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y separately published work icon Impact Stories of the East Kimberley anthology   oral history  
Issue Details: First known date: 1989... 1989 Impact Stories of the East Kimberley
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

This paper presents a selection of stories and commentaries by Aboriginal people of the Turkey Creek area, collected for a community social impact study.

The accounts extend from the early impact history of the area, about a century ago, through the pastoral working era, leaving cattle stations in the 1970s and building up new communities, to Aboriginal aspirations in the present. These present Aboriginal points of view; further historical information is presented in historical notes by Clement.


  • These stories were collected in late 1986 and early 1987.


* Contents derived from the Canberra, Australian Capital Territory,:East Kimberley Impact Assessment Project , 1989 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Murders and Massacres, single work oral history
'Kija and Miriwoong storytellers see their ancestors as having provoked the widespread killings by spearing lone white men'.
(p. 1-11)
Reprisals, single work oral history
'Many of the stories, including Bob Nyalcas' account of the massacres above, centre on the cleverness of someone who escaped'.
(p. 12-20)
Settling Down, single work oral history
'The stories show that some young people were brought in after massacres for work in the new white settlements. Later a few children were brought up in white peoples' households, a practice which continued until perhaps the 1950s'.
(p. 21-29)
Government Intervention, single work oral history
'Aborigines of the area are very grateful to government for 'saving' them, rather belatedly, by intervention to stop the killings and creating government-run stations (Boola Bulla, 1910, and Violet Valley 1912). The era of 'protection' began. Killings continued but on a smaller scale and less openly'.
(p. 30-33)
Aboriginal Labour, single work oral history
'Aboriginal labour became indispensable to the cattle industry, and made an important contribution to government activities and service industries in the region. Though paid only in kind, Aboriginal people held jobs which took advantage of their unique skills and knowledge of the country. Kija and Miriwoong people today argue that their role in the region's economic development should be acknowledged, as white people could not have managed without them'.
(p. 33-47)
Private Life and Livelihoods, single work oral history
'Work on cattle stations allowed people to get to know the 'country'. The wet-season gave ample opportunity for travel further afield, gathering foods, and participation in ceremonies'.
(p. 48-52)
Race Relations, single work oral history

'The storytellers emphasise that there were both 'good' and 'bad' kartiya, people who treated them with constant consideration, as well as people known for violent behaviour. 'bad kartiya' evidently had little risk of being found out. Police were represented in both categories, some intervening on Aborigines' behalves, others killing Aboriginal people on occasions'.

(p. 53-67)
Immigrant Aborigines, single work oral history
'Aborigines from the Northern Territory and Queensland, brought in by the early white settlers, added another dimension to race relations. Some integrated successfully, others were unpopular, or made trouble for whites or local Aborigines'.
(p. 68-75)
Leaving Stations, Starting Again, single work oral history

'The introduction of award wages was used as a rationalisation by many of the cattle stations in this area for evicting resident Aboriginal communities. Some workers were permitted to remain, but many chose to leave with their extended families. The pastoral industry's miscalculation that the workers they required would remain without their relations caused loss of its stable workforce'.

'People moved to Halls Creek, Wyndham, and Turkey Creek (many Miriwoong and Gajirrawoong people were already in Kununurra following the flooding of Lake Argyle in the 1960s)'.

(p. 76-82)
The Impacts of Leaving, single work oral history
'The reduced and uncertain access to country has threatened the peoples' ability to maintain and pass on their detailed knowledge of their own country'.
(p. 83-85)
Developing Warmun Community, single work oral history
'Uncertainty about the future turned to pride as people faced the challenges of securing rights to remain at Turkey Creek, and building up the community with minimal resources. This was the first time many of the older people had had cash income of their own'.
(p. 86-94)
Gaining Confidence, single work oral history
'This was period in which individuals began to assert themselves publicly'.
(p. 95-99)
Argyle Diamond Mine, single work oral history

'In 1979-80 the new community was confronted with the imminent development of the Argyle Diamond Mine. Sacred sites were damaged, and the people feared the effects of a large mining town nearby. Their attempts to use legislative rights were unsuccessful, the Sate Government of the day being firmly behind the mining company. This was a traumatic and divisive period'.

'Nowadays members of the community prefer to emphasise their limited gains in negotiating protection of some of the sacred sites and obtaining some recompense from the company. They recognise that they had no hope of stopping the mine, and are relieved that many of the potential effects have been contained by ADM's avoidance of a town and control of it's workers'.

(p. 100-107)
Overcoming the Impacts, single work oral history
'The Aboriginal people of rural east Kimberley are still adjusting to the psychological impact of generations of white peoples' domination over them, and the more recent impacts of removal from their land, loss of vocation in the pastoral industry, and alcohol. They also have new concerns, to overcome social problems which have emerged since they left the stations. At the same time, they have strong ideas about solutions to at least some of the problems - movement back to their lands and more access to the land, bicultural education for the young, control over development in their vicinity, and sharing in the proceeds of development'.
(p. 108)
Country, single work oral history
'Many people (whose country lies elsewhere) feel cooped up in Turkey Creek, and are impatient to move back to their country'.
(p. 109-114)
Young People, Education and Work, single work oral history
'The older people feel that the young people lack a work ethic, and tend to blame some of this on the young people. They also lament the lack of jobs available for young aboriginal people, while they see so many jobs within their communities performed by non-Aborigines. They are concerned about the transmission of culture and language, and use their community school to promote these'.
(p. 115-120)
Alcohol, single work oral history
'Though drinking rights were associated with the lifting of restrictions on citizenship rights in 1971, a few years before the people left the stations, the full effect was felt when people ceased to be insulated by station life, no longer had a full-time occupation, and had regular money from pensions and benefits'.
(p. 121-123)
Race Relations, Power and Development, single work oral history
'The people have a strong consciousness of the power of non-Aborigines over them, and resent the need to fight for small gains. This affects their attitudes to resource development in the east Kimberley - they are willing to share the resources of their country, but seek rights to support more equitable arrangements'.
(p. 124-127)

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Last amended 24 Aug 2009 13:56:47