Page 458 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 22 March 2022

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It shows that my father was the child of Adeline Ninyette, who was the daughter of Elsie Ninyette. Elsie’s parents were Jack Ninyette and Rose Bennell. On the vertical pedigree chart, Jack Ninyette is listed as Jack Ninyette but also is listed with a tribal name that I would not even try to pronounce. And back it goes from there to the Winmars, the Cables and the Kicketts.

The folder contains pretty much every known official document pertaining to my Aboriginal ancestors, and it makes for fascinating reading. There is a newspaper report about a court case in which Jack Ninyette was charged with supplying an Aboriginal native named Horace Newell with a bottle of stout. The quote from the accused is, “I didn’t give it to Horace.” It was a classic “he said, she said”, based on evidence from police, and the judge did not believe my great-great-grandfather, sentencing him to 14 days in jail or £20. Of course, he would have done the time because he would not have had the £20.

Jack was quite the athlete. The Eastern Districts Chronicle of 2 June 1911 shows the handicaps for the 130-yard Sheffield Handicap, a running race, run by the York Athletic Club, and Jack came from the back mark of 13 yards in a field of 30.

There is a series of letters between bureaucrats at the Department of Native Affairs regarding a warrant for the removal of Kandi Bennell from Pingelly and Brookton to the now infamous Moore River settlement. Relatives intervened, according to this trail of letters, stopping her from being taken there, which, by all accounts, was a very, very good thing because the Moore River settlement was not a good place.

The stark racism of the time pervades these documents. There is one here that was personally signed by the infamous AO Neville, the Chief Protector of Aborigines, who was not portrayed in a good light in the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence. This document is from 1933. He starts the note by saying:

The Ninyette family have lived for about two years in a cottage in Kipling Street Narrogin. The whole family appear to be well dressed and superior for half-castes, but I gathered from what I saw that the condition of the house was what was only to be expected in the case of such people.

I visited Western Australia last week. I was moved by my visit to the Bilya Koort Boodja, the Noongar cultural centre in Northam. Maybe I am naive, but I will admit that I just did not know how bad things were for my ancestors. I did not know that they forcibly removed all Aboriginal people from Northam just prior to 1940 and took them off to the Moore River settlement, and then it was illegal for any Aboriginal person to set foot in Northam. I did not know. I was heartbroken to read the horrible stories of Sister Kate’s mission, where my grandmother repeatedly lived for a period of time. I was genuinely emotionally affected by the experience.

I did meet face-to-face with Noongar Elder Kevin Fitzgerald, and I have to tell you the thing that tickled me the most when I first rang him. I had been given his number. He answered the phone. He said, “Hello. It’s Kevin.” I said, “G’day, Kevin. It’s Mark Parton calling you,” and he said to me straight up, “You’re that politician fella, aren’t you?” I said, “Yes, I am. How did you know that?” He said that he and some others

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