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 2 - Veronica Agnes Yarran-McGuire

Even though I was born in Northam I was mostly bred up at York Reserve. Going out to the Reserve was a happy time because we saw everyone. We used to catch gilgies and yabbies and in Northam we’d catch turtles and cobbler. A lot of the old people liked turtle, but I didn’t. There was plenty of food in the river and we’d catch kangaroos and rabbits too. Where the Reserve was is all wild and overgrown now, so it would be good to reclaim it and make it a meeting place. There’s a pepper tree there that my old auntie planted there.

Dad worked for the Road Board in York and they wouldn’t give us a house, so the Road Board fella said, ‘you pitch your tent here.’ This was at the Showgrounds, so we’d use the Road Board showers and toilets. Eventually they gave us a house. We were one of the first to get a house on Pool Street, just over the road from the church.

I was married in Brookton; my husband and I were the first to get married in the little church there that had been given to Aboriginal people. We had eleven children: Deborah, Nelly, John, Maria, Cynthia, Claire, Angus, Oral, Dorothy, Jeremy and Sheree. They all went to school in Northam and surrounds.

We went wherever the work was so Claire was born in Quairading, Dorothy in Kellerberrin, Debby in Cunderdin, Oral in Beverley, Maria and Cynthia in York. Angus, Jeremy and Sheree were born here in Northam. My kids were able to go to school and my husband had a good name because he was a good worker. All my kids went to college and they all did well. I have a lot of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, maybe as many as fifty.

When I went to hospital to have my children, they had a special little room for Noongars about the size of my kitchen. They never attended to us properly. Some of the wetjalas were good but some were hateful. Every town was racist. We were never allowed to speak our language. We’d be told, ‘we don’t know what you’re saying—you might be swearing at us. ‘When we walked down the street in every town people would stare at us saying, ‘Abos are coming, get off the street.’ My oldest sister Deborah would say in response, ‘I’ll make you Aboriginal, I’ll belt ya black.’

We used to go on trips out to Mandurah and Rockingham with our trailer and tent. You could pitch your tent anywhere in the bush. There’d be about thirty people and about ten cars. We’d have our dinner and then just lay down and sleep. People never worried you. We used to go down for three or four days, especially around Christmas time. The only thing to worry about was the snakes. That area is all full of houses now.

My husband died at the age of forty-nine of a heart attack and I had six children to bring up and one of them was sick with epilepsy. This was in 1977. I rang for an ambulance and it took them three hours to come. I reckon they could have saved him if they had come quicker. I got a Widow’s payment, but it wasn’t much. It was $199 a fortnight and I had six kids to look after. I did it, thank the Lord.

I worked up here at Avonvale School until about twenty-five years ago helping with the little ones, teaching them to wash their hands and sit still and listen. Life came full circle because even though I hadn’t been able to go to school myself, now I was teaching little kids how to read their books. I used to tell them stories about what life was like living in the bush. The kids at West Northam used to say, ‘Mrs McGuire, you need to come up to the school and tell us a story.’ I used to tell them stories about cows chasing us and of course old Neville too.

My hobby when I was younger was sewing clothes for the kids and myself. I worked for the dentist and his wife in York. I worked with the dentist cleaning people’s teeth and then for the wife at her house. They were lovely to me. I also worked for the butcher, Jack Chipper. Instead of having to catch the train at the end of the day, I stayed the night with them. They were good people.

My grandfather headed up the first Aboriginal cricket team in WA. John Blurton his name was. They had to walk from New Norcia to Fremantle to catch the boat to England. One old fella passed away before they got there. There’s a photo of it at New Norcia and that’s all my grandmother’s people in that photo.

I was the elder who did Welcome to Country for the Queen in 2011, which was very frightening. When they walked me in it was all dark. There were so many security guards, it was like something out of the war. When they put the lights on there were all these eyes looking at me, thousands of them, people from all different countries. A lot of them weren’t very friendly except for one man from New Guinea. Others would just look at you. The Queen was lovely.

My advice in life would be - know where you come from. Know your people, know your culture and show respect to your elders and your community.

Humans of the Wheatbelt is a Wheatbelt Health Network project.

Part 1 - https://bit.ly/3sG9rHd

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

Bilya Koort Boodja Shire of Northam Avonvale Primary School Shire of York Noongar Institute of Western Australia Aboriginal Corporation Ken Wyatt 100.9fm Noongar Radio Noongar Language Centre Aboriginal History State Library of Western Australia Local Aboriginal History and Memories.


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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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