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Morgan, Sally (1951–?)

PUBLICATION: Sally Morgan, My Place, Fremantle Arts Centre Press 1987

NAME: Sally Morgan

SEX: Female

BIRTH DATE: 1951

BIRTH PLACE: Perth, Western Australia

LANGUAGES SPOKEN: English

SIGNIFICANT LOCALITIES:

  • Corunna Downs (Pilbara): The station owned by Albert Howden Drake-Brockman, where Daisy and Arthur were born. Daisy left Corunna Downs when she was 13, and moved with Alice Drake-Brockman to Perth. (p.168)
  • Perth: Daisy moved to Ivanhoe, a suburb of Perth, to live with the Drake-Brockman’s when she left Corunna Downs. Gladys stayed with Daisy at Ivanhoe during her holidays from Parkerville Children’s home, which was in a different suburb of Perth. (pp.170-171, 261-263)
  • Gladys and Daisy both continued to live in Perth when they moved in together, and they raised Sally and her four siblings there. When Sally married Paul, they moved to South Perth. (p.133)

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL:

  • n/a.

EXPERIENCE OF EDUCATION:

  • Sally was initially scared of going to school, because she didn’t want to be separated from her mother. This fear was soon transformed into an “active dislike” of schooling. (p.19)
  • Sally's attitude towards school soured even more when she publicly wet her pants. She was teased and made to feel unclean by her school mates whom she describes as the “clean, shiny-haired, no-cavity girls”, and she was chastised by her teacher. (p.24-26)
  • Sally found her classes irrelevant, and felt she learnt little. She became skilled at faking illness to avoid going to school. (p.35)
  • Sally’s enjoyment of school increased throughout her primary years, and in year six she had a teacher she liked, was made president of the Red Cross society, (p.71) and won the Dick Cleaver Award for Citizenship. (p.77)
  • At the end of primary school, Sally took an IQ test and was deemed unfit for further education. (p.79) Sally’s mother rejected these results, and insisted that her daughter would complete tertiary studies. (p.79)
  • When Sally started High School, she was placed in the lowest education stream. (pp. 83-84)
  • Sally hated the routines on which the school ran, continued to suffer from social anxiety in High School, and so truanted frequently. (pp.86-87)
  • By her third year, Sally was failing every subject except for Art and English. (p.96) Following some futile sessions with the school Guidance Officer, Sally was advised to leave school and become a shop assistant. (pp.88-89)
  • In both primary and high school, Sally’s sole ambitions were to study art. (p.79, 96) Her mother discouraged her from pursuing a career as an artist, claiming that artists “don’t get anywhere in this world.” (p.96)
  • Sally became a more conscientious student when her Junior exams approached, because she didn’t want to disappoint her mother by not qualifying for further education. (p.100) Sally had mixed emotions about passing the exams, which enabled her to enter Year 11, because she badly wanted to leave school. (p.100)
  • Sally greatly feared that she would not pass her leaving exams. These fears proved unfounded, nonetheless Sally refused to pursue tertiary education. (pp.110-111) Sally’s attitude toward further education changed after her early experience of employment. She began to realise that if she wanted a fulfilling career, she would need to continue her education. (p.115)
  • In 1974 Sally enrolled at the University of Western Australia. In her first year, she passed all her university subject except for psychology, which she detested because she had to do experiments with rats. (pp.127-129, 133) When Sally completed her Bachelors degree, she began post-graduate studies at the Western Australian Institute of Technology. (p.145)

EXPERIENCE OF EMPLOYMENT:

  • Sally’s first job when she graduated from high school was as a clerk in a government department for six month.
  • Sally was unemployed for the following six months, during which time she became restless and then got a job as laboratory assistant, analyzing mineral samples. (pp.113-114)
  • Sally resigned when the company relocated, and by then she had developed an allergic reaction to the chemicals. (p.114) She subsequently returned to study, and was supported by an Aboriginal scholarship and her husband Paul. (pp.137-138)

IMPORTANT INSTITUTIONS:

  • Legacy: An organization designed to assist the families of deceased ex-serviceman, which helped Sally’s family after the death of her father by assigning them a Legatee – a ‘kindly, older man’ named Mr. Wilson. (p.54)
  • State Housing: Sally’s family lived in State Housing in Perth. Daisy had what Sally considered to be an irrational fear of the State Housing administration. (p.104)
  • Repatriation Department: The Repatriation Department paid Gladys a pension after William died, and paid for Sally to live at Currie House, a co-educational facility opposite her university. (p.127)
  • Battye Library: A library of Western Australian history, where Sally began her research about Aboriginal history (p.151-152)
  • Parkerville Children’s Home: A Perth-based children’s home run by the Church of England, when Gladys was taken by the Drake-Brockmans. (p.169) The school accepted Gladys as a favour to Alice Drake-Brockman, however Gladys would have preferred to stay with her mother in Ivanhoe. (p.169)

RELIGION:

  • Sally’s mother Gladys had always been religious, but became a particularly devoted Christian as she grew older. After her husband died, Gladys began taking her children to religious gatherings from various denominations, and made them recite the Lord’s Prayer every night (pp.62-63)
  • While Sally attended Sunday School every week, she found it very dull and generally avoided religious gatherings. (p.101) Her attitude changed when she felt that God spoke to her personally during a religious lecture. After this incident, Sally became a pious and active member of the church youth group. (pp.102-103)

SALIENT LAWS AND POLICIES:

  • None mentioned.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH:

  • Sally was a frail child, which meant she was forced to visit the doctor frequently.
  • When she was ten, Sally began to suffer from agonizing cramps. The doctor initially dismissed these as growing pains, but Sally was eventually diagnosed with rheumatic fever. (p.64)
  • When Sally was in Year Six, she developed an allergy to chalk, which provided her with an excuse to leave school early. (pp.76-77)
  • Sally developed an allergic reaction to the chemicals she was working with as a laboratory assistant, which left her with industrial acne. (p.114)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARENTS:

  • Gladys Corunna (Mum): Gladys not only features heavily in her daughter’s autobiography, but Sally also dedicates a chapter of My Place to reproducing her mother’s story.(pp.241-307)
  • In her own story, Sally tells how Gladys was a concerned parent, who tried to convince her to pursue tertiary education. Gladys tried to stop Sally’s truanting, and was embarrassed when it brought her the negative attention of the school administration. (p.89)
  • Gladys was very protective of her children, and protested strongly when Sally, in second year of University, decided to live away from home. (p.127)  When she unable to control her wayward children, Sally believes that Gladys relied heavily on the power of prayer. (pp.62-64)
  • Like her own mother Daisy (‘Nan’ in Sally’s narrative), Gladys was engaged deeply with the natural world, and had a great deal of sympathy for the suffering of animals. (p.90) Sally’s household had a constant stream of new and peculiar pets in their home: notably their stray dog Curly. (pp.90-94)
  • Like Daisy, Gladys initially refused to disclose to Sally the details of her early life. Increasingly, Gladys supported Sally’s mission to uncover the families’ past, and began herself to pressure Daisy for more information.
  • Gladys was particularly affected by the family’s trip to Corunna Downs, and subsequently spent several months telling her life story to Sally (pp.241-307): a process that brought them closer together. (p.306) Gladys reflected:
  • Gladys detailed her separation from her mother, her education at Parkerville Children’s home, her early employment as a florist, her marriage to Sally’s father, and having children. (pp.239-309) At the end of her story, she expressed remorse for denying her heritage, and declared her pride in her Aboriginality.
  • William Joseph (Bill): Gladys describes her husband Bill, who was a plumber by trade, as caring man with a unique mind. (p.281)
  • By the time Sally came to know her father, he had been institutionalized following a mental breakdown. Sally didn’t like visiting her father in hospital, which she described as a “place dedicated to taking the spirit out of life”, and she resented him for being there. (p.17)
  • Due to his illness, William lived with the family only sporadically. He suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome following the war, which led him to drink heavily with his brothers and fellow ex-servicemen, alienate himself from the family, take little interest in Sally’s education or art, steal her savings to spend on alcohol, and frequently to fight with her mother.
  • Both Gladys and Daisy claimed that they were scared for their life because of Bill’s uncontrollable rage. (p.346)
  • Witnessing her father’s self-destructive behavior, Sally was resolved never to marry a drinker, and to work hard to be financially secure (p.51)
  • When her father was healthy and sober, Sally delighted in his company, and loved to stay up late and share his dinner. (p.19)
  • However, because of his illness, she was not deeply affected when he died when she was nine. (p.49)
  • Sally’s father’s death was attributed to ‘War Causes’, which enabled the family to access the pension. (p.51)

RELATIONSHIPS WITH PARTNERS:

  • Paul Morgan: A school teacher who Sally began dating when she was at university. By the second term of her third year, Paul and Sally decided to get married. (p.128) They were married in 1972, in Sally’s backyard. (pp.129-133)
  • Paul and Sally moved into a weatherboard house in South Perth, with Jill and two other friends. Paul provided the emotional and financial support necessary for Sally to complete her tertiary studies, (p. 134,141)

RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN:

  • Sally had a daughter and two sons with Paul Morgan. Amber was the oldest, Blaze Jake was born in 1978, (p.146) and Zeke was born in 1982. (p.168)

IMPORTANT/INFLUENTIAL FIGURES:

  • Uncle Frank: Sally’s paternal uncle, who used to visit the family frequently and tell the children tales. (pp.30-31)
  • Uncle Frank was the only male role model in Sally’s life who didn’t drink heavily.
  • “Steph”: Sally’s high school friend. Visiting Steph’s house filled Sally with a sense of inadequacy. (p.84)
  • In her second year, their friendship began to fade. Sally believes that Steph, like the other students, became “more and more aware that (she) was different to the other kids at school”. (p.86)
  • Daisy Corrunna (Nan):  Daisy is a central character in Sally’s autobiography, and she also dedicates a chapter to relaying Daisy’s life story. (pp.325-351)
  • Sally’s grandmother lived with her immediate family while she was growing up, and cared for the children while Gladys worked.
  • Sally attributes her respect for flora and fauna to her grandmother, who she claimed had a “deeply personal” relationship with the physical world. (p.56) Nan relied on her reading of environmental changes to predict weather, and respond to natural disasters. (pp.59-60) Nan taught Sally to fear authority figures, particularly doctors and bureaucrats, and to rely on alternative medicines and home remedies. (pp.64-65, 85, 104-105)
  • Nan’s idiosyncrasies mystified Sally, (p.67) however as a child she rarely questioned her Grandmother’s personal history. (p.74)
  • It was only during her teenage years that Sally became aware of Daisy’s dark colouring. Daisy persistently concealed her origins, however when Sally later asked her husband, who had grown up with Aboriginal people in Derby, he stated that it was obvious that she was of Indigenous descent. (p.134)
  • After Sally received an Aboriginal scholarship, Daisy began to take more of an interest in racial politics, and to identity with the oppressed parties. (pp.137-138)
  • Despite this, she continued to conceal her personal history from her granddaughter, and to increasingly repel her family. (p.145)
  • As Sally learnt about Daisy’s history, she came to understand her bitterness, her distrust of authority figures, and her reluctance to concede her descent. Sally’s desire to change Daisy’s attitudes towards her heritage also grew concurrently. (p.234)
  • It was only after Sally had recorded Arthur’s and Gladys’s stories, and Daisy was in hospital with a collapsed lung, that she finally agreed to tell her granddaughter about her past. (p.320) Daisy’s story include descriptions of life at Corunna Downs, her homesickness and harsh work schedule when she moved to Ivanhoe, her mistreatment by employees and white men, and her sorrow at having to send Gladys away. (p.320-345) Like her daughter Gladys, Daisy finished her story by expressing remorse for denying her heritage for so long.
  • Sally concluded her book by detailing Daisy’s death. (pp.351-8)
  • Arthur Corruna (Uncle Arthur): Sally’s great uncle who began visiting the family more frequently after 1978, and who disclosed information about Daisy’s past. (p.146) Arthur was the first member of the family to agree to having his life story recorded and transcribed by Sally. (pp.162-164)
  • Arthur’s story (175-213) includes description of his family, the Drake-Brockmans and Corunna Downs, stories of police brutality, of being sent to and escaping from the Swan Native Half-Caste mission and working as farm labourer, and his boxing. Arthur ends his story by offering his view about the effects of racial discrimination on his own life, and contemporary position of Aboriginal people in remote Western Australian. (p.212)
  • Arthur then returned to his home at Mucka, and passed away. (p.166, 170-171)
  • Howden Drake-Brockman: The pastoralist who owned Corunna Downs, and was Daisy’s employer for most of her life. Daisy implies that Howden  fathered not only her, but also Gladys, Daisy’s daughter.
  • Alice Drake-Brockman: The first wife of Howden Drake-Brockman, who Sally interviewed as part of her family history project. (pp.168-170) Alice informed Sally that, upon her great grandmother’s request, she took Daisy with her when she left Corunna Downs (p.170)
  • Judith Drake-Brockman (Aunt Judy): The daughter of Howden Drake-Brockman, who Sally visited in search for information about her family’s history. Aunt Judy informed Sally that her grandfather was Jack Grime. (p.153-156)

THEMES/PREOCCUPATIONS:

Ethnic Identity and Family History:

  • As a child, Sally was ignorant of her Aboriginal heritage. When the children at school inquired about their ethnicity, Daisy encouraged Sally to describe herself as of Indian origin. (p.38)
  • Sally became aware that this was fabrication after her Nan broke down, lamenting the fact that she was ‘Black’, and her sister Jill revealed to Sally that they were ‘boongs’. (pp.97-98) While Sally was more willing to accept their origins, Jill shunned any association with this stigmatised ethnic group. (p.98)
  • After these events, Sally pressured her mother to disclose more information, and began to reflect on her interactions with her grandmother (pp.99-100) Sally was bewildered by her mother and grandmother’s unwillingness to discuss their origins. (p.105)
  • Sally’s ignorance about her family origins made her increasingly uneasy in her late teens. (p.106)
  • Eventually, after much pressuring, Sally’s mother conceded that she was of Aboriginal descent.  Sally subsequently applied for and was granted an Aboriginal scholarship. She did so because she wanted to tether her identity more strongly to her recently discovered ethnic origins. Sally was embarrassed by the implication that her motives were financial. (p.139)
  • When the Commonwealth Department of Education questioned Sally’s claims to be Aboriginal, she considered forgoing her scholarship benefits. (p.140-1) Their cynical implication not only embarrassed her, but also made her reflect on the significance of her descent.
  • Eventually, Sally decided that she would continue self-identifying as an Aboriginal, out of loyalty to her Grandmother. (p.141)
  • Identifying as an Aboriginal made Sally aware of the prejudicial attitudes directed towards this group: particularly when people expressed sympathy for her, or relief that her descent was not obvious. (p.139)
  • Sally began to educate herself in Aboriginal history, and to track down people who could provide various accounts of her mother and grandmother’s life. After recording the life of her great uncle Arthur, she organized for the family to return to Corunna Downs. Connecting with distant relatives and recording their stories consolidated Sally’s self-identification, as well as her acceptance by the Aboriginal community.
  • Sally concludes her book by describing how much her identification as an Aboriginal and her uncovering of her family history had positively affected her life.

Aboriginal history:

  • Sally explores Australian history through the personal experiences of her family.
  • The remembrances of her mother, grandmother and great-uncle expose unethical interactions between Aboriginal women and white men. (p.157, 325)
  • Uncle Arthur, Gladys and Daisy also highlight the negative experience and ongoing effects of child removal (p.164, 251)
  • Gladys and Daisy also describe the exclusion they suffered from both white and Aboriginal society. (p.278-279) It was this discrimination that led them to deny their Aboriginality to their children and grandchildren.
  • MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION: My Place includes an autobiographical section written by Sally Morgan, and three substantial chapters separately told by Arthur, Gladys and Daisy, and transcribed by Sally.

Additional Resources

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Citation details

'Morgan, Sally (1951–?)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/morgan-sally-17816/text29400, accessed 23 July 2017.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012