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Grant, Stan (1963–?)

PUBLICATION: Stan Grant, Tears of Strangers: A Family Memoir, Sydney: Harper Collins, 2004

SEX: Male

BIRTH DATE: 30 September 1963

BIRTH PLACE: Griffith, NSW

FIRST LANGUAGE: English

SIGNIFICANT LOCALITIES:

  • Gunnedah Hill: an Aboriginal camp on the outskirts of Coonabarabran, when Stan’s mother grew up. (p.42) The camp at Gunnedah Hill was closed down when developers bought the land, and the residents were gradually forced to leave. (p.43)
  • Griffith: Stan’s parents met while living on an Aboriginal reserve outside the rural New South Wales town of Griffith. They later moved to a Housing Commission in the town itself. (p.50)
  • The Grants moved around a lot, but they often returned to live in Griffith. (p.54)
  • Warrangesda mission: An Aboriginal mission established by John Gribble on the Murrumbidgee in 1880. (p.137) Stan’s ancestors were amongst those that Gribble brought to Warrangesda, and he visited the site of the old mission while doing family research. (p.138)
  • Bulgandramine mission: an Aboriginal mission near Peak Hill, which was abandoned sixty years ago. (p.157) Stan’s great-grandfather Bill Grant lived at Bulgandramine mission, and he visited the site on his family history tour. (p.158)
  • Condobolin mission: An Aboriginal mission in central New South Wales, where Stan’s grandparents lived in the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Wilcannia: a predominantly Aboriginal town in remote New South Wales. Stan travelled to Wilcannia on the advice of an Aboriginal Legal Service lawyer, who warned of the threat that drinking and drug abuse presented to the town’s survival. (p.249)
  • Stan is related to the Johnson family who lived in Wilcannia, but when he travelled to the area it was to report of the living conditions. (p.250)

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL:

  • Hong Kong: Stan covered the British handover of Hong Kong as a journalist for the Channel 7 news. (p.226)
  • Ireland: Stan was sent to Belfast as the European correspondent for Channel 7’s London, to cover the conflict between the Catholics and Irish. (p.226)
  • South Africa: Stan was sent to South Africa to compile a series of stories for the current affairs program ‘Real Life’. (p.243)
  • Greece: Stan was sent to Greece to broadcast the lighting of the flame for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. (p.277)

EXPERIENCES OF EDUCATION:

  • By the age of twelve, Stan had attended a dozen different primary schools. (p.53) He was often persecuted at new schools because of his colour, and his attendance was always sporadic (p.271).
  • Stan felt most safe at school in Griffith, because he had lots of tough Aboriginal friends. (p.54)  In retrospect, however, he was grateful that his parents left the town for Canberra. By this time, the principal at Griffith High had already asked Stan to leave school. (p.55)
  • Had he stayed in Griffith, Stan believes he would have been absorbed into an Aboriginal subculture where violence was the norm. (p.55)  He recalls one occasion in his teens, when the older boys encouraged him to beat up a white student. (p.55)
  • While living in Canberra, Stan’s education was uninterrupted for the first time in his life. (p.271) Canberra was also a centre for Aboriginal activism, and Stan believes this gave him a broader understanding and higher aspirations. (p.271)
  • After finishing high school, Stan met Marcia Langton: a prominent Aboriginal activist and academic from Queensland. She encouraged him to enrol in a Bachelor’s Degree at the University of New South Wales. (pp.271-272)

EXPERIENCES OF EMPLOYMENT:

  • For a period of time, Stan’s father worked as travelling fruit and vegetable vendor. Stan took time off school to help with sales. (p.271)
  • Throughout his childhood Stan dreamed of becoming a journalist. (p.271)
  • After leaving school Stan worked part-time for the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra. It was there that he met Marcia Langton, who advised him to attend University. (pp.271-272)
  • After graduating Stan was offered a cadetship at the Macquarie Radio Network. (p.272) From there he was employed as a political correspondent for the ABC for four years. (p.287) He gained prominence in Australia as a reporter and host of current affairs programs on Channel Seven.
  • As a television personality, Stan was encouraged to act as a role model for Aboriginal people in prisons, schools, and depressed communities. He felt uncomfortable in this role, because his elevated circumstances separated him from the people he was supposed to help. (p.60)
  • Stan was also concerned about the message that he could pass on, based on his career experience. (p.61)
  • While working for Channel Seven, Stan travelled to Papua New Guinea and then Hong Kong to cover hand over from Britain to China. (p.228) He then worked at the station’s London bureau for two years.
  • In 1997, the Stan he was sent from London to Ireland to cover the Marching season in Belfast: when the Protestant Orangemen paraded through Catholic streets. (p.227) During his report, Stan’s camera was knocked out of his hand by flying bottle of beer. (p.230) A brick was thrown at his back, chipping a bone, and Stan had to flee the scene. (p.230)
  • That night, while trying to capture footage of the violence, Stan was caught in crossfire between Catholics and Protestants. (p.231) The next night he and his cameraman were harassed by a group of young Catholics who had been brutally beaten by the police. (p.234)
  • By 1999 Stan returned to Australia to host Channel Seven’s current affairs program, Today Tonight. (p.241) He was later recruited for the Seven Network’s new current affairs program, Real Life. (p.243) As the anchor of the Real Life, Stan travelled to South Africa to film a series about life in the country after apartheid. (p.243)
  • For moral and professional reasons, Stan avoided reporting on Aboriginal affairs. (p.250)
  • Following the advice of an Aboriginal Legal Service lawyer, however, Stan compiled a piece about the troubled New South Wales town of Wilcannia entitled Waiting to Die. (pp.252-253) After the show aired, Stan received an angry phone call from a Wilcannia woman, who accused him of portraying her town in a harsh light. (p.253)
  • Stan also hosted a show about the life of Aboriginal actress, Justine Saunders, who had been taken from her parents as a child and placed in foster homes and convents. (pp.254-256) In the piece, Stan returned Justine’s Order of Australia medal to Liberal Senator John Herron, in protest against the Howard Government’s refusal to apologise to the Stolen Generation. (p.254)
  • Stan was disappointed to learn from his executive producer that the show had very low ratings, and that viewers had complained that he was too harsh to the Senator. (p.256)

EXPERIENCES OF RELIGION:

  • Stan enjoying going to Sunday school as a child. (p.48) He is, however, very critical of Christian evangelist’s treatment of Aboriginal people.
  • Stan criticises the Methodists who converted his ancestors to Christianity in missions around New South Wales. He believes that, by extolling a strong work ethic, the Methodists encouraged Aboriginal subordination. (p.175)
  • Stan recounts the missionaries’ success in converting Aboriginal people to Christianity, at a time when their traditional religions and social structures were crumbling. (p.181) He believes that the Church offered his ancestors a degree of respectability and equality, which was denied by mainstream Australian society at that time. (p.182)

IMPORTANT INSTITUTIONS:

  • Aboriginal Protection Board: an organisation established in 1882 to assist missionaries in their efforts to assimilate mixed-race Aborigines into mainstream Australian society. (p.152) The Aboriginal Protection Board kept record on Stan’s Aboriginal relatives, particularly his rebellious great-great-grandfather Frank Foster. (p.156)
  • Aboriginal Inland Mission (A.I.M): the evangelical organisation that established missions at Bulgandramine and Condobolin.  (p.178) Stan notes that the A.I.M. attempted to prevent gambling and alcohol consumption among Aboriginal people, and campaigned for greater powers to remove children. (pp.178-181)

SALIENT LAWS AND POLICIES:

  • Stan notes that, according to Aborigines Protection (Amendment) Act of 1936, his grandparent were not defined as Aboriginal people because of their mixed ancestry. (p.33)
  • He also notes that 1939 Child Welfare Act gave the Aboriginal Welfare Board the power to seize children they considered uncontrollable. This allowed Welfare Officers to arrive at his maternal grandparent’s house unannounced. Stan’s maternal grandfather was forced to leave his hometown, for fear they would take his children. (p.41)
  • This legislation also enabled the Aboriginal Protection Board to remove his great aunt Eunice from her parents, and place her in the Cootamundra Girls Home. (p.160)

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH:

  • Stan had a brick thrown at his back while reporting on the Marching season in Belfast. After fleeing the scene, Stan learnt that the brick had chipped a bone. (p.230)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARENTS:

  • Betty Grant (nee Cameron): the daughter of a white woman and an Aboriginal man, born in an Aboriginal camp near Coonabarabran. (p.32) Stan points out that Betty was a distinctly Aboriginal woman, despite having her mother’s pale skin, blonde hair, and narrow features. (p.31)
  • Rather than assimilate into white society, Betty choose to marry an Aboriginal man – Stan Grant. (p.45) After marrying, Stan and Betty lived together in a broken down car in an Aboriginal reserve near Griffith. (p.44)
  • Betty often fought with her husband. Stan remembers his mother punching his father in the face, when he returned from a weeklong drinking spree. (p.32) Stan believes that Betty loved his father deeply, and this is why she always took him back. (p.21)
  • Stan Grant: Stan’s father, who shares his name, was born in Cowra and worked in sawmills. (p12) His friends called him ‘Black Horse’ because of his dark skin, and Stan believes his father had a difficult life because of his colour. (p.12)
  • Stan senior moved to Redfern as a young man. He began boxing under his mother’s maiden name, Ellems, so that his family wouldn’t recognise him in the papers. (p.25) While living in Redfern, Stan senior was publicly beaten by the police, poisoned, shot at and stabbed. (pp.20, 12) He had two daughters with a white woman named Barbara, one of whom died as a baby. (p.19)
  • Stan senior sobered up somewhat after leaving Redfern and marrying Betty. (p.17)
  • Stan senior punished his son by beating him with a strap or punching him. (p.17) Stan feared his father, and was constantly worried he would abandon the family. (p.16)
  • Only later in life, after meeting his half sister Deb, did Stan understand his father’s behaviour as a response to harsh treatment by the authorities. (p.17)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARTNERS:

  • Karla: Stan first wife was an Aboriginal woman, who had pride in her heritage. (p.279) He met Karla when they were in their teens, and they had three children together. (p.273)
  • Stan and Karla separated when he started seeing fellow Channel Seven journalist Tracey Holmes. He believes that his career on television made him selfish, and this contributed to the breakdown of his relationship. (p.273) Stan also claims that he and Karla married too young, and that they had become different people with age. (p.273)
  • Tracey Holmes: Stan met Tracey when they were working together in Greece: covering the lighting of the torch for the 2000 Olympic games. (p.279)
  • Stan’s feelings for Tracey created a dual conflict. Firstly, he was still married to Karla at the time, and felt committed to his family. (p.278)
  • Secondly, Tracey was a white woman, and Stan had always mistrusted Aboriginal men who took white partners. (p.279)
  • Because of their status as televisions personalities, Stan’s new relationship with Tracey attracted a great deal of media attention.
  • After one year together, Tracey gave birth to their son Jesse. (p.283)

RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN:

  • Karla and Stan had three children together: Lowanna, John and Dylan. (p.273) When Stan fell in love with Tracey, he felt deeply conflicted about leaving his children. (p.261)
  • Stan had a fourth child, a son named Jesse, with Tracey. (p.281)

IMPORTANT/INFLUENTIAL FIGURES:

  • Debbie: the daughter of Stan senior and his white partner Barbara, born in Redfern. (p.25) Stan didn’t meet his sister until she was thirty-eight years old, and living on an Aboriginal reserve on the north coast of New South Wales with her seven children. (p.14) Stan was angered when he found out that Debbie had tried to visit him in Canberra, but was blocked by his family.(p.23)
  • Barbara: Stan senior’s first partner was a white woman named Barbara. Barbara is the mother of Stan’s half sisters, Debbie and Donna. (p.26) Donna died when she was only ten days old, and Stan senior left Barbara to raise Debbie on her own. (p.27)
  • Stan met Barbara as an adult, by which time she was crippled by multiple sclerosis. (p.25) He learnt how she had been persecuted by the police and rejected by white society because of her relationship with an Aboriginal man. (p.26) After their relationship ended, Barbara lived on an Aboriginal mission in northern New South Wales. (p.26)
  • Cecil Grant: Stan’s paternal grandfather was raised on the mission near Cowra. (p.183) During the depression, he and his brother Seth walked to John Grant’s property at Merriganowry, which was owned by his white relatives, looking for work. (p.183)
  • Cecil later married Josie Johnson and moved to the Condobolin mission. (p.183) He became a dedicated Christian and fought in Tobruk during the Second World War. (p.184) When he returned from the war, Cecil moved his family to Griffith and became the first Aboriginal person to work for the local shire council. (p.184)
  • Keith Cameron: Stan’s maternal grandfather was a mixed-race man born under a tree near Coonabarabran in northwest New South Wales. (p.33) Keith’s mother died giving birth to him, and he survived with only one lung, which meant he had difficulty breathing. (p.34)
  • Keith had nine children with a white woman named Ivy Sutton, and drove a sanitary truck. (p.36) He split with Ivy when the Aboriginal camp outside Coonabarabran was shut down. (p.44)
  • Ivy remarried, and Keith became a nomad who travelled between his children’s homes. Stan has childhood memories of his maternal grandfather waiting for the postman on pension day, and spending all of his allowance on alcohol. (p.34)
  • Ivy Sutton: Stan’s paternal grandmother was a white woman who had been kicked out by her mother as a teenager and sent to live in a home. (p.39) When she left the home, Ivy moved into a tent outside Coonabarabran with Keith Cameron. (p.39)
  • Ivy and Keith had nine children together, but never married. (p.39) One of their sons died as a child. (p.42) On occasion, Ivy and Keith were forced to flee Coonabarabran, because they feared Aboriginal Welfare Officers would take their mixed-race children away. (p.42)
  • Ivy and Keith separated when the camp outside Coonabarabran was closed down. She moved to Narromine and married another man. Despite this, Ivy and Keith still spent some time together every year. (p.43)
  • Owen Flottman: Stan’s best friend from primary school, who was the adopted son of the local Presbyterian minister. Stan and Owen fled school together, because they were teased for being black. (p.53)
  • Windhuraydhine: A Wiradjuri leader who fought against the British in New South Wales from 1822 to 1825. (p.63) Windhuraydine’s defence of his ancestral lands was so strong that Governor Brisbane was forced to declare martial law in 1824, during which time the murder of Aboriginal people was legally sanctioned. (p.74)
  • Stan describes Windhuraydine’s battles with the colonists, and laments the fact that he was never taught about him in school. (pp.64-72)
  • John Suttor: a descendent of one of the original settlers of Bathurst, who now owns the property where Windhuraydhine is buried. Stan went to John Suttor’s farm, Brucedale, to see Windhuraydhine’s grave. (p.65) John gave him a copy of a book written by his great uncle, which describes the vicious battles between the colonists and the Indigenous people. (p.69)
  • John Grant: an emancipated Irish convict who claimed Stan’s ancestral land at Merriganowry on the Lachlan in 1827. Stan believes John Grant to be his great-great grandfather, and retells his life story.  (p.91)
  • John and his brother Jeremiah were arrested in Ireland for rebelling against British rule. (p.100) Stan recalls the circumstances surrounding John Grant’s arrest, which were recorded by one of his descendants in the book Providence. (p.102)
  • John Grant was sent to Australia in 1811, when he was just eighteen. (p.102) In the colonies, he was discriminated against because he was an Irish Catholic. Stan believes that this fuelled his racism against Aboriginal people. (p.102)
  • By 1828, John had become the wealthiest Catholic in Australia: establishing the town of Hartley in the Blue Mountains, and Canowindra on the Lachlan River. He also established a vast property on the land of the Wiradjuri leader, Wongamar. (pp.97-101)
  • John Grant had three children with his first wife, and when she died he remarried a woman twenty years his junior and had another nine children. (p.119)
  • Stan’s research suggests that, in the seven years that John was a single widower, he fathered his great-great grandmother Mary Ann Grant with Wongamar’s daughter. (p.111)
  • Wongamar: An Wiradjuri leader, who the British gave the title of the “King of the Merriganourie.” (p.121) John Grant claimed Wongamar’s land as his own, and also fathered a child with his daughter. (p.121)
  • Bill Grant: Stan’s great-grandfather was born at Merriganowry near Cowra in 1857. (p.111) Bill is believed to be the grandson of the emancipated convict John Grant.
  • When he was in his early twenties, Bill eloped with a white girl named Margaret Brien, who was only thirteen at the time. (p.113) They had eleven children together. The Aboriginal Protection Board granted Bill and Margaret land near Cowra, but he decided to leave his wife for an Aboriginal woman named Catherine Ryan. (p.114)
  • Margaret and Bill’s children were assimilated into Cowra’s white community through successive marriages, and were never taught about their origins. (p.115)
  • John Gribble: A missionary who moved to Australia from Cornwall when he was nine. (p.135) John Gribble was shocked by the Aboriginal living conditions in the 19th century, and established the Warrangesda mission on the Murrumbidgee in 1880. (p.137) Aboriginal people from across the state, including Stan’s ancestors, were brought to Warrangesda voluntarily and by force. (p.138)
  • The Aboriginal people at Warrangesda became increasingly restless throughout the decade. Stan describes how John Gribble’s mental health deteriorated and his leadership became increasingly repressive. (p.140)
  • In 1884, John Gribble suffered from a breakdown and was sent back to England to recover. (p.145)
  • Florence Foster (Nanny Cot): Stan’s great-grandmother, born on the Warrangesda mission in 1896. (p.147) Nanny married Wilfred Johnson and moved to Condobolin and had a large family. (p.147)
  • Frank Foster: Stan’s great grandfather was born in Kiama on the south coast of New South Wales in 1872. (p.149) At the age of seven he was taken from his mother and sent to the Mulgoa mission. (p.143)
  • Frank and his sister later moved to Cummeragunja mission. In 1892, he applied to become a teacher, but was rejected by the Aboriginal Protection Board. Frank then moved to Warrangesda mission in 1895 and married Lydia Naden. (p.154) Lydia and Frank had a child together, Stan’s great-grandmother Florence, before he was expelled from the mission for defying the supervisor. (p.148)
  • Eunice Grant: Stan’s great aunt was taken from Bulgandramine mission, where she was living with her older sister Emma, and sent to live at the Cootamundra Girls Home. (p.160) Stan is uncertain about the circumstances surrounding aunt Eunice's removal from Bulgandramine. (p.157)
  • Eunice later came to live with her brother, Stan’s grandfather Cecil, on the Condobolin mission. She had to apply to the Aboriginal Welfare Board to live with her partner, a full-blooded Aboriginal man, and died giving birth to her sixth child. Stan’s grandparents raised Eunice’s younger daughter, Elaine. (p.161)
  • Laurie Johnson: Stan’s uncle. Laurie was a heavy drinker who died when he was just fifty. Stan travelled to Griffith for his funeral. (p.170)
  • James: Stan’s best friend from high school in Griffith. (p.172)
  • Unlike Stan, James stayed in Griffith, where he became a criminal and drug abuser. (p.171) Stan didn’t recognise James at his uncle Laurie’s funeral, because his friend had aged so quickly. (p.170)
  • Bob McLeod: An Aboriginal activist from the south coast of New South Wales. (p.196) Stan is related to Bob through marriage, and he visited him at Bellefield Estate in Nowra to learn about Aboriginal politics in the 1970s. (pp 196-214)
  • When Bob was young, his family were offered a house at the Green Valley Housing Commission in Sydney’s western suburbs as part of the government’s assimilation scheme. (p.206)
  • Bob took to drinking methylated spirits, and was charged with assault at the age of eighteen. (p.206) He had a political awakening while serving his five-year jail sentence, and when Bob left prison he joined the urban Aboriginal activists inspired by the African-American politics. (p.207)
  • In 1974, Bob attempted to arrest the head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs at gunpoint, in a protest against the death of Indigenous children. (pp.190, 217-219) He later became a singer-songwriter. Stan believes Bob had great potential, but his talents were largely squandered because of his addictions to alcohol, sex and violence. (p.220)
  • Bob eventually gave up alcohol, opened a healing clinic, and co-ordinated an Aboriginal dance group. (p.220)
  • Peter Charley: the produced of the Seven Network’s new current affairs program, Real Life. Stan was recruited to be the anchor for the new program, and he and Peter travelled to South Africa to film a series about life in the post-apartheid country. (pp.242-243)
  • Milton Nkosi: the black South African sound recordist for the series of the Real Life current affairs program. (p.244) During the filming, Stan was given an interview with the South African white supremacist leader, Eugene Blanche, on the condition that Milton did not accompany him. (p.245)
  • Cathy Freeman: while working as a journalist, Stan interviewed Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman many times.
  • Stan witnessed Cathy Freeman’s world record breaking 400 metres run in the 2000 Olympics. (p.260) He believes this was a moment when Australia tried to reimagine itself as a reconciled nation. (pp.260-262) Stan felt conflicted about this turning point in Australian history. (p.262)
  • Marcia Langton: An Aboriginal activist and academic, who Stan met while working part time at the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. (p.272) Marcia offered Stan career advice, and encouraged him to enrol in university. (p.272)
  • Paul Keating: The Australian Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996. Stan called Paul Keating to the stage to deliver his now-famous Redfern Park speech. Stan has a signed copy of the speech mounted on his wall. (p.262)

PREOCCUPATIONS:

  • Aboriginal identity: Stan describes the shifts in his understanding of what it is to be Aboriginal. As a child he was ashamed of the colour of his skin. He remembers trying to scrub himself white, fleeing from school when he was bullied for being black, and trying to hide his father from his white friends. (pp.51-53)
  • Stan came to accept and embrace his Aboriginal identity with age. He also became increasingly sceptical of the notion of a unifying and distinct Aboriginal identity, which was often embraced by successful people of Indigenous descent.
  • Stan believes that the notion of Indigenous culture that underpins modern Aboriginal nationalism had been transformed and commodified.
  • Regardless of these tensions, Stan still holds strongly to his Aboriginal identity.
  • Colonial history: Stan gives an overview of Australia’s colonial history, through the experiences of his Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ancestors in New South Wales.
  • Stan recalls the experiences of the early white colonists west of the Blue Mountains, and the missionaries that followed them.
  • Stan also recounts the struggles of the 1930s Aboriginal activists, William Cooper, Bill Ferguson and Jack Patten. These Aboriginal spokespeople campaign for citizenship and acceptance in white society. (pp.184-194)
  • Stan also details the radical shift in Aboriginal politics, with the birth of Black power activism in the 1970s. (pp.209-222)

MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION: Tears of a Stranger was written by Stan Grant.

Additional Resources

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Grant, Stan (1963–?)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/grant-stan-17827/text29412, accessed 25 April 2017.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012