Humans of the Wheatbelt

Humans of the Wheatbelt is a disability project that celebrates inclusion within the community.

There is always someone in each story that has a disability whether it is the human, interviewer, photographer or writer.

Part 1 - Veronica Agnes Yarran-McGuire

I was born in Northam, the third eldest of eleven children to Angus and Marian Yarran (nee Blurton). I have a family of 11 children (7 girls and 4 boys), 33 grandchildren, 49 great-grandchildren and 9 great-great grandchildren.

I grew up on a farm out from York. It was Tom Scott’s farm and its name was Broadland. I was there from the ages of nine to sixteen because I wasn’t allowed to go to school. Aboriginal kids weren’t allowed to go because the farmers threatened to pull their kids out.

There were twelve of us kids altogether and we were a very happy family. We played hockey by making our own hockey sticks and we trapped rabbits for our pocket money. Dad would make the hockey sticks at York Reserve by using the young jam trees. He’d bend and tie them to a tree and after three days it was bent into the right shape.

We had an old box cart to carry the traps and, in the morning, we’d collect the rabbits for the buyer, Mick Trott from Mount Lawley. The rabbits were worth fifty cents a pair which was good money. In town we also used to do a bit of work polishing boots for the sailors and soldiers.

On the farm I did polishing, washing up, getting woodchips for the fire, plucking chooks and even chasing turkeys. As I wasn’t allowed to go to school, my mother taught me by correspondence. I used to do an hour and a half of school work after breakfast and then do farm work the rest of the day.

There were a lot of barriers for Aboriginal people growing up. We weren’t allowed to drink out of glasses at the shops, so they’d give us a paper cup. They wouldn’t give us our change in our hand, they’d chuck it down in front of us. If they didn’t want you in the shop they’d say, ‘No Aboriginals allowed—get out.’ This happened across Northam, York and Beverley in the 1940s. An old Greek man who ran a shop was the only one who would let us in.

Old Neville, the Protector of Aborigines, used to chase us in that black car of his. Dad had to work at seeding and harvest time and the old boss said, ‘Listen Angus, seeing as you’ve been pushed around by these welfare people, you come and live on my farm.’ Our other cousins out on the Reserve had to run and hide to get away. Sometimes we had to run too, leaving our shoes in the mud and running through double gees. We just knew we had to go. It was really like the story of Rabbit Proof Fence. God took care of us.

It was hard yakka in the old days. The farmers would want you to work but you’d have to go and pitch your own tent and camp, whereas white fellas had a house to go to. My dad worked for seven dollars a week and I worked for twenty cents a week, doing hard work for twelve hours a day. I had to wash a lot of dishes because the farmers had big parties. I had to walk about a mile to where we lived, camped in the bush.

My dad had to work from seven in the morning until eight at night. He had to stand on a platform and drive a team of eight horses. The poor old fella’s legs ached and his hands ached. When the farmers got tractors, they didn’t need him so they put him off. Dad worked so hard and he was able to buy my sisters and I each a pretty dress for Christmas.

Here in Northam where the electricity substation is now, that’s where Dad used to tie the horse up. He’d have to walk into town to the police station to get a permit to get us in. He’d have to walk all the way and then bring us in. Sometimes he’d get a bad fella who would say ‘no permit today, we’re not letting you in.’ We’d have to go back to York with nothing. With our money that Dad had given us, we used to buy ribbons and socks, lollies and biscuits, but we had to be out of town by six or they’d put us in gaol.

We didn’t need a permit to go to Perth on the train, so that was good. We were scared of the dark tunnels so Dad would strike a match the whole time. Perth was too busy for us but once a year Dad would take us to Leighton Beach. My old uncle and auntie used to live at Guildford Success Hill, so we’d stay with them.

I remember one time we went to Gwambygine near York on the train for sports. The train pulled up a long way from the platform so we had to climb up. The guard came along saying ‘you’re taking too long’ so he grabbed my little brothers and threw them into the carriage under the seat. Dad jumped in and hit the fella saying, ‘you can’t treat my children like that.’ The guard said he’d have the police on Dad when the train got to York. When we got to York the policeman was there and they took Dad to court. They told a lot of lies and Dad would have been put in gaol, and then suddenly someone spoke up from the back of the court saying, ‘it wasn’t like that. I’ll tell you—I’m the train driver.’

We worked in York, so we’d catch the train at five o’clock in the morning and we’d work until eight o’clock at night. Sometimes we had to walk three miles home late at night. We used to be so scared of bullocks and snakes etc. I was scared. One time the guard put us out of the train and my sister said, ‘I’m gonna belt him with a stick.’ She jumped out and grabbed a big stick and when she shouted at him and hit him everyone jumped out of the train saying, ‘good on ya, knock some more bark off him.’

Part 2 - https://bit.ly/3dnkzlH

Human - Veronica Agnes Yarran-McGuire
Interviewer & photographer - Shannon Boundary
Writer - Guy Salvidge

Humans of the Wheatbelt is a Wheatbelt Health Network project.

Shire of Northam Northam, Western AustraliaBilya Koort Boodja Noongar Institute of Western Australia Aboriginal Corporation Shire of York York Community Resource Centre Noongar Radio State Library of Western Australia Ken Wyatt


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NORTHAM

Wheatbelt Health Centre
25 Holtfreter Avenue, Northam
Phone: 08 9621 4444
Open: 8am-6pm Mon – Fri

Aboriginal Health - Northam
65 Wellington Street, Northam
Phone: 08 9690 2824

Therapy Plus
104 Wellington Street, Northam
Phone: 08 9621 4444

TOODYAY

Alma Beard Medical Centre
81 Stirling Tce, Toodyay
Phone: 08 9578 2500
Open: 8.30am – 5pm Mon – Fri

WUNDOWIE

Wundowie Health Centre
GP Services
283 Boronia Ave, Wundowie
Phone: 08 9621 4444
Open: 8.30am – 4pm Wednesdays

NARROGIN

Aboriginal Health - Narrogin
Williams Road, Narrogin
Phone: 08 9881 0385
Open: 8.30am – 4.30pm Mon – Tues

After hours medical assistance: In an emergency call 000 or present to your nearest Regional Hospital emergency department. If you have a non- emergency and would like to consult with a GP then call Telstra Health on 1800 225 523. The service is free to access for Australian residents who reside in the wheatbelt or who are temporarily residing in the Wheatbelt. This service can be accessed before 8am and after 6pm Monday-Friday, before 8am and after 12pm Saturday and all day Sunday and any Public Holidays. Thank you to Western Australia Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) for funding this service.

  • 25 Holtfreter Avenue, Northam

  • 81 Stirling Tce, Toodyay

  • 65 Wellington Street, Northam

  • Williams Road, Narrogin

  • 283 Boronia Ave, Wundowie

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