aboriginal, australia, ESSAYS, SOCIAL POLICY, Uncategorized

My Favorite Lezzie.

This is the ultra brief version. It’s true too. And there’s a twist in the tail of the tale.

I’d been posted to Kalgoorlie in the Eastern Goldfields District for the then Department Of Native Welfare as its Employment Officer. It was a long way from home in Perth and even emotionally longer from my wife, Betty, and my new-born son, Andrew. The house promised us would not be vacated by the single woman occupant so I lived in the basement room of one of Kal’s many pubs, along with a few mice and a lot of cockroaches and mossies; not to mention the urine from the drunks which seeped under my door.

The small business community up there in the Wild West was wonderfully magnanimous in assenting to my appeals to preferentially employ Aborigines. Still, there was much frustration when the newly employed couldn’t stick at it. I can tell you, being conjugally separated was an even greater frustration but you don’t want to hear about that or that within the first weeks I had been physically and sexually assaulted. But, one can appreciate why I volunteered readily to manage the newly completed student hostel for Aboriginal kids who lived in remote areas. I had dobbed in my wife who would automatically become the manageress but that was the trade-off to allow us to be together. Being young and green, I never foresaw the threats to the family nor the assaults that were to come.

The first months were exciting, tiring but immensely satisfying since we discovered that Aboriginal kids are a wondrous species, full of innocence, joy and rancourlessness.

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Nindeebai Hostel, Kalgoorlie.

[I can say that now because I subsequently experienced 9 years of managing student hostels of various types]. We were quite relieved, yet a little sad, when the Department found permanent “qualified” managers, [and you can read into those scare quotes what you will]. However, those hostel kids kept petitioning the boss [Superintendant Tomato-Face, George Budge] to re-instate Betty and I.  Short version:  we agreed to return as permanent managers on his promise to hire some assistants and that I have the say in their hiring [none of this BS psychological testing of applicants in the City]. Yeah well, that never happened – not until the second year of operation.

Enter stage left: Megan, the newly-appointed social worker for the area. We had never seen the previous social worker, but Megan visited us at the hostel daily. Ostensibly employed to attend to the well-being of the kids and Aborigines generally, she became concerned about me and my family, recognizing that two people with a baby who worked night and day in caring for 35 kids without a break or assistance were going to burn out rather quickly. She was also worried about the threat that the Warburton people were going to spear me in the leg and we did have several kids from that community. [Short version: I had previously pegged 20 mining claims in Central Australia for that community but Head Office scrapped them and I got the blame].

Megan volunteered, with no extra pay attached, to attend the hostel from mid-day Mondays to mid-day Tuesday, further giving us the key to her house in which to stay to obviate our obligation to fork out for a motel room. Great girl. But then came the Big Argument before we even got to enjoy some time off.

“I’ll arrange for a bulk prescription of the Pill for all the girls”, she announced.

“Don’t bother, Megan”, I replied, “I won’t be handing them out”.

And so, a discussion ensued, which needs no relating, except for the conclusion. I told her she could refer the matter to the boss or to Perth, but as I was the manager, my decision carried or I would leave if I was not given free reign to make such decisions. Though she stormed off then, when she returned it was as if nothing had transpired that day. And she handed us the key to her house.

It was around midnight, when Betty and I were in her bed asleep, that I apparently heard a rustle that woke me. [I have to explain that I had to be a light sleeper, attuned to the slightest squeak of a door hinge, ever ready as I slept in street wear, to jump up to investigate ……… but those particular incidents at the hostel are for another day]. The man standing at the end of the bed was as surprised as I. It was Megan’s boyfriend who had his own key to accommodate himself at his leisure or to do whatever whenever. He suspected Megan of unfaithfulness and I suspected him of burglary, but it was quickly sorted out.

On our return next day to the hostel we found Megan a little shaken. The kids had locked her in the cool room for some time the previous night. As delightful as they were, they could play up when authority was not present. Later on, the same lads involved wanted to take revenge, with knives, on some adults who had jumped me with a bashing. Anyway, we got that all sorted for Megan’s future stays, and I digress.

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Some of the girls, dressed for the school dance.

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And the boys who were bold enough to don the glad rags and go to the whities school dance. A few senior lads opted for a quiet night by the TV at the hostel.

I can’t remember how long Megan stayed in Kal, but it wasn’t long enough. Much later we were told that she had gone to live in New Zealand with her female lover. { I suppose you were wondering about the title of this blog]. I will not belabor the point about homosexuality being a choice, I’m just telling a true story. And that, dear reader, is not the sting in the tail of the tale.

Many years later, I discovered in conversation from my best friend of 50 years, a Sri Lankan who was also my best man named Maurice, that his wife was Megan’s half-sister.

May God bless all those people whom He has put in my path.

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