Academic journal article Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL

Journey of a Lifetime: From the Sticks to the State Library-An Aboriginal Editor's Story

Academic journal article Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL

Journey of a Lifetime: From the Sticks to the State Library-An Aboriginal Editor's Story

Article excerpt

This paper is a multi-layered sharing of personal, cultural and professional journeys that has led me to becoming an Aboriginal Editor with the black&write! program with the State Library of Queensland. There are a lot of firsts and many significant events that have happened to me, most of which I would never have dreamt about, let alone actually experienced.

My cultural heritage is Bungalung (North Eastern New South Wales) and Butchulla (Hervey Bay and K'Garee also known as Fraser Island). I was raised in the blue collar working class suburb of Zillmere, a northside suburb of Brisbane. Between 1954 and 1955 my parents, Lambert and May McBride, had been living at Victoria Park at Herston (which is now Victoria Park Golf Club) in a Housing Commission hut alongside hundreds of other families waiting for Queensland Housing Commission vacancies. Finally, the Housing Commission advised my parents that a house was available at Zillmere and they moved there in 1956. Zillmere, in those days was a place- literally-'in the sticks.' There were more scrub turkeys and possums than humans.

My older Brother, Billy, and I attended Zillmere North State School. When we walked to school we went through scrub where we would see wildlife such as a variety of birds, frilly lizards, butterflies and so on. We'd go over a creek where we would sometimes stop to catch tadpoles or frogs, past a dairy farm, where we would sometimes pull a nice fresh bunch of grass and feed and pat the cows, and past the Catholic primary school, St Flannan's, on the corner of Handford and Beams Road.

Beams Road was a narrow dirt road and at sunset as it started to get darker us local kids would dare each other to walk down it to prove we weren't scared of ghosts. I always politely declined the offer and quite happily accepted the expected name-calling where the words chicken and coward were popular adjectives.

Three generations of the McBride family have remained in that same Housing Commission house, which my parents turned into a loving home and sanctuary. And in 2016 the McBrides will celebrate 60 years in the one home, which brings an ironic smile to my face. The irony? Anthropologists claim that pre-colonisation Aboriginal people were nomadic. Hmmm! Obviously the McBride family never got that memo.

I was the first Aboriginal student at Sandgate District State High School to go onto Grade 11 and 12. Unbeknown to me, my parents had gone to the Principal and found out I had enough academic 'points' to go onto sub-Senior and Senior. But they didn't discuss this visit with their fifteen year old daughter-Moi.

So, I was asked to sit at the kitchen table with my parents as they had something important to tell me. They made their expectations of furthering my education very clear. I was going to start grade eleven the following year. They seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of what my reaction was going to be and they were right, sitting through a marathon session of my teenage hysterics. I threw everything I had at them-of course not physically-but verbally-of course not swearing-but things like; 'I've got no friends,' 'I won't have any money because you won't let me go and get a job,' 'I'll be the only blackfella there' and so on. But they stood their ground, both united and unbreakable, so I reluctantly raised the red, black and yellow flag of surrender and accepted my parents' decision. I got with the program.

I was terrified on my first day when I walked into a classroom full of white students. My Aboriginal friends had left school at grade ten and the initial feeling of isolation and being so alone was reflected by my heart racing like Phar Lap and my head lowered looking at the dusty floor of the classroom, not daring to glance up at the sea of unfamiliar white faces.

As I had deliberately dawdled to my homeroom, when I arrived all the seats were taken. I mumbled my arrival to the home teacher and then she did something outrageous. …

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