Life on the Mission
Life on the Mission, Film
Vincent Lamberti, 2013
Not to be reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder.Copyright
Lakes Entrance Aboriginal Health Association
Stories of life on the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Mission are shared by Aboriginal Elders Murray Bull, Elvie and Elaine Mullett.
ELVIE BULL: When we'd go out into the bush with our parents, we felt free, and we could wander anywhere we wanted to. There was no restrictions. At the mission, we had to abide by rules and regulations. I think we felt as though we were prisoners within our own land. In the bush, we could do whatever we wanted. We could wander around and pick whatever we wanted from out in the bush, where there were no one there to say, no, you're not allowed to. And we were taught by our parents about our culture, and that's-- I think that was the special times for me.
-My name's Murray Bull, and I was born on the 3rd of October, 1949, out at the Lake Tyers mission. They were the good times. When the tourists would come along in a big tourist boat called Bell Bird, and they would have plastic package, little plastic satchels, and they would have about $0.20 in them, $0.50 in the plastic satchels, and they would throw it to us in the water. And we wouldn't have any swim trunks on, so we'd just sort of dive in the water without any swimming trunks on and show our bums and all that sort of stuff. Yeah, sort of.
So those were the really good times and the best times of the lot.
-When we went to school there, we were taken down to what they call the bath house with the teachers and the manager's wife, who I remember as Mrs. Roll. When we got there, boys bathed in one side of the bath house, and girls were all in the other side, and it was about five to one shower, maybe four in the tub. And we stood in line to have medication.
At times, we would have our hair checked. If we had lice, you'd have no hair left. If you had your hair hanging long, and it was not in a ponytail or anything, you'd have it cut short. Rations were given out in the old building there now. I think it was just so many-- how much sugar depended on how many children were in the family. The same with eggs or flour or any other thing.
I think the painful times were when we had to do what we were told by manager, what we had to do and what we weren't allowed to do and what we were allowed to do. To me, thinking back, it wasn't really bad times. We may have been under welfare in those days, but they were happy times that we enjoyed, and there were sad times that we didn't enjoy.
I recall when we went to school, we used to line up for-- we'd have bread and jam and hot cocoa, and yeah, we enjoyed those times. And we'd go up, but there's a big old pine tree that still stands to this day. And when we were kids, we'd go up and collect the pine cones that had fallen, and we'd make nests there and put the pine cones in the nest, and we'd sit on them to make out we were chooks. I mean, they were happy times.
Mom and Dad would wander down to their lakeshore, and we'd go with them. And we'd walk into the water with them, and we'd all twirl the weeds around the saplings and pull the weed in, and we didn't have knives. We'd have broken glass, and we'd cut the weed, and that way, that's how we'd catch shrimp and crabs and to do the fishing with. And when the prawns were there, we were taught also to-- we didn't have nets. They'd make nets out of chook wire.
And we were also taught to put our feet into the sand. This was through the daytime when you could not see the prawn, but we'd put our feet and put it into the sand and push it along, and if we got a prick in the toe, then we knew there was a prawn, and we'd reach down and grab it. And we'd sit for hours on end, while I threw their fishing lines out. And we'd just sit there and watch the world go by, and I think that was very special.