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Victorian Yarn Ups 2-7 March 2015
Our 2015 Yarn Ups started in Melbourne, where we heard from Ricky Morris who recounted his service in the reserves and the regular Army, including active service as an engineer in both Timor-Leste and Afghanistan. Ricky also discussed his family’s long history of service back to World War 1. We also met with Jean Williamson who discussed her time in the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force (WAAAF) as a stewardess during World War 2. Jean spoke about many things including meeting her husband in the Air Force and how she discovered her Aboriginality later in life.
We then took to the road and interviewed in Apollo Bay, Warrnambool, Framlingham, Portland, Heywood and Lake Condah. John Lovett spoke to us in Heywood about his father Herbert’s service in both World Wars. Herbert received no soldier settlement upon his return to Australia, despite having applied. Hilary Saunders spoke to us in Portland about the service of her father Reginald Saunders and his brother Harry Saunders. Harry was killed in action in World War 2 while his older brother, Captain Reginald Saunders, served in both World War 2 and the Korean War and was a very well respected soldier and leader. In Portland we also spoke to Kevin Clarke who discussed his family history of service, including his father Gerald Clarke who served in the Voluntary Defence Corps at home during World War 2 and his Uncle Jim Clarke who served in Korea.
In Lake Condah, Laura Bell and June Gill spoke to us about their childhood memories of family members who served in World War 2 including Laura’s father. Anxiety and other illnesses the returned servicemen suffered from are discussed, as is soldier settlement not being available to the returning Aboriginal men at the mission, nor appropriate pensions or related support.
In Warrnambool we spoke with Robert and Daphne Lowe about Robert’s uncle Norman John Clarke who served during World War 2, and about the wider history of Aboriginal soldiers from the southwest of Victoria and the development of regional Victoria’s first dedicated memorial to Aboriginal soldiers that was unveiled in Warnambool in 2010. We also spoke with Norman John Clarke’s daughter ‘Bonnie’ Clarke who also shared stories about her father and about other Indigenous men from her family and the area who served including Reg Rawlings and Tommy Clarke. In Apollo Bay we spoke to Edna Arnold who spoke to us about her family history including several family members who served in World War 2, namely John Edwards who served in North Africa, Palestine, Greece and Crete, Ethel Mary Sharpe who was a Corporal in the army, and Claude Baulch who served in the volunteer home guard.
We were very fortunate to meet with community Elders at Lake Condah and hear about their memories of servicemen going to fight in WW2 and what they witnessed regarding the return of servicemen to the mission and issues around soldier settlement. Visiting the old mission buildings and meeting with Elders was a moving and powerful experience.
- Read about further interviews undertaken in Victoria in 2016 and 2017.
- Listen to an interview with Betty Pike in Melbourne in 2011, who speaks about her time in the WRAAF during World War 2.