma and two of my brothers.  Norma had her first birthday in there.  Roma had never been a strong child.  The doctors told my parents to hold off on Roma’s funeral because they thought that I was going to die so it would be better if they waited to do us together. 

Then doctors approached my parents to ask whether they could trial a new regime on me, which I believe was a drip into the ankle.  I still have a scar from it.  My aunty Sal was there with my dad at the time that the drip was trialled and they heard me cry out loudly once the drip had been in for a while.  My aunt declared I was going to live, after hearing that stronger cry – the strength of the cry meant to her that the drip was working. 

I was in hospital for nine weeks in total. 

After Roma passed away the Catholic Church refused to bury her in consecrated ground because she wasn’t christened.  But at that time my parents had eight children and were moving from country town to country town with my father’s work, so they didn’t have time to christen all of their kids.  I assume eventually the Church agreed to the burial but as a result of their initial treatment on this issue my whole family turned away from all religion.  My oldest brother died three years ago and he flatly refused to have any religious service when he passed away.  He’d never forgotten.  He’d have been 10 when Roma died.   

My parents couldn’t stay in the Bulwer Street house after that, the house held too many memories.  They moved to East Perth.  I think my mother also blamed the ice works, next door to the Bulwer Street house, for the disease.  Later I met someone who had also lived in that house growing up, whose brother had also died there of the same disease.  They had blamed his death on a well in the back yard, which I didn’t know existed when we lived there.


social enterprise history vic pk

There were seven of us.  I was fifth.  Originally there were eight of us, one died at birth.  I had two older sisters.  We were raised on a farm, sheep and grain, in Wycheproof, Victoria. I never had a job, always worked on the farm.  Before and after school we’d milk cows, and feed the pigs and the chooks.  I didn’t spend much time with my parents.  My big sisters, Mary in particular, brought me up.  There were 10 years between us. 

I stayed at boarding school for three years, and I think everyone thought I would become a nun (two of my brothers had become Christian Brothers before me).  But when I announced that I wasn’t going to be a nun I essentially left school.  I returned to the farm, and was looking forward to it. I became more of a maid in the household than a farm worker.  One week I would be doing the cooking, the next the washing, ironing and floors.  My mother must have had it pretty easy!   

On my return from boarding school I made my debut - I had my coming out ball.  We had to step down off the stage onto the dance floor at a big ball.  After we were presented we danced around with anyone that asked us.  You always had to wait to be asked.  I went to a ball every week at that time – in fact on a Wednesday and Saturday night.  We made our own ball gowns.  There were always pins and needles everywhere when we were doing so.  Once, and I was going out with my husband, Brian, by this time, I was preparing for a ball in a nearby town, Quambatook, and I stood on a needle when I was getting dressed.  

Mum saw the cotton hanging out so pulled it but it broke off from the needle.  The needle was ‘head first’ in my foot. I wasn’t allowed to go to the ball. Poor old Brian got this terrible message from my brother; “Where’s Anne?” “Oh, she’s gone to hospital.” Brian rang up the next day to find out what the story was.  Meanwhile the doctor was trying to find the needle in my foot.  It wasn’t sore or anything. I had to have an operation. He x-rayed it and saw it.  Decided to operate but when he did, he couldn’t find it. Eventually they managed to pin point it in a further x-ray and then remove it.




social enterprise history vic pk

I was born in 1930, in Bruce Rock.  Mum was from Scotland and dad was from Lancashire.  When my parents first came over they had to go there to farm, it was a government thing.  They did it pretty hard.  The only thing I remember about my mother from that time was that when she came over, her mother gave her lots of soap to hide in her bloomers.

Dad’s father and brothers were down in Albany and we’d go and see them sometimes. Mum and dad went one year on their own and purchased a café in York Street.  We all cried, none of us wanted to leave Bruce Rock.  I remember as if it was yesterday; on my 21st birthday I travelled in the back of big wheat truck, owned by a friend of ours, with all of our furniture on a stinking hot day, down to Albany. 

In Albany I helped my parents in the shop.  It was very busy – full on.  I quite enjoyed it because you’d meet a lot of people, regulars. The man I married, Harry, used to come into the shop every lunch time and buy cigarette papers just to see me.  The shop sold fish and chips and he’d also come in of a night time and sit and stare at me.  He was very handsome, 6”8.  My face used to go pink when he walked in the door.  I’d get flustered.  Eventually we got engaged and married.  He’d asked mum and dad unbeknown to me, and my parents loved him.  He asked my mother ‘do you want to buy some cigarette papers back off me’. 

We moved to Perth when we got married.  One of Harry’s friends was renting a sleep out in Victoria Park while his house was being built.  There were blocks across the road from where he was renting and we bought one of those blocks.  My husband and his father then built the home that I live in today. 

Harry had rheumatic fever when he was young.  On his way home from Merredin, where he was working at one stage, he had an accident, which stirred things up in his heart again from the rheumatic fever as the steering wheel hit his chest. He carried on for a while after that but the fluid kept building up and up. Later, probably due to the shock of his mother being killed by a tanker in January 1960, he got really sick and passed away.  They couldn’t do anything for rheumatic fever then like they can now.  That accident was so bad; my mother in law was on the footpath waiting to cross the street.  The tanker not only got her, but also the lady who was standing on the veranda of the house behind where my mother in law was standing, putting out her bread money.  Our boys were two and four when he died. 

When he died I was getting 12 pounds a fortnight.  We hadn’t finished building the house and we had borrowed from the bank to do the roof, so six pounds a fortnight went to repay the bank.  The house was still a shell at that time, all we had was a fridge, table and chairs and beds, of course.  I eventually got a job cleaning offices near the Causeway and would take the kids with me.  I made the boys’ clothes and we lived on mince and polony, so they’d say.  But we managed.  One of Harry’s friends, Phil, would take the boys and me out and looked after us.  At first I thought of him as a brother but eventually I learned to love him and we married.  I loved both my husbands. I love my two boys, though I only have one left now. 


Morteza and Essy

I was born and raised in Iran.  I completed my Batchelor degree in Iran in 1990 and joined the workforce in 1991, initially as a software programmer but a year later I joined a team setting up the ATM network for banks in Iran.  Eventually I moved to Dubai, via London, before moving to Australia in 2002. 

Before I immigrated to Australia I was exceptionally busy with work but once I was settled in Australia I had a bit more time so decided to establish a charity.  In 2003 I established an organisation dedicated to children called Tabatabaee Charity Foundation for Children, which has a focus on health and education.  It’s a charity in Iran, being managed by a team mainly from my family, along with many others.  The management team are highly educated, such as my uncle, and they are almost all volunteers.  It has grown very well over the past 10 years and it is now one of the top 10 charities in Iran. 

I was inspired to set up the charity during the first year that I was living in Dubai. My twins sons unfortunately had asthma.  (Their asthma was one of the reasons I wanted to leave Dubai; I thought the weather there contributed to the problem.)  At least once a year during our time in Dubai we would travel to Iran.  One night during Eid holiday, one of my sons had an asthma attack.  I took him to the best hospital of the small city we were in, in Iran.  I noticed the equipment and resources there were insufficient to treat the patients.  And that was a children’s hospital!  I told the doctor there ‘if you can’t do anything about my son I will take him home first thing to Dubai.’  I was wealthy so that was an option for me.  But what about the other people whose children needed that hospital but who didn’t have the same option available to them.  At that time I cried about what I was seeing.  That was the trigger for me – to address those issues.  Why?  Children are the future.  If they cannot have a good education and good health, then we have no future.  In the future I would like to go back to Iran and dedicate the rest of my life to that charity organisation.

Shortly after I settled in Perth I realised that there was no group there for Iranian people, particularly new arrivals.  When I arrived in Perth I didn’t have any problems, but I had money and friends.  That said, I didn’t know anyone from my country, or who spoke my language.  It is really hard when people first move country.  If they can be with people from their own country it speeds up the process of feeling settled.  For this reason I decided to set up a community organisation for Iranians, Iranian Association Inc. starting with a website, dedicated to Iranians of Australia in 2003.      
Edit: Essy, a close friend of Morteza, assisted Morteza’s session by asking some excellently rehearsed questions!      



social enterprise history vic pk

I was born in Nigeria. 

My parents are from Pakistan and by the time I moved to Australia, I had already lived in three continents and four countries. I’ve been privileged to experience many types of cultures all the while maintaining a strong Pakistani culture at home.

The worlds I’ve grown up in have shaped the person I’ve become. They are also a stark comparison to the one my mum grew up in. For example, my mum grew up in a time where gender roles were pretty well set. She got married, had kids and moved away from everything she knew at a very young age. Her sole reliance was her husband and her faith in God!

Sometimes my mum will say ‘I see you working so hard, it would be nice to see you [managing] a home, like I do’ and it’ll remind me how differently we grew up. While it’s a necessary occupation, being a full time home maker would drive me crazy. I’m way too hyperactive.

Coming to Australia has definitely made me question my identity. My appearance betrays my Pakistani ethnicity and while my family have roots in Pakistan, I’ve lived most of my life in Australia. Managing expectations and figuring out what’s true for me has been a challenge. The one constant in my life has been my faith identity. It reinforces the value of a human soul above distinctions like gender, culture and political affiliation.  

Growing up Muslim in Australia definitely comes with its challenges but I can’t stop feeling lucky for the opportunities it has presented to really figure out who I am. Through the lens of my faith, I’ve been able to shape an identity that works. And while I’m aware of the many labels I unwittingly carry I am very comfortable with and grateful for my identity as an Australian Muslim. 

Violet and Rogan

Alright nan, let’s get this started.  I’m the eldest grandson of Violet Daisy Johnson. 

How old am I? I was born in 1934 so I’m 82 in November and I’m a scorpion. 

I’m also a scorpion!

I was born in a house in Queens Park.  My mother had 10 babies in that house, seven survived.  Two were still born.  The eldest one – they had an accident with him, someone was mucking around with him and he was dropped onto a cement floor and he died, at about 18 months old.  They still lived in Muchea at that time so there were no doctors.  And only horse and cart so no one could have helped him.  That was just before I was born.  My dad never met that baby as he was born when dad was away for the First World War.  By the time dad got back the child had died.

After that incident the family moved down to Queens Park.  We lived in a tiny wooden house.  There were no roads, no bitumen, just gravel.  We had no shops close by, but we had a cow and a veggie garden. We used to go door to door selling vegetables; a pound of beans, a pound of carrots.  And that’s how we got money.  The cows provided the milk and we provided milk to the school.  So my oldest brother used to milk the cow, then quickly go and put it in a container and run it to school.

My mum got sick so we had to move house.  We ended up closer to the railway line, on Wharf Street.  My dad got a job with the Shire (then known as the Road Corp).  He had to manually crank the steam roller.  He had a heart attack doing it when he was in his 50s. After that he couldn’t work at all.  He had heart attacks for 12 years before he died.  He had medicine to take for the heart attacks, which he’d put under his tongue.  Each time he’d be right again for a while, then have another one.  He had to be careful that he didn’t do too much, so even when I was about 15 I used to have to work hard at home; chop the wood, and chop the chicken’s head off, take the feathers off and clean up its insides.

Because both mum and dad were sick, I looked after mum for about 20 years.  Both my sisters would occasionally take mum for a few weeks each to give me a break.  But they were married.  And mum and I got on very well.

I wasn’t allowed to go out and meet boys, I wasn’t allowed to wear lipstick.  I was too young to realise, but my parents were dependant on me. Eventually when I did get married to Reg we lived with mum.  I met Reg when I was in my teens.  I met him at the movies one night; I went with a friend and there was this boy there, on a motor bike.  My friend knew him. 

So was he a bad boy, nan? 

At that stage he probably was. I was told ‘you’re not to get on that motor bike!’ but I got on the motor bike didn’t I.



Terry and Melissa

My mother was from Queensland and met my father during the war. After I was born they stayed here for 12 or 15 months and then we moved to Queensland.  We lived there until 1957, when the family decided to come back to Perth.  My brother and myself came over with my father.  My father drove to Perth from Townsville, where we were living at that time.  It was just, like, a bit of an adventure, something to look forward to.

At the time, though I didn’t know it, apparently mum and dad had spoken about leaving my brother (who came over with us in the car) with my grandmother on a permanent basis.  That was a bit of a shock, when I found out a couple of years ago. I mean, there was nothing wrong with him but he was a bit of a trouble maker in some ways, a bit more for mum to handle than the rest of us, just a bit more difficult.  He would have been eight at the time.  He and I used to fight a fair bit, and that continued for a long time; we’re only 14 months apart and we’re quite different in many ways. 

I used to feel a bit favoured sometimes. He used to cop the wrath of my father, who could be pretty violent.  I mean, we all got it to some extent but he used to get physical.  You’d call it abuse these days.  Dad had some anger management issues that I think were a result of the war.  He didn’t hold back sometimes. He was in the army for a short while and then in the merchant navy.  He travelled all around Singapore and Malaya, all in the Indian Ocean.  I don’t think he saw battle or anything but a lot of the bad things he saw during the war as a whole affected him.  I think he may also have felt that his efforts during the war weren’t appreciated.  I think at the end he felt – “what did I do that for”. 

When he first got married he and my mum were renting a small grocery store in North Fremantle and I don’t think it went very well and I think they had to live with my grandparents for a while.  My grandmother in North Fremantle then died two weeks before I was born. Before she died she had a dream that my mother had a son and his name was Terence Brian.  So when I was born, guess what name I got?

Did you know that story already? 

Yes, Grandma used to like telling it!  

Christina and Wilf

social enterprise history vic pk

Wilf: My moeder, Christina, was born in 1931 in Holland and married in 1954 in Australia.  ‘Moeder’ means mother in Dutch.

Christina: I came to Australia after the war, in the early 1950s, at the time when many, many people were leaving Europe for Australia and Africa. We heard it was a better place to bring up your family.  My husband worked in a drug store in Holland. It had two parts, a drug section and a photography section.  When he got here he didn’t have the right qualifications to do the drug part so he continued with the photography instead.  He started photography by renting a space in my father’s cake shop in Leederville. 

Wilf: The business grew, and dad found a shop in Albany Highway in 1954.  The shop had one bedroom.  We had no car at that stage so if dad had to do weddings he used a push bike, or else mum’s father would drive him to the wedding. In 1960 we built a bigger shop, with two stories. In those days we used to take the football team photos and wedding photos in the studio because of the camera technology at the time.  When the Perth football club won premierships in 1966, 1967 and 1968, their team photos were taken in the studio.  Brides all came to the studio with their wedding dresses on so we had to make the steps up to the studio smaller, so that brides could get up ok in their dresses.  Eventually weddings and team photos were done on site.  

I’m not very good at English and never have been.  The reason for that is most likely that when I was young mum and dad only used to speak Dutch to me in the house.  At Kindergarten the teachers told my parents that my lack of progress was because we did not speak English in the household.  Once we started speaking English in the house all the time my English got a lot better.

Christina: I think personally you got mixed up between the two languages.  The teacher asked what language we speak at home.  I said Dutch.  She said don’t do that anymore, it’s not good for the children.  I found it difficult – I had to learn more English in order to be able to speak it at home.

Wilf: Because I failed English I couldn’t do civil engineering, which I wanted to do.  So at that stage I asked dad if I could work for him in the photography business.  So I worked in photography for nearly 40 years, initially for my dad and then with my brother.  Then my brother wanted to go on his own so I kept the business running until 2011. Photography was a seven day a week job for me, photos in the day then the processing and printing in the evening during the week followed by weddings and team photos on the weekends.  It was a job that took the greater part of my time.  Photography was never a passion.  Just a job.  As a child I never wanted to become a photographer because dad was never there for us so I didn’t want to end up the same, always working on the weekends.  

Once I sold the business it was like ‘now what?’.  It has taken me a few years to work out what I wanted to do next but I am very happy with my decision to do naturopathy.


social enterprise history vic pk

My mum was brought up on the west coast of South Australia at the Koonibba mission. She was married to a non-Aboriginal farmer so we were brought up in a protected environment on the farm.  The authorities would have needed a really good reason to take us away. That said, I always wondered why we were never allowed to get too dirty.  Mum would wash our faces all the time.  On reflection, if mum was being seen as not taking care of her children that could have been an excuse for our removal.

Mum, in three words, is strong, focussed and empowering.  Growing up I wondered what constructed my mother’s identity, what made her so firm and strong – I mean, she’s only little.  Growing up in an institution it was the strong family structure and connection that was confidence-building for my mother.  Mum went off (after cooking, cleaning and looking after the family for a very long time) to the ambulance station to do her training. She became the first Aboriginal ambulance officer (on the west coast of South Australia that I know of).  I can just remember thinking ‘That’s amazing.  That’s my mother.’  She was also the first Aboriginal Justice of the Peace in the district. 

Growing up I was happy so long as I was around my mother and my family.  I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to my mother for encouraging me to challenge my own thinking.  Mum has undertaken so many different projects that make people sit up and say ‘Gee, wow.  These stories are so inspirational.’ And maybe they’ll take a leaf out of her book. I did.

Edit: Debra attended her session to tell us about her beloved mum in particular, but we were lucky enough to squeeze out a story or two about Debra as well!

Rossie and Susan

We are sisters, born in 1962 and 1964 respectively.  There’s six of us siblings.  Dad was a travelling salesman so we travelled around, town to town. When we were younger this wasn’t such an issue as we weren’t yet at school but the unstable lifestyle was harder as we got older.
Our dad became a Seventh Day Adventist when we were living in Northam.  That’s why we left Northam, because he then felt it wasn’t good to own property; we had a lovely house there but he sold it.  And that was the end for our mum. She was just so upset about that.  She left when we moved down south, and went to live in Sydney.  And we stayed with our dad. 

We moved to Griffin Crescent, Manning around 1970, stayed there for about eight years and attended Victoria Park Seventh Day Adventist School.  The house was tiny, two bedrooms.  At one point my dad decided we were moving to the northern suburbs but changed his mind when we got there and we returned to Manning.  The wardrobe fell off the vehicle and skidded along the road.  The skid marks remained on the cupboard’s handles as a reminder. 

Next we moved to Beverley.  To this day we don’t know why we moved.  We moved to a little place outside of Beverley in this old station house.  Dad got a fruit and veggie shop.  It was so bizarre; he’d only just been offered to buy the housing commission house we had been living in in Manning. 

Because of our religion, dad didn’t think it was good for us to eat meat or dairy.  We were really poor and people would give us things like that to eat but we weren’t allowed them.  But dad used to work for Sanitarium, the food company, so we’d get bags of Weeties to eat with powdered milk - we weren’t allowed milk unless it was powdered. 

As we got older the dad relaxed the rules and we have really fond memories of going to Kings Park on a Saturday evening with him – he’d buy us an ice cream from the ice cream van and we’d walk around.  We’d also go to Queen’s Gardens together after church on a Saturday and take a picnic.  We’d wonder around the garden and enjoy the flowers.  He’d buy us Cobbers from the corner store as a treat once in a while. We still love eating them now, if you can find them!

Our family was pretty dysfunctional so we loved being part of the Seventh Day Adventists.  It was like a family.  The ladies at South Perth church were lovely. We were the only ones at school whose parents had separated.  We wore ‘hand me down’ clothes and were teased. 
We weren’t supposed to listen to pop music because of our religion.  It was frowned upon.

Dad went through phases of not allowing us to watch telly as well.  We would sneak it, though, and hide it away when he came home from work.  Every now and then we’d get caught.  He was quite an angry man so there was a lot of fear about that, but we’d still do it. 

We were by ourselves the whole time in the holidays so had nothing else to do.  Dad would sometimes drop us off at the beach for the day with a dollar and then pick us up after work.  He did take an interest in our adventures. 

The thing, looking back, that always sustained us was that we had a relationship with God even through all that.  There was that rock - even though we had a family that was shitty and horrible, God cared. 

Edit: Susan has been back in Perth for about two years after living in Darwin for a protracted period.  Since recording this session together, Susan, Rossie and their other sister Joanne, have had some absolutely lovely trips to several places of significance to their family and feel very closely connected with each other again.


Roni and Kelsi

It’s quite crazy to think that when you were a kid you never saw running water for the first ten years of your life, and never saw a toilet.  That’s actually kind of ridiculous, to think that there has been such a jump, say from your childhood to my childhood, where I’ve had quite a comfortable upbringing. 

Edit: Enjoy hear the beautiful conversation between mum and daughter, Roni and Kelsi. Together, they cover Roni’s life through compelling, raw and honest conversation.  Duration: 24 mins 39 secs.


social enterprise history vic pk

I was born in India in a little railway colony.  The British had just left, and most of our fathers worked on the railways.  We lived in railway quarters which were huge houses that the British had occupied.  I enjoyed every minute of it but now looking back I wish I had lived a more Indian lifestyle.  My ancestry is French and Portuguese.  When the British left, we (the Anglo-Indians) were the upper crust of society.  

The women of that era would meet for morning tea, and go for walks, and the men went to work.  Us girls, we were so protected.  

I grew up thinking that this life is not for me.

Hear more here. Duration 2 mins 48 secs.


social enterprise history vic pk

I was born in Somalia and have one older brother and four sisters younger than me.  I lost my dad in a plane crash when I was only eight years old, and that’s why my older brother and I experienced adulthood from an early age. We decided to earn money cleaning shoes and selling chewing gum in the street. On a good day I could earn up to $3 or $4, so we could pay for our family’s meal.  When you’ve got another four sisters sitting there – I mean, they had to go to school – so we were the bread winners from a young age. 

When I was 12 years old I was fortunate enough to be sent to Europe by my mum.  She said ‘Your uncle lives there’, and he could only take one person. When I arrived there, I thought my uncle lived in London, but actually he lived in Wales.  The guy at the airport told me that Wales was four or five hours from London.  He put me in a taxi with some case worker and said that they couldn’t take me all the way to Wales.  I ended up kicked out on the streets.

Hear more here.  Duration: 4 mins 03 secs

Hari and Krishan

I never thought that I would be moving to Uganda; we were told to go a place where I didn’t know anyone, where I didn’t have a clue what to do. It was completely new business. But I did achieve it.  Later, we were thrown out of Uganda by Idi Amin.  It was a traumatic situation.  We were required to leave within 90 days.  I did not leave, I stayed as long as I could to protect the family business.  But there was no law and order; one hundred thousand locals were killed.  I saw people killed in front of me during those 90 days.  

Edit: This was one of those conversations – between grandfather and grandson - where several topics were covered, each more beautiful than the next.  We had to provide you with a taster of each in order that you did not miss out.  Hari has lived several lives, including living in India and West Africa before being sent to Uganda for business.  After fleeing from Uganda Hari joined the rest of his family in safety.  Quite recently, he immigrated to Australia. Krishan led Hari through his past during their session. Hear more here.  Duration: 4 mins 09 secs


social enterprise history vic pk

I am a descendant of both the coloniser and the colonised.  

Knowledge would be imparted through action.  By the time I came along, things were a little bit looser.  Like, my older siblings didn’t hear very much at all.  I actually never really grew up being told I was Aboriginal.  I always grew up being told I was Bard, and by my mum, about Yindjibarndi.  When I was little I used to see these big trucks rolling in, with cages on them.  There’d be all these Aboriginal people on them, packed to the hilt.  My mum said that they were natives, and that we were coloured - that some people called us ‘half caste’.  We’re not full blood, like the natives on the mission. I’ll be damned if I’m going to be called a half breed. 

Hear more here.  Duration: 3 mins 53 secs




social enterprise history vic pk


I would have gone to university, I even had the cheek to apply to Oxford, but I got pregnant so I didn’t.  It was just a teenage thing, you know.  I wasn’t the happiest of children so was just jubilant at getting a boyfriend and did all I could to keep him, so I never said no! I was fairly naive actually, because I didn’t even think that I could have been pregnant.  It wasn’t until my mother told me.  I could actually get up, do the whole washing, getting ready and saying good bye to everyone around the times that I had to be sick – I could time it all so I could hide it.  And that’s exactly what I did.  But I obviously did not hide it well enough.  I got up one morning and mum just got hold of me and shouted in my face ‘when was your last period’.  I started carrying on getting ready for college but my mum said ‘there’s no point doing that, you can go and get yourself a bloody job’.  So that was that.

Hear more here.  Duration: 3 mins 48 secs


social enterprise history vic pk


I had a brother, and he was murdered when he was 23 in 1987.  He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  My brother was living up north in Kununurra and was out camping with his fiancée and one of his mates. He, his fiancée and his friend were gunned down by a German tourist, actually, who went on a killing spree and killed 5 people. The gunman started shooting at the police and so was killed by them. 

I can clearly remember it.  I was at home with my parents.  We got a call from the police to say that he was missing.  The gunman had already killed a few people up there and we knew it was highly probable that he had been killed as well.  We didn’t know for around 48 hours, we had to wait. One of my brother’s friends was a pilot and he went out on his own to find them.  He found the camping spot and found that his vehicle had been burnt out so let the police know.  Miraculously my brother’s body was found as it had been thrown in the river.  

There is a choice I think, with anything that you are dealt with.  You choose to be a survivor or a victim.  I like to think that I have tried very hard to be a survivor. And I’ve been given some very special moments since then.

Hear more here.  Duration: 3 mins 27 secs