Indigenous Australia

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Browse Lists:

Huggins, Rita (1922–?)

PUBLICATION: Rita Huggins and Jackie Huggins, Auntie Rita, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1994

NAME: Rita Huggins

SEX: Female

BIRTH DATE: 1922

BIRTH PLACE: Carnarvon Gorge, Queensland

LANGUAGES SPOKEN: English, Wakka Wakka (the language spoken at Cherboug)

SIGNIFICANT LOCALITIES:

  • Carnarvon Gorge: The ancestral home of the Bidjara-Pitjara people, 600 kilometres North West of Brisbane. (p.7) Rita was born in a cave at Carnarvon Gorge, where her family lived in a humpy when she was an infant. (p.7) Rita describes it as a lush area with a bountiful supply of edible plants and animals. (p.7)
  • Cherbourg (Barambah Reserve): Rita and her family were taken from Carnarvon Gorge to the Cherbourg mission when she was just an infant. Rose and Albert stayed at Cherbourg their entire lives, and Rita returned to the mission as an adult when she had her first child, and when her second child was an infant. (pp. 42, 45)
  • Murgon: A town about five kilometres away from the Cherbourg mission. (p. 26) Rita used to ride to Murgon on her father’s horse and cart. (p.26)
  • Charlevile: In 1934, Rita was sent to work as a domestic for a pastoral family at Barcudgel Station near Charleville. (p.37)
  • Brisbane: Rita got a job working in the Brisbane suburb of Indooroopilly, for Mr and Mrs Semple. (p. 40) She left Brisbane when she fell pregnant with her second child, and returned to live at the Inala Housing Commission in 1959, after her husband Jack died. (p.65)
  • After being evicted from Inala in the early 1970s, Rita and her family moved around Brisbane, and then spent two years living on a fifteen-acre farm at The Gap, owned by friends who had moved to Malaysia. (p.81)
  • Mackay: When she fell pregnant with her second child, Rita left Brisbane to stay with her friend Lear Barber and Lear’s husband Ted Ram Chandra in Mackay. (p.45)
  • Ayr: A town North of Brisbane on the Queensland east cost, when Jack and Rita moved when they were married. (p.57)
  • Western Australian and the Northern Territory: Rita travelled to the Western states of Australia in 1974, as part of a team from the University of Queensland, who were researching Aboriginal education. (p.119)
  • Rita thought the Kimberleys to be particularly “rich in culture”, and was delighted when she got the opportunity to return to the area in 1978 with Reg and Margie Birch. (p.120)
  • Ti Tree: In 1988, Rita moved to Ti Tree in the Northern Territory with her daughter Jackie, who was doing a teaching placement there after receiving a Diploma of Aboriginal Education. (p.123)
  • Uluru: Jack and Rita hired a car and visited Uluru while living in Ti Tree. (p.126)

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL:

  • New Zealand: Rita’s first trip abroad was a holiday to New Zealand with her daughter Jackie (p.126)
  • Scandinavia: Rita travelled to Norway for the Second International Indigenous Women’s Conference. (p.147) While she was there, she met some Swedes who took her to the Finnish border in the hope that she would reconnect with her friend Harry Hapameni (p.148)

Experience of education:

  • Rita began school in a tin shed at the Cherbourg mission. She describes school as the place where she had “most contact with the European ways.” (p.26)
  • The classes were segregated into lighter and darker skinned children, because the former were thought to be more able than the latter. (p.26) Rita stresses that this was not true, and that she has always disapproved of this system. (p.27)
  • At school, Rita was taught literacy, numeracy, and European history. She claims that she and the other Aboriginal students were good at dancing and drawing; but they were never allowed to pursue these at school. (p.27)
  • Rita stopped her education at the age of 13, when the authorities at the Cherbourg mission decided she was ready to start work. (p.39)

Experience of employment:

  • In 1934, Rita was sent to work as a domestic for a pastoral family at Barcudgel Station near Charleville. (p.36) Neither she nor her parents were given warning or a choice about her employment. (p.36) Rita’s small earning went into a trust that was administered by the Department of Native Affairs. (p.39)
  • Rita was required to work from dawn until night: cleaning, cooking and caring for children. (p.37) Rita found childcare to be particularly taxing work, as the children were often very badly behaved. (p.37)
  • Rita was very homesick when she first left Cherbourg, and she spent her spare hours yearning for and dreaming of her home and family. (p.38) In retrospect, she believes that she was too young to start work, and that she and the other Aboriginal girls had been denied a childhood. (p.38)
  • Jackie describes the relationship between Aboriginal domestic workers and white employers as one of “master-slave owner.” (p.34)
  • Rita was uncomfortable talking about her painful experiences as a domestic worker with her daughter. Jackie presumes that this is because she has internalized the opinions of her oppressors. (p.36)
  • Jackie speculates that at least one of Rita’s employers beat her. (p.35) She infers this from the fact that Rita’s father felt compelled to write to the Chief Protector of the Aborigines in Queensland, requesting that she be sent back to Cherbourg. (p.34)
  • Jackie points out that there were some exceptions to the generally harsh disposition of white employers, such as the Semples. (p.34) Rita worked for both Mr and Mrs Semple, who were previously the Superintendent and Matron at Cherbourg, and for their daughter Betty and her husband Wallace. (p.40-42) All the Semple family were excellent employers, with whom she shared feelings of mutual regard and respect. (p.40)
  • Rita left the Semples in 1947, when she gained exemption and fell pregnant with her second child. She was ashamed to tell her parents about the child, and so fled Brisbane and moved to Mackay to live with her friend Lear. (p.45)
  • After she had given birth to Gloria, Rita began work for Doctor Grant in Mackay. (p.46) Her job was mainly cleaning, as Mrs Grant did the cooking; and used to give Rita food to take home. (p.46)
  • Rita stayed in Mackay for three years, before her homesickness became overwhelming and she decided to return to Cherbourg. (p.46)
  • After Rita got married in 1952, she was able to dedicate her time to looking after her growing family. When her husband Jack died in 1958, she moved back to Brisbane to be nearer her family. (p.65) She looked for work in domestic service, but found it difficult because she had three children under the age of three. (p.65) Fortunately, they were able to live off Jack’s superannuation fund, as well as a war pension from Veterans’ Affairs. (p.66)
  • While this money was enough to allow Rita to enjoy an active social life, she never learned to how to budget properly. (p.72) She frequently had to hide when the authorities came to collect the rent and bills. (p.72)
  • In 1969, Rita was eventually caught by the Housing Commission rent collector, and served an eviction notice. (p.72) For the next three years were spent living in “temporary, seedy accommodation” around Brisbane. (p.72) In 1972, Rita’s family eventually settled on a fifteen-acre farm owned by friends, Peter and Adele, who had moved to Malaysia for three years. (p.81) This allowed Rita to supplement her pension with fresh produce from the cows, chickens and ducks on the property. (p.81)
  • Jackie Huggins notes that in the 1960s, Aboriginal issues increasingly came to the national attention. (p.83) Groups of Aboriginal people began to protest again exploitation by the government and mining companies, and make demands for land. After the 1967 Referendum, Aboriginal people were “excited and hopeful.” (p.84)
  • At this time, Rita began to volunteer at the One People of Australia League (OPAL). (p.84) Founded by a British Christian missionary, OPAL aimed to raise the living standards of Aboriginal people living outside of the missions and reserves. (p.86) Rita didn’t see OPAL as being an explicitly political organisation, which she preferred because she detested politics (p.86)
  • Initially, it was the white members of OPAL who did the training and public speaking. Rita learnt a lot from these people and enjoyed making non-Aboriginal friends. (p.86) Over time, Aboriginal people like herself came to play a more important role. She was involved in running the OPAL summer camps, which gave Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children a chance to mix and make friends. (p.96) As Rita became increasingly confident communicating with non-Aboriginal people, her house became the “OPAL’s unofficial Inala office”, and she served as director of OPAL for 25 years. (p.86)
  • Rita points out that OPAL is often described as an assimilationist organisation. She defends its position; claiming OPAL was focused on making Aboriginal people feel equal while recognizing their difference, rather than assimilating them into white society. (p.87)
  • Ruth thinks it is important that there be strong Aboriginal leadership in OPAL. However, she also thinks that this focus has taken the organisation away from its original mission: “Black and white working together.” (p.87)
  • In 1974, Rita was part of a research team which travelled throughout Western Australia and the Northern Territory investigating Aboriginal education for the University of Queensland. (p.103) She acted as a mediator between the white academics and the Aboriginal community. This was Rita’s first paid position outside of domestic service. (p.119)
  • Rita returned to Queensland to find that her children had been in a car accident on their way to the airport. She never sought work again, but continued to participate in Aboriginal conferences: such as the First and Second International Indigenous Women’s Conference. (p.146)

EXPERIENCE OF RELIGION:

  • The residents of the Cherbourg Mission attended services held by the Australian Inland Mission (AIM). (p.30) Rita recalls that the AIM missionaries didn’t stop the Cherbourg people speaking Indigenous languages, and demonstrated a respect for Aboriginal culture. (p.115)
  • When Rita’s mother died in 1974, the AIM conducted her ceremony. (p.115)
  • While living in the Inala Housing Commission, Rita began attending the Salvation Army church. She was later introduced to the Church of England. (p.116) Going to church helped Rita to cope with the stress of being a mother and a grandmother, and she felt that God was guiding her during difficult times. (p.116)
  • Rita’s favourite church was the Aboriginal Church of Paddington. She describes the services as “lively and soulful”, and the subjects discussed as “real life things”. (p.116)

IMPORTANT INSTITUTIONS:

  • Department of Native Affairs: Until she was granted exemption (in 1946), the Department of Native Affairs controlled Rita’s working life. Her small earning went into a trust that they administered. (p.39)
  • Veterans Affairs: Provided a war widow pension for Rita and her family after Jack died. (p.66)
  • The Grand Hotel, Brisbane: A pub frequented by Aboriginal people, were Rita sought relief from her grief after her husband died. (p.66)
  • One People of Australian League: Rita became involved in the One People of Australia League in the 1960s. (p.84)

SALIENT LAWS AND POLICIES:

  • The Cherbourg mission was set up under the Queensland Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act of 1897. (p.14)
  • When the Bidjara-Pitjara people were taken from Carnarvon Gorge, the mixed-race people were sent to Cherbourg, and those of full Aboriginal descent were sent to Woorabinda. (p.10) The Government believed that the former group would assimilate more easily into white society, but Rita claims that “this was not so.” (p.11)
  • In order to leave the Cherbourg mission, to attend their brother Harry’s funeral, Rita’s family tried unsuccessfully to obtain a permit from the authorities. (p.25) Jackie points out that the permit system was in place in Queensland up until the 1980s. (p.25)
  • Jackie notes that Aboriginal labour came under the control of the State after the Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Preservation and Protection Act of 1936-1946. (p.33) The Aboriginal Welfare Fund held Aboriginal earnings, most of which was never returned. (p.33)
  • In 1946, Rita wrote to the Department of Native Affair for exemption from the Queensland Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act. (pp.43-44) Her appeal was granted, and she was able to move about freely. (p.44)

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH:

  • Rita was overwhelmed by grief following the early death of her husband, Jack. (p.66)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARENTS:

  • Rose (Gylma): Rose was the daughter of a Bidjara-Pitjara woman and a white man she never met. (p.9) She and Albert had fourteen children together: Barney, Clare, Margaret, Harry, Thelma, Rita, Violet, Jim, Ruby, Oliver, Lawrence, Isobel, Albert and Walter. (p.17)
  • Rita describes her mother as a “fine woman”: big in stature but calm in nature. (p.17) Rose was a devoted parent, and shared her time equally between all her children. (p.18)
  • When Rose was relocated to Cherbourg, she became a diligent and well-organised housewife. Rita recalls that she had dinner on the table and a bowl of water, soap and a towel waiting for her father when he got home. (p.18, 20)
  • Rita believes that, in other ways, Rose also resisted the white authorities at Cherbourg. For example, she never believed in the “whiteman’s medicine”. (p.18)
  • When the children grew up and moved away, Rose delighted in receiving letters from them: which her younger children would read aloud to her. (p.21)
  • Rose was distraught when her mother died in 1973, not long after she had lost her daughter Gloria. (p.113)
  • Albert Holt: Albert was the son of a Yuri woman and the white owner of the Wealwandangie station. (p.9) He took his father’s name and lived at the homestead. (p.9) Albert lost a leg in a riding accident at a young age, but was still as “proud” and “abled bodied” man. (p.21)
  • As Albert grew older, he started spending less time at the Wealwandangie station and more time at the Aboriginal camp. (p.9) When he met and married Rose, he moved to the camp permanently. (p.9)
  • After Rita was born, Albert and his family were forcibly relocated to Cherbourg. She believes her father was enraged by the move. (p.10)
  • At the Cherbourg mission, Albert was labeled a “black stirrer”, because he was openly critical of the conditions on the mission. (p.24) Unfortunately, as Rita points out, her father lived in an era when Aboriginal political activism was ignored or suppressed. (p.24)
  • While Albert was an industrious man who provided for his family, he never had a “whitefella’s job”. Rita believes this was because her father rejected strict routines. (p.21)
  • Unlike her loving and mild-mannered mother, Rita’s father was a stern man with a volatile temper. (p.22) He inculcated in his children a strict moral code, and if they ever violated it he would beat them with a stock whip or belt. (p.22) But despite his fondness for corporal punishment, Albert was never violent towards Ruby. (p.133)
  • Albert was angered when he discovered that Rita had had her second child out of wedlock, and for a long time after she returned to Cherbourg he refused to speak to her or let her live in their house. (p.47) As such, she was forced to return to live in the girls’ dormitory with the other single mothers. (p.47)

SIBLINGS:

  • Rita had 13 siblings: Barney, Clare, Margaret, Harry, Thelma, Rita, Violet, Jim, Ruby, Oliver, Lawrence, Isobel, Albert and Walter. (p.17)
  • Her older brother Harry was killed while working as a stockman at Maryborough. (p.25)

RELATIONSHIPS WITH PARTNERS:

  • Rita’s first boyfriend was Fletcher Brown from Cherbourg. They had a “puppy love relationship”, and used to meet up and exchange scones and ginger bread. (p.28) Fletcher died of tuberculosis at the age of sixteen, and Rita was sent to live in the dormitories to prevent her from fraternizing with boys in the future. (p.28)
  • When she was 13, Rita and two of her friends were imprisoned at Cherbourg for seeing boys. (p.29) She claims that the authorities believed, incorrectly, that they were “doing niggi niggi” (having sexual relations). (p.29) They were fed bread and water, and had their heads shaved. (p.29)
  • Rita had two children with absent and unnamed fathers, before meeting Jack Huggins in 1940. (p.51) Jack was of Maori and Aboriginal descent, and originated from Ayr in North Queensland. (p.54) Unlike Rita, he had always been a “'free' man”, and his family related as equals to the white residents of that town. (pp. 51, 55)
  • Their daughter, Jackie Huggins, speculates that Jack may have suppressed his Aboriginality in order to gain acceptance in the community. (p.55)
  • Rita describes Jack as a tall, handsome man; who had a “string of white lady friends chasing him.” (p.51) They began a long-distance relationship while he was still living in Ayr, and after a few months Jack asked Rita to marry him. (p.52)
  • Jack and Rita were married in 1952, and the next day they moved to Ayr. (p.57) Jack was very popular among the Aboriginal and Islander residents of Ayr: as an excellent football player, a lifesaver, and the first Aboriginal man to work in the post office. (p.57) The Ayr community welcomed Rita because of her husband’s good reputation. (p.58)
  • After being married for “seven beautiful years”, and having three children together, Jack’s health became to decline due to injuries he received fighting in the Second World War. (p.61) He suffered a stroke and lost movement in his legs and arms. (p.61)
  • Jack died in November 1958, just four months after his first son John was born. (p.61) His funeral at Ayr was enormous. (p.63)
  • After Jack died, Rita moved to Brisbane. To try and distract herself from her grief, she spent a lot of time drinking and enjoying the company of men at the Grand Hotel on Mary Street. (p.66)
  • There was one man, Harry Hapameni – a seaman from Finland – who she became particularly close to, and could have “easily fallen in love with”. (p.67) But, as Harry was returning to Finland, and Rita would never leave Australia, she decided not to pursue a relationship. (p.67)

RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN:

  • Rita had her first child Marion (known as Mutoo) in 1942. Because she was still young, and still employed as a domestic, she had to leave Mutoo in the care of her parents at Cherbourg. (p.42) Albert and Rose raised Mutoo as if she was their own daughter. (p.42) Mutoo lived at Cherbourg for most of her life. (p.42)
  • Rita fell pregnant again in 1947, after she had been granted an exemption. She chose to leave the Semples and go to Mackay, because she didn’t want her family to know about the child. (p.45)
  • Rita gave birth to her second daughter Gloria in Mackay, and they lived there for three years until she became homesick and returned to Cherbourg. (p.50)
  • In 1951, Rita married Jack Huggins and moved to Ayr. (p.58) Jack informally adopted Gloria, Rita second daughter, and together they had three more: Ngaire, Jackie and John. (p.58)
  • After Jack died, Rita began frequenting the Grand Hotel in Brisbane: to drown her grief in alcohol and partying. (p.68) Rita didn’t realise at the time that she was neglecting her small children, who were often left in the care of their teenage sister Gloria. (p.70) Jackie remembers never having enough food, shoes, or proper clothing; while her mother was “immaculately decked out like a queen”. (p.70)
  • Later in life, Rita regretted placing so much responsibility in Gloria’s hands, and not being attentive to the needs of her younger children. (p.70)
  • This situation changed in the 1950s and 1960s, when Rita became heavily involved in OPAL. Jackie describes how this organisation gave Rita’s children “an extended family on top of our own and provided a sanctuary.” (p.99)
  • In 1974, four of Rita’s children were travelling together to pick their mother up from the airport when they crashed their car. (p.104) Her older daughter, Gloria, was killed; John spent ten months in hospital; Jackie spent two weeks in hospital; and Mutoo was released soon after the accident. (p.104) The incident was incredibly distressing for her family.
  • At the age of fifty-five, Rita took in Gloria’s four children, who were aged three to seven. (p.104) She was a much more conscientious mother the second time around. (p.105)
  • Sometimes the age gap between Rita and her grandchildren caused tensions in her household. But these fights were always resolved, and they brought the family closer together. (p.105)
  • When Rita returned from her holiday in New Zealand, she faced another family tragedy when her grandson Kenny died of an asthma attack. (p.128)

RELATIONSHIP WITH EMPLOYERS:

  • Mr and Mrs Semple: Mr and Mrs Semple worked at the Superintendent and Matron at the Cherbourg mission. (p.40) They were well respected by the Cherbourg people, and so Rita didn’t hesitate to accept their offer of employment. (p.40)
  • Betty and Wallace McKenzie: Betty was the daughter of Mr and Mrs Semple, who was particularly popular at Cherbourg. (p.40)
  • When Betty got married to Wallace McKenzie, Mrs Semple suggested that Rita go and work for them. (p.41)
  • Rita remained friends with Betty and Wallace after she stopped working for them, however the nature of their relationship changed later in life. (p. 41)
  • Mrs and Dr Grant: After she had given birth to Gloria, Rita began work for the local doctor and his wife. (p.46) The Grants were good employers, and allowed her to take her baby to work with her. (p.46) Her job was mainly cleaning, as Mrs Grant did the cooking; and used to give Rita food to take home. (p.46)

IMPORTANT/INFLUENTIAL FIGURES:

  • Annie Evans: Annie was the first person that the Holt family met when they arrived at Cherbourg. (p.12) She was very kind to their family, and made them welcome. (p.12)
  • Grandfather Chooky: One of Rita’s ancestors, who was dubbed King of the Bidjara-Pitjara people. Rita points out that there were no kings in pre-colonial times, only elders. (p.15)
  • Matron Wren:  A women who worked in the hospital at Cherbourg. Unlike some of the other staff, Matron Wren “loved the Aboriginal people.” (p.18)
  • Agnes Williams: Agnes was one of Rita’s close friends from Cherbourg, who she remained in contact with throughout her life. (p.39) Rita recalls that Agnes was distraught when she was denied permission to return from her place of employment to Cherbourg for her mother’s funeral. (p.39) She also remembers that, after ten years of domestic services, Agnes received only nine pounds and five pence in wages. (p.39)
  • Lear Barber: Lear became Rita’s friend when her family was evacuated from Thursday Island to Cherbourg during the war. (p.45) When she fell pregnant with her second child, Rita left Brisbane to stay with Lear and her husband Ted in Mackay. (p.45)
  • Stan and Hilda Mitchell: Rita and Jack’s closest friends in Ayr. (p.60) Rita and Hilda were young mothers at the same time, and they provided support for one another throughout their lives. (p.60) Their families celebrated Christmas together every year. (p.60)
  • Granny Liza Lampton: An old woman from Ayr who befriended Rita, and who helped her to cope with her grief following Jack’s death. (p.62)
  • Betty Hart: Betty was one of Rita’s friends from Cherbourg, who she reunited with in Brisbane after her husband died. (p.68) Rita describes Betty as a “real tom boy”, who was always willing to physically defend Rita if a jealous woman or violent man threatened her. (p.68)
  • Sometimes Betty’s aggressive attitude got the better of her, and she would beat women who “so much as looked” at her boyfriend; and would harass white people. (p.69) Rita was glad her friend gave up this behavior when she became a Christian in the 1970s. (p.69)
  • George Hodges: A taxi driver who became Rita’s friend. (p.76) As Rita didn’t own a car, she would often pay George to drive her and the children around town and on holidays. (p.76)
  • Rita’s son John asked George if he could be his father; and from then on referred to him as Dad. (p.76)
  • Stan (Lambie) and May McBride: Lambie and May were a very “handsome couple”, who were some of the first Aboriginal people to become involved in politics in Brisbane. (p.88)
  •  Margie and Reg Birch: Rita became good friends with the Birches when Jackie worked for Reg at the National Aboriginal Conference Secretariat in Canberra. (p.120) He and his wife Margie were both from the Kimberleys, and in 1981 they invited Rita and Jackie to visit their homelands. (p.120)

THEMES/PREOCCUPATIONS:

  • Bidjara-Pitjara traditions: Rita recalls some of the Bidjara-Pitjara practices that she encountered as a small child living at Carnarvon Gorge. She recalls that people used leaves as soap; goanna fat to treat wounds; witchetty grubs to help with teething; and barks to treat rashes. (p. 8)
  • When Rita and her family where taken to the Cherbourg mission, her family was prevented from practicing many Bidjara-Pitjara traditions, and speaking their native tongue. (p.17) But they were allowed to go hunting, and Rita’s father and brother supplemented their rations by killing prey with spears and boomerangs. (p.19)
  • Rita returned to Carnarvon Gorge in 1986, and felt a strong connection to the area. (p.12)

Colonial Violence:

  • Rita recalls that Grandfather Chooky, an elder in her clan, had witnessed the massacre of 16 white people at Cullinlaringo near Springsure in 1861. (p.15) She claims that this was a common response to the fact that white men had kidnapped and raped Aboriginal women. (p.15)
  • Jackie Huggins claims that orthodox historians have downplayed the role of violence on the Australia frontier, including in the Carnarvon Gorge area. (p.14)

Forced relocation:

  • When Rita was just a child, a Trooper arrived at their camp and forced her startled and confused onto a crowded cattle truck. (p.9) Many of the “wild bush blacks” had their family members taken from them. (p.10)
  • Rita relays the indignation that she still feels as an adult, for having been taken away from her home. (p.12)

Life at Cherbourg:

  • Rita recalls her first impressions of the Cherbourg mission. Compared to the lush Carnarvon Gorge, the area around Cherbourg seemed arid and densely populated to her family. (p.11)
  • Rita resentfully recalls the degree of control that the white authorities had over her family at Cherbourg.
  • Rita and the other residents of Cherbourg were given English names and forced to speak English, rather than Pitjara language. (p.17) In private, many people still spoke Wakka Wakka (the native language of the original residents of Cherbourg) and Rita learnt bits of that language. (p.20) Her family was allowed to go hunting, and to have corroborees. (p.29)
  • At the age of 13, Rita was sent to live in the dormitories because she had been seen talking to boys. (p.27) She was allowed to visit her parents on the weekends, but was encouraged to think of the dormitories as her “real home.” (p.28)
  • Rita believes that she deserved to be sent to the dormitory, because she had been “sneaking around and talking to boys and all that business”. (p.29) Jackie, on the other hand, thinks that her mother was “brainwashed” by the authorities to think that she was responsible for her institutionalization. (p.29)
  • When she returned to Cherbourg as an adult, Rita noticed that the community had changed dramatically in the past 30 years. (p.131) She describes the increase in drinking, drugs, domestic violence, and people “breaking up” other’s marriages. (p.131)
  • Rita is careful not to pass judgment about these issues, because she doesn’t want to condemn Aboriginal people. (p.131)

Modern Aboriginal Culture:

  • Rita expresses her strong pride in her Aboriginality. She describes attending Aboriginal cultural events in Katherine and Maleny near Brisbane, where people use music and dance as a means to express this shared pride. (p.139) Rita’s recalls that her favourite Aboriginal musical is Bran Nue Day, which she has seen five times. (p.139)
  • Rita also recalls attending Aboriginal theatre productions. She believes that Aboriginals are born actors: claiming “we’ve had to act for most of our lives.” (p.139) Rita was thrilled to meet Aboriginal actor Ernie Dingo. (p.139)

MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION: Rita Huggins wrote Aunt Rita with her daughter Jackie Huggins. Jackie notes that the book was “born out of so many years of talking.” (p.3)
—Jackie: “During the book’s writing, we have had many arguments (fighting with our tongues, as Rita calls it) and some of this has been resolved, continues and remains evident in these pages.” (p.3)

Original Publication

  • Auntie Rita, 1994

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Citation details

'Huggins, Rita (1922–?)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/huggins-rita-17795/text29374, accessed 18 November 2017.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012