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Crawford, Evelyn (1928–?)

Evelyn Crawford, by John Meredith, 1994

Evelyn Crawford, by John Meredith, 1994

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an14320677

Evelyn Crawford (as told to Chris Walsh) Over my tracks: a remarkable life Ringwood: Penguin 1993

NAME: Evelyn Crawford

SEX: Female

BIRTH DATE: 1928

BIRTH PLACE: Rossmore Station, near Burke

FIRST LANGUAGE: Burunji

SIGNIFICANT LOCALITIES:

  • Yantabulla, near the Queensland border in New South Wales: The small station townships that the family travelled to when Crawford was young (p.3), and where she attended primary school. (pp.12-49)
  • Mootawingee: where Crawford received a traditional education, and the last place that she lived with her whole family.
  • Sydney:  She first visited as a governess, and went to the zoo and Luna Park, and where she returned to study to be an Aboriginal Teacher Aide. (p.125)
  • Brewarrina: where Crawford’s family moved to stay at the mission, which they later escaped from. Crawford returned in 1950 and set up camp on the river Brewarrina with her husband.
  • Bourke reserve: where Crawford’s mother and sister moved after they left the mission, a place that she continually returned to.
  • Rossmore Station: Where Crawford was born. (p.x)
  • Wanaaring, Yarrawong, and Glenroy station, and Wilcannia: where Crawford’s family lived after leaving the Brewarrina mission.(pp.87-97)
  • Mooleyarra Station: where Crawford moved with her father after her sisters and mother left, and where she moved cattle as a drover to Bourke. (p.117)
  • Mooculta, Brindingabba, Charlotte Plains and Talyealye Station: places she worked as a musterer.
  • Broken Hill: where she moved in1983 to work. (pp.287-304)
  • Griffith: where Crawford trained preceding her work at the Aboriginal Education Council. (pp.282-284)

EXPERIENCES OF EDUCATION:

  • At Yantabulla, Crawford was inspired to learn by Leanne Cook: a non-Aboriginal teacher from Bourke. Cook was miserable in her posting but was comforted by Granny Mallyer who supplied food and reorganized her classroom timetable. The children taught her words in Burunji, giving Cook the confidence to teach. (pp.14-21) This reciprocity made classes more enjoyable.
  • However, unlike the education she received from her family, Crawford didn’t consider school knowledge particularly relevant to her life.
  • When it came to the education of her own children, she remarked
  • She enjoyed her brief time at the non-segregated Convent School in Bourke, (pp.51-58) but her experience at the mission school in Brewarrina was overwhelmingly negative (pp.65-75)
  • While living at Yantabulla, Crawford learned ceremonial dances, languages and songs, and practical skills such as reading the weather, identifying edible animals by their eggs, tracks, furs and feather, and gathering and prepare bush foods. (pp.26-38) Crawford’s father took the family to live in Mootawingee because he was committed to ensuring that this education was continued.(p.101) While living on the Mootawingee station, she was taught to paint on bark, find underground water, and cook in underground ovens (pp.105-115)

EXPERIENCES OF EMPLOYMENT:

  • Crawford worked as a housemaid/ nursemaid for a Stock and Station Agent, Alan Bloxham (a very nice feller” p.121) when she was a teenager. She travelled to Sydney with the family when Mrs Bloxham had to go for a goiter operation. (pp.120-131).
  • Crawford began working as a musterer at Mooculta Station, upon Bloxham’s recommendation (p.133)
  • She then worked as a horse-tailer for drover Les Girdler (from Thargomindah station). (p.134). After marrying, both Crawford and her husband worked for Girdler again. Crawford was contracted to bring over two thousand cattle from Yaraka in Queensland to Bourke with her first daughter Maree. (pp.163-170) The Girdler family then convinced her to leave her daughter Maree with them while she worked (p.170).
  • Crawford worked as a kitchen maid in Brewarrina. She found working in hot kitchen only slightly more comfortable than working in the hot sun. (p.150)
  • She also worked (during World Two) for Jack Scott as part of the shearing crew on Mooleyarrah Station.
  • Crawford worked for eight years (1975-82) at Brewarrina School, as a volunteer Reading Mum, (pp.254- 263) and later as a paid Aboriginal Teachers Aide (pp.272-281).
  • Of those eight year at Brewarrina, she was seconded for two by the Aboriginal Education Council, to be the Home-School Co-ordinator for the Far West Region of New South Wales. (p.281)
  • In 1983 she became the TAFE Regional Co-ordinator for the Far West Region of New South Wales in Broken Hill. (pp.284-304).

IMPORTANT INSTITUTIONS:

  • Australian Rough Riders Association: her husband Raymond Crawford was a member when she first met him, and he was working for the Tex Morton Rodeo Show. (p. 140)
  • Rodeo Committee and the Country Women’s Association: awarded a bursary to Crawford’s daughter Leslie to go to boarding school in Bathurst (p.224).
  • Aboriginal Welfare Office:
  • Sylvania Heights High School: where her son Guy lived in a hostel with sixty other Aboriginal students.
  • Country Women’s Association: gave Crawford’s son a bursary to go to Melbourne for a year and take art lessons.
  • Brewarrina Primary School: the school which had rejected Crawford as a student in her youth, but which her children attended, and where she came to be a teaching assistant.
  • The Department of Education: established a course for Aboriginal teachers’ assistants at Sydney University. (p.262)
  • International House: provided Crawford with accommodation while she trained to be a teacher’s aide at Sydney University. (p.265)
  • Aboriginal Education Consultative Group: A group that established with other member of her Aboriginal teachers’ aide training program. (p.269)
  • Griffith TAFE: where Crawford trained for her job with the Aboriginal Education Council. (p.282)

SALIENT LAWS AND POLICIES:

  • When she first arrived in Brewarrina, Crawford and her family were prevented from attending the local school, and were sent to ‘the Mission’ instead. (p.59) The law was changed in 1951, and Crawford’s children attended the school that had refused her.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH:

  • Crawford’s family suffered an ordeal when they escaped from the Brewarrina mission and walked for 11 days with insufficient food supplies (pp.81-96)
  • Crawford was badly injured while rodeo riding with the Tex Morton Show.
  • When Crawford worked as a drover, minor illnesses would cause her serious mental and physical suffering, due of the lack of treatment and sympathetic company.

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARTNERS:

  • When Crawford was young, she saw marriage as an unlikely and unnecessary event. (p.151) Her father arranged her union with Raymond Crawford (Gong), and at first she was concerned about a potential personality clash: as she was extroverted and he introverted (p.154) However, she slowly warmed to the prospect, and when they did marry their relationship was a strong and interdependent one. Crawford often deferred to Gong’s decision-making, and when he died in 1974 she suffered from crippling grief. (p.248)

RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN:

  • From the birth of Maree in 1946, the task of raising 14 children in harsh and often dangerous environments dominated Crawford’s life. It was only when her children were old enough to look after themselves and each other that she was able to pursue other interests, namely education.

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARENTS:

  • Crawford’s mother left her father for a different man and went to live in Wilcannia, taking her sister Gladys with her. (p.115-116). This departure left her was a sense of abandonment and confusion.
  • Crawford had a close relationship with her father, who oversaw her traditional education. However, his company alone could not replace her sister and mother.

IMPORTANT/INFLUENTIAL FIGURES:

  • Bill Rose: pressured the Department of Education to establish an Aboriginal teacher aid training course, and encouraged Crawford to participate.
  • Granny Moysey, Granny Mallyer, Granny Knight: three older women who cared for all the children in the station camp where Crawford attended primary school. They provided an important reference point when she herself became a parent.

PREOCCUPATIONS:

  • Aboriginal customs. Crawford details her education in the customary law of her region, and then later reflects on how it supported as well as constrained her throughout life.
  • Abandonment and loneliness Crawford was deeply affected by the unforseen end of her parents’ relationship, which split her from her mother and her sister. (p.115-116) She became staunchly independent, and resisted marriage. (p.151) Eventually, she enjoyed being part of the rodeo community, and came to rely heavily on her husband. When he and some of his friends died around the same time, she suffered significantly.

Cross-cultural education:

  • In 1974, when she was still suffering from the loss of her husband, she began volunteering as a Reading Mum. Through her experience as a volunteer, and her training and work as an Aboriginal Teaching Aide, Crawford began to believe that universities were neither producing enough Aboriginal teachers, not preparing non-Aboriginal teachers adequately. She not only trained as an Aboriginal Teaching Aide, but began to act as a mediator, explaining to elements of local Aboriginal culture so that teachers could better handle classroom environments.
  • One of the things that Crawford thought necessary to explain to teachers was Aboriginal peoples’ more liberal approach to parenting. Personally, she advocated walking the line between providing parental guidance and respecting children’s autonomy. Her response to the truancy of one child was to say to a concerned fellow teacher:
  • Overcoming prejudices: While Crawford had positive experiences with her non-Aboriginal teacher Miss Cook, her attitude towards Europeans – based largely on police and welfare officers – was overwhelmingly negative. When she was young, she was intimidated by the prospect of eating at the same table as the Bloxhams, or sleeping in the same house. Increasing exposure to non-Aboriginal people, many of whom she felt accepted her regardless of her heritage, led Crawford to believe that the differences between them were not as large, nor were the two groups as distinct, as she had previously perceived them to be.

MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION: Crawford story was transcribed and compiled by Chris Walsh.

OTHER PUBLICATIONS:

Crawford, Evelyn ‘Aboriginal community and police relations throughout New South Wales’, in Chris Cunneen ed. Aboriginal perspectives on criminal justice, (Sydney: Institute of Criminology, 1992), pp. 8-10.

Crawford-Maher, ‘An Introduction to traditional Aboriginal culture’, presented by produced by the Video Unit (Sydney: Department of Corrective Services and the Department of Juvenile Justice, 1990) 65 mins

Interviews: ‘Evelyn Crawford discussing aspect of Aboriginal folklife and her own life’ , interviewed with John Meredith and Chris Woodland (Sound recording), National Library of Australian, Oral Transcript 3083670 http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/32650599?

Additional Resources

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Crawford, Evelyn (1928–?)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/crawford-evelyn-15391/text26598, accessed 24 November 2017.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012