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Kennedy, Margaret (Marnie) (1919–1985)

PUBLICATION: Marnie Kennedy, Born a Half Caste, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1985, Canberra

SEX: Female

BIRTH DATE: 1919

BIRTH PLACE: Coppermile Creek

LANGUAGES SPOKEN: English

SIGNIFICANT LOCALITIES:

  • Palm Island: an Aboriginal penal colony off coast of Townsville. Marnie was taken to Palm Island with her mother Rose, and about two hundred Aboriginal people lived there at the time. (pp.6-7)
    “There was an aura about this island. Something so beautiful it held you in awe. It is hard to believe that this beautiful island was a penal settlement. This island was meant for romance, love, and to live happily ever after.”
  • Blue Range Station: a station outside of Charters Towers, where Marnie got her first job after leaving Palm Island. (p.22) Marnie left Blue Range Station in 1944, but was forced to return and live with her husband, Alwyn Kennedy. (p.29)
  • Ingham: Marnie moved to Ingham when she left Blue Range in 1944, while pregnant with her son. (p.27) She returned to Ingham with her partner Sam in 1948. (p.36)
  • Innisfail: Marnie’s mother moved to Innisfail with her new husband. Marnie lived with them for a period of time after leaving Ingham. (P.28)
  • Mount Isa: Marnie moved to Mount Isa with her partner Sam in 1950, in the hope of finding work on a station. (p.36)
  • Oban Station, Oxton Down, Walgra Station: sheep and cattle stations near Mount Isa, where Sam and Marnie worked for the Robinsons. (pp.41-50)
  • Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane: cities that Marnie visited with Sam while on holidays from Walgra Station. (p.49)

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL:

  • n/a

EXPERIENCES OF EDUCATION:

  • Marnie attended school on Palm Island until she was thirteen. (p.8)

EXPERIENCES OF EMPLOYMENT:

  • Marnie was made to do chores while living in the dormitories on Palm Island. (p.17) She and the other girls scrubbed the floors five times a week and swept the yard. (p.16)
  • At the age of thirteen, Marnie was forced to leave school on Palm Island and start work full time. (p.19) Marnie did domestic work for Miss Firth for twelve months, before being fired for concealing the cook’s pregnancy. (p.20)
  • After spending time cleaning the office at Palm Island, Marnie was sent to work on Blue Range Station outside of Charters Towers. (p.22) She started work at five in the morning: milking the cows, setting and waiting on the table, cleaning the dining room, and washing and ironing. (p.22) Marnie was paid five shilling a week, of which she was able to keep two shilling and sixpence. The rest of her wages was sent to Palm Island to be banked. She got her clothes from Palm Island. (p.23)
  • Marnie left Blue Range after she obtained citizenship, and lived with the Illins in Ingham. (p.25) She earned two shillings an hour working in pubs, doing housework and washing and ironing, until she had earned enough to travel to Innisfail. (p.27)
  • In Innisfail, Marnie got a job doing domestic work for her father in law’s employers, the Austins. (P.28) The Austin had five sons who were all very lazy. (p.28) She earned ten shillings a week. (p.28)
  • After leaving the Austins, Marnie started working for farmer called Mrs McCarthy: doing housework, ironing and feeding the fowls. (p.28) On one occasion Mrs McCarthy took her to the police station, and he gave her four pounds in owed waged from Palm Island, and told her to return to her husband at Blue Range. (p.29)
  • Marnie left Blue Range again when she was pregnant with her second child. (p.31) She returned to Ingham, and was paid two shillings an hour doing ironing and cleaning. (p.31) Marnie then got a job chipping cane outside Ingham for three pounds a week. (p.31)
  • Marnie returned to doing domestic work for a family of six in Ingham before having her baby. (p.32) Her employer offered her fifteen shillings, plus the innards and eggs, for plucking and gutting a hundred and twenty chickens. (p.32)
  • Marnie returned to working at Blue Range when her baby was born. (p.33) She lived with her husband Alwyn, but was self-sufficient. (p.33)
  • Alywn and Marnie supplemented their income by camping out and mining for tin on the weekends. (p.33)
  • In 1948, Marnie moved back to Ingham with new partner Sam, and worked as a domestic servant in private homes and then in a pub. (p.36) She was paid twelve shillings a day. (p.36)
  • In 1950, Marnie and Sam moved to Mount Isa. (p.36) Contrary to Sam’s presumption, they were unable to find work and had to frequent hotels speaking to station owners. (p.36)
  • Eventually, Sam was offered a job working for Mr Robinson on Oban Station. Marnie worked as a housemaid at Oban Station for twelve pounds a week. (p.38) She and Sam saved enough money to buy a truck, which enabled them to do contract work on the weekends.(p.39)
  • Marnie and Sam moved to a sheep station named Oxton Downs near Julia Creek when Mr Robinson was transferred. (p.42) Marnie had to take a week off work at one stage because their cabin flooded, and she lost all her clothes. (p.44)
  • From Oxton Downs, Marnie and Sam followed the Robinsons to the Walgra cattle station. (p.44)
  • L. J. Hooker owned Walgra, and often they sent five staff to the station. Catering for them all was a difficult task for Marnie. (p.47)
  • Mr Robinson left Walgra Station after his wife died, and was replaced by Mr Wilkinson and then Mr Lucas. (p.50) Marnie and the other Aboriginal employees were treated well by these new employers. (p.50)
  • The working conditions at Walgra Statin deteriorated when a new manager came; he cut the Aboriginal employees’ rations, and made them eat outside. (p.51)
  • When Belle the cook resigned, the manager offered Marnie her position. She was initially hesitant, because she didn’t know how to cook, but gradually her culinary skills developed. (p.52) Marnie was now the highest paid employee on the Walgra Station. (p.52)
  • Sam and Marnie stayed at Walgra until the property was sold. (p.53) Most of the employees left, fearing they would loose their jobs. (p.54)
  • Marnie left Walgra when Sam was offered work at Carandotta Station. They lived near the shearing sheds on the Coonah outstation. (p.54) Marnie was offered a job cooking for the shearers for thirty-one pounds a week. (p.55)
  • She got along well with the shearers, but had difficulty keeping the kitchen clean during and after dust storms. (p.56) Later Marnie was offered a job cooking at Carandotta Station. (p.56) She was paid only for cooking, despite having to do a lot of cleaning as well. (p.56) Marnie almost had a nervous breakdown because of the burden of her workload.  (p.56)
  • Marnie left Carandotta, and began working at the Court House Hotel in Charters Towers. (p.57) After some years she contracted the Hong Kong flu, became too weak to work, and registered for a pension. (p.57)

EXPERIENCES OF RELIGION:

  • Marnie and the other children from Palm Island were sent to church three times a week. (p.8) She recognised the importance of this religious participation in retrospect, but found it boring at the time. (p.16)
  • Marnie often experienced God’s presence while working outdoors. (p.33)

IMPORTANT INSTITUTIONS:

  • Country Women’s Association (CWA): Marnie joined the Urandangi CWA while working at the Walgra Station. (p.53)

SALIENT LAWS AND POLICIES:

  • Marnie notes that she and the other Aboriginal people in Queensland came under “the Act”: the 1897 Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of Sale of Opium Act. (p.20)
  • In 1936, Marnie married the head stockman at Blue Range Station so that she could be free from “the Act” and obtain citizenship rights. (p.25)

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH:

  • While living on Palm Island, Marnie cut her foot on a razor shell while swimming for shellfish, and fainted when she got out of the water. (p.11)
  • Marnie got the Hong Kong flu while living in Charters Towers. She was forced to leave work at the Court House Hotel, and live on a government pension. (p.57)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARENTS:

  • Rose: Rose was a ‘fullblood’ Kalkadoon woman. She was taken away from her clan at the age of nine and sent to a station, where she learnt to speak English, cook, sew and do laundry. (p.2)
  • When Rose matured she had three children with white partners. Marnie believes the white men had forced her mother. But it was Rose, and not any of the fathers, who was sent away to Palm Island in Northern Queensland. (p.3)
  • Rose left her oldest son on the station to work, and took Marnie and her youngest son with her to Palm Island. (p.3) Marnie’s baby brother died soon after. (p.3) From Palm Island, Rose was sent to Townsville to work as a domestic. (p.3) She later married and moved to Ingham. (p.29)
  • Dad: Marnie never met her father, who was an unnamed white stockman. (p.3)

RELATIONSHIPS WITH PARTNERS:

  • Marnie was prohibited from fraternising with boys while living in the girl’s dormitory at Palm Island. (p.17) When she was eleven, she developed a crush on one of the white staff, although he never learnt of her feelings. (p.18)
  • Later, Marnie started seeing a tall, handsome Aboriginal boy from the Island. The couple saw each other only at church. (p.18)
  • Marnie was heartbroken when her first boyfriend was sent away to work. (p.18)
  • Alwyn Kennedy: the head stockman at Blue Range Station. When she was seventeen, Mrs Core convinced Marnie to marry Alwyn, so that she could get citizenship rights. (p.25) Alwyn and Marnie had a baby together, but after citizenship came through she decided to leave Blue Range Station. (p.24)
  • Some years later, the sergeant at Ingham ordered Marnie to return to her husband. (p.33)
  • Sam: a white stockman who worked on Blue Range Station. Marnie started living with Sam around 1948, and they moved to Ingham together and had a daughter. (p.36)
  • Sam convinced Marnie to move to Mount Isa, and they both found work on Oban Station. (p.39) Most of their friends were Aboriginal, and this fact didn’t bother Sam. (p.39)
  • Sam was an intelligent man and an autodidact. He once made Marnie a wireless radio from things he found at the rubbish tip. (p.45)

RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN:

  • Marnie had two sons with her husband Alwyn while living at Blue Range. (p.29) She took the eldest to live with Rose and her husband at Innisfail. When Marnie was made to return to Blue Range Station, her mother convinced her to leave her son in their care. (p.29)
  • In 1949 Marnie had a daughter Margaret with her partner Sam. (p.36) When Margaret was old enough she was sent to school at St Mary’s College in Charters Towers. Marnie’s eldest son was working as a ringer by this time, and her youngest son was sent to a state school. (p.48)
  • Margaret graduated from St Mary’s at sixteen and got a job as a governess of the station adjoining Caradotta. (p.57)

IMPORTANT/INFLUENTIAL FIGURES:

  • Lulu Lucas: Marnie’s maternal grandmother was sent along to Palm Island along with her three daughters: Melba, Gipsy Reid and Rose. (p.4) She spoke Kalkadoon language, but was not allowed to teach it to her grandchildren. (p.4)
  • Aunty Melba: Marnie’s maternal aunt Melba looked after her when Rose was sent out to work. (p.4) Melba often beat Marnie when she misbehaved, but always tried to comfort her afterwards. (p.4)
  • Aunt Gipsy: Like Marnie’s mother, her aunt Gipsy was sent out to work on stations. (p.4) Marnie knew her aunt while living at Palm Island, but later lost contact with Gipsy and believes that she has since died. (p.4)
  • Mr and Mrs Currie: Robert Currie was the superintendent at Palm Island when Marnie lived there as a child. (p.7) Mr Currie made everyone on Palm Island work hard, and put the children in jail when they raided his tree. (p.10)
  • Mr Currie formed a local brass band, and it played during the sports days on the Island. (p.10) His children, Edna and Robbie, played with Marnie and the other Aboriginal children.
  • Mr Currie’s wife died during the Great Depression. He subsequently went mad. In 1930, Mr Currie shot his two children and a number of white staff, and burnt their houses down. (p.12)
  • The residents of the Palm Island mission fled to the bush, and Mr Currie rode to Curacoa Island. (p.14) Later in the day, Mr Curry returned to Palm Island, where he was shot dead. (p.14)
  • Miss Firth: the Matron of the Palm Island dormitories. Marnie remembers the matron put her in the jail overnight for singing a song called “Who said I was a bum”. (p.9)
  • Marnie worked for Mrs Firth for a year after she left school. (p.20)
  • Mr O’Leary: The superintendent who followed Mr Currie. (p.15)
  • Violet: An older girl from Palm Island who was sent to Blue Range Station at the same time as Marnie. (p.21) Violent returned to Palm Island and was replaced by Nell, who was not as competent as her predecessor. (p.24)
  • Olga and Mac Core: A couple who who ran the cattle and horses at Blue Range Station. (p.22) Mrs Core convinced Marnie to marry Alywn Kennedy so that she could obtain citizenship rights. (p.24)
  • When Alywn and Marnie were married, Mac Core took over the role of head stockman at the Blue Range. (p.25)
  • Maisie: Marnie’s girlfriend, who worked with her to pluck 120 chickens for Mrs Crow. (p.32) Maisie and Marnie lived in the same camp with their husbands while tin mining. (p.33)
  • Mr and Mrs Robinson: Marnie’s employers at Oban Station. The Robinsons became very fond of Marnie’s children, and took them on lots of outings. (p.38)
  • When the Robinsons were transferred to Oxton Downs near Julia Creek, Marnie and Sam moved with them. (p.41) After moving to Walgra station, Mrs Robinson became ill and died. (p.46) Mr Robinson subsequently left Walgra and was replaced by a string of new managers. (p.47)
  • Jack: Marnie’s brother Jack was the gardener at Mulgra Station. (p.50) He left the station after the overseer insulted the housemaid. (p.54)
  • The Hartigs: Reg and Molly Hartig where the managers of the Coonah outstation. (p.55)
  • Sam and Marnie knew the Hartig’s children, Freda and Walter, from working at Walgra Station, and felt very comfortable with them. (p.55) Walter waited with Marnie’s son for seven hours when he broke his leg chasing cattle. (p.55)
  • Peggy and Sid Price: Taxi drivers in Charters Towers, who were friends with Marnie and Sam. (p.57)
  • Father Gribble: The Church of England minister on Palm Island. (p.58)

PREOCCUPATIONS:

  • Kalkadoon culture: Marnie describes the strict laws of her mother’s Kalkadoon clan. (p.2) She points out that the elders of the clan ensured everyone obeyed the marriage laws. If a man took another’s wife, he would be put to death. (p.2)
  • Marnie points out that the Kalkadoons, like other Aboriginal peoples, had beautiful and unique stories, songs and dances. (p.5) However, because their language was not written, and because of the governments assimilation policies, many of these have been lost. (p.5)
  • Mission life: Marnie was taken to live in the Palm Island dormitories when she was small child. She describes the Island and the conditions of life there.
  • Marnie recalls that she slept on the dormitory floor with the other small children, and was forced awake at five in the morning. (p.7) They lived on a diet of porridge and stew; went to church three times a week; and cleaned out the dormitories and went to the doctors once a week (pp.7-8, 16)
  • Marie and the other girls lived in a segregated dormitory surrounded by barbed wire, and were not allowed to interact with boys. (p.17) If they were caught escaping from the dormitory they would have their head shaved and be put in jail for two weeks. (p.17)
  • Every year Palm Island had a sports day, with running, high jumping, tug of war and spear throwing competitions. (p.10) Tourists sometimes visited the island from Townville, and the residents sold them homemade goods and performed for them. (p.15) Other forms of entertainment included football, boxing and Saturday night dances. (p.16)
  • In 1930, the Palm Island Superintendent suffered a mental breakdown. He shot a number of white people, including his own children, and burnt down a number of buildings. (p.14) The buildings were rebuilt in the wake of the shooting, but the incident was deeply distressing for everyone on the Island. (p.14)
  • Racial Discrimination: Marnie describes the effects of both legislative and informal discrimination on Aboriginal peoples lives. She emphasises the control authorities had over Aboriginal people living under ‘The Act’, and points out that her problems didn’t stop when she obtained citizenship.
  • Marnie claims Aboriginal people did not harbour hatred towards white people, but had difficulty being friends with them because they feared rejection. (p.34)

MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION: Born a Half Caste was written by Marnie Kennedy.

Additional Resources

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Kennedy, Margaret (Marnie) (1919–1985)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/kennedy-margaret-marnie-12731/text29389, accessed 24 September 2017.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012