Auntie Delece Manton
Recorded and transcribed by Claire What's your name? Delece Manton Where and when you born? The 4th of the September 1950 at Stockdon Hospital and then my mum brought me up here to Karuah. Where did you grow up? I grew up here at Karuah and I my mum used to live down by the creek while my real father was down at the flats. When I was a baby, my mum gave me to my father. My father, grandmother and my sister who was much older raised me. Have you stayed around the Karuah area all your life? I stayed around the Karuah area, I started one year at Karuah School but my father had a really bad accident as a truck driver. I started staying with my Aunt and my mother came up and got me, she left Karuah to work at Waratah West School as a cleaner. I had to stay with her and every holidays or weekends I used to come up here to be with my Auntie Alma Ridgeway. What memories do you have of the traditional aboriginal life? My aunt that raised me spoke 2 lingos, the women’s lingo and the mob’s lingo. She was from Nemback Heads but she married my mum’s brother, Darby Ridgeway. She brought a lot of medicines because she used to be a healer. Some of her stuff was our stuff here and she used to teach me about the medicines. As kids, we used to get the big potatoes out of the grounds called yams, witchetties and waterlilies. We used to swim in the dam and the waterlilies with the really long stalks were really sweet. Our culture food was always crabs, fish, oysters, pippis, clams and big file snakes. These snakes were always in rotten logs, were white and thin and grew very long. They were very beautiful. I loved witchetty grubs. My Aunty Alma was always out there plucking things for her medicines and ate things like that too. I grew up with this and it never leaves you. What does the gathering back at Karuah mean to you today? To see all the old faces again, sitting there talking about what we used to do here as kids, laughing and seeing all the elders who are older than me is great. When I walked in, saw Auntie Dottie and she said ‘What are you doing to yourself?’. I asked ‘What do you mean?’ and then she said ‘You’re getting whiter!”. She kept saying ‘Where is it? Where is it? You used to be darker than that, look at you now!”. I couldn’t hold it and I started laughing. Who were some of your friends going up? Amelia Ridgeway, Chittle, Alexis and all the cousins. There’s also Margo, the Saunders girls, Vanessa and Trunette. It’s all the cousins but mainly I was with Ginger all the time whose name is actually Amelia. What were the activities you did with them while you were growing up? We used to gather together, the white kids and the black kids, and walk to pacific highway which was the main highway coming through Karuah. There was a lot of traffic and things on the road. We used to get a little cart and walk the highway to pick up bottles. You used to be able to get them for six pence, three pence and two pence. We used to take them down to the damn, wash them and then take them to Mrs Ramey’s Shop. We could get lollies and biscuits. She used to give us a big brown bag full of broken biscuits for six pence. We shared with a big box of cordial. We sat in a circle and the cordial would go all the way around. We didn’t worry about who drank it then, we’d all had a sip and shared all the lollies. These are the things that we used to do together. When it was school holidays and there was so much traffic on the road, we used to climb up on top of the bridge and do somersaults into the water. I used to ride a horse with my cousins and we were the three musketeers. I was very boyish, we used to ride horses everywhere. We used to muck up the girl’s cubby house and gallop through the water down here. There were no mangroves down here, it was all flat and sandy. The things that we used to do….I loved it. That’s where I also lost all my teeth because of my horse. I was getting on Georginie and my father said don’t because you won’t be able to handle it like you do with Star. Stubborn as I am, I got on Georginie and she took off through the bush. There was a low branch and it hit me in the mouth, I lost all my teeth. I’ve had false teeth for a long time now so I’ve learnt my lesson. What does culture mean to you? How is culture a part of your life? Culture is living. Culture is what you belong to, your identity, who you are. Your pride and it’s all about family, your mob. It’s everything to me, without culture it doesn’t fulfil all of our needs because if you were brought up with white people you would have a yearning about your identity. That’s why so many people who have been fostered when they were young say they yearn for their culture. When they start getting into their culture when they’re older, they just grow their identity and their mob. What are some changes in our society that you have seen in your lifetime? Racism is still there, we’re still third class. We can’t say we’re second class because we’re not, we’re below all that and they left us there. Nothing’s changed. We’ve got no housing, we’re only getting jobs now because aboriginal identity. We’re still poor no matter if we become doctors and things like that, we’re still the same. It’s no difference. We’re still classed as that citizen. Maybe we’ve got a lot of non-aboriginal people on our side now who are starting to wake up but that should have started in schools. I felt so terrible in schools when the teacher was telling us about the savages when captain cook came over. That really got me upset and I went over and I said we’re not the savages, it’s the people who came over in the boat. They should be taught in school what they’ve done, the massacres, the brutality, the torture and things like that. Some of them say, white fellas get away with a lot of stuff in Australia. If it’s rape, abuse or whatever to their missus, they go on probation and things like that. Black fellas are just thrown in jail. They might have only stolen something but they get five years for it while non-aboriginal people get probation. It hasn’t changed, it’s still the same. It’s so blatant now, the racism. Where there any specific sports you did while you were growing up? Only at school, I used to be the first person to be picked out of the boys and the girls because I could hit that ball. Touch because I was a good runner and Cricket because I can bowl and I can bat. What are the main differences between when you went to school and what school is like now? School is much better in a lot of ways. My granddaughter got the DUX of the school last year, she is very smart. My daughter’s other two children are very smart, they’re in public speaking, debating. They’re into everything and so is the other one coming up now. The boy, he’s 4 years old and he goes to school next year. He can read and write. My daughter spends any spare time with him, she works also. There’s a big difference, the principals push them more. They’re people, they’re bringing a lot more culture into the schools now. They don’t put Captain Cook as the first one to discover here. There’s a change in education but I’m looking for a bigger change in the massacres and what happened when Captain Cook came here. The Dutch were first, there were other people here to barter. What were values and traditions you were taught? You help each other. You don’t criticize people. You don’t steal. Be honest. We were told if you tell a life, it’s only going to get bigger and bigger. Take responsibilities for your actions. It’s just the norms. Respect your elders and people that are around you. Say thank you, just all the main lessons. How did you find your work life? I was working when I was a young age. I worked at Stole Masters on Darby St in Newcastle. I used to be a presser. Mind you, I used to be 15 and I was pressing all the army jackets and things like that. From there, I was married. I left there and brought my kids up here with my mum. I went back to work at the shell on top of the hill. I then went to Sydney, I was a slicer, slicing up meat. I went to Tafe and got my diploma in social welfare. I kept studying and I was the field officer for the Aboriginal Centre, I was there for 9 years. From there, I went and applied for the job at Woronora Children’s Refuge. I was a child worker there and the manager left so I applied for the manager’s position. After getting the manager’s position, I ended up as the CEO. Been there for 35 years and I retired 2 years ago. Overall, in my lifetime I’ve been working with community for 45 years. I went to conferences and the Refuge Amendment sent me to Burke to do their policies and procedures to train their girls. I went the Campsie to the same and then I spent 3years at Willkenya (?? Idk if this is the right spelling), training the girls, doing policies and procedures. There was a new refuge down there and the girls didn’t know what was what because they came from the community. I then went back to Woronora as the CEO to finish what I had to do down there. What are some great historical events you have experienced in your lifetime? How I survived and work was historical. That was mine. It’s all about how I grew up, how my kids grew up, the lessons they had to learn, having grandkids. It’s all about my travels, how I survived. That was my greatest history. I’m always telling my stories especially to my white friends. I tell them all about Karuah, tell them about growing up, about the funny things that we’ve done. Two of my other friends here, my white friends, I didn’t even know that they were coming. I hadn’t seen them for a while but when I came in they said we know what you’re talking about now. I Introduced them to our culture. It’s just about education and keeping your culture alive within yourself, your family and your children. What is your message for the younger generation of school children? Get off your ass, get off the drugs, the alcohol and get yourself out there to be recognised to make us grow and proud. If you’re talking about pride and everything else, just be it, do it. Be someone, don’t blame everyone else. It’s yourself to blame if you’re not going to get out there.