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Simon, Bill (1951–?)

PUBLICATION: Bill Simon, Back on the Block: Bill Simon’s Story, Aboriginal Studies Press, 2009, Canberra

SEX: Male

BIRTH DATE: 1951

BIRTH PLACE: Purfleet Mission, near Taree

FIRST LANGUAGE:

  • English

SIGNIFICANT LOCALITIES:

  • Purfleet Mission: Bill grew up in a corrugated iron hut on the Purfleet Mission, just outside Taree in New South Wales. (p.1) His family escaped from the mission in 1953 and moved to Kendall. (p.9)
  • Saltwater: A coastal area near Purfleet mission, where Bill and his family spent their summer holidays. (p.6)
  • Kendall: When the Simon family escaped from the Purfleet mission, they moved into a shack next their Auntie Deb’s house. (p.9) They lived in Kendall for a year before the authorities caught up with them and ordered them to return to Purfleet. (p.11)
  • Newcastle: Rather than return to Purfleet, the Simon family moved from Kendall to an Aboriginal reserve in Newcastle called Platts Estate or “platto”. (p.11)
  • Bill moved back to Newcastle with his uncles when he was twenty one. (p.77)
  • Kempsey: The closest town to the Kinchela Boys Home. Bill attended high school, went to the annual show, and was submitted to hospital in Kempsey when he developed a boil on his bottom. (p.52)
  • Sydney: At the age of eighteen Bill was sent away from Kinchela to live with a German family in Bankstown. (p.63) From that time on he moved to and from Sydney, and lived in a number of different suburbs. The place he felt most connected to, and where he spent most of his time, was the Aboriginal area of Redfern known at “The Block”. (p.115)
  • Wellington: Bill travelled to Wellington when he was eighteen to reconnect with his mother and her family. He planned a two week trip, but stayed for three months and worked in the Chinese market gardens. (pp.69-71)

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL:

  • Samoa: Bill travelled to Samoa in 2004 as an Aboriginal representative at the Inter-religious and International Peace Council. (p.151)
  • Israel: Bill travelled to Jerusalem in 2004 to attend the Heart to Heart for Peace Conference, as a representative for Aboriginal people and the Stolen Generations. (p.151)
  • Fiji: Bill visited two prisons in Fiji and preached at three churches. (p.152)
  • Hawaii: Bill attended “The Gathering” in Hawaii, where Indigenous people came together from all over the world to pray. (p.152)

EXPERIENCES OF EDUCATION:

  • Bill’s mother enrolled him in the Kendall primary school in 1953. (p.9) It was a small school held in an old theatre. Bill wasn’t a great student, but he enjoyed science, music, art and sport. (p.9)
  • Bill was enrolled in school again at the Kinchela Boys Home. (p.29) He liked his teacher, Mr Telfour, who provided protection from the guards at the Home. (p. 30)
  • In his teens, Bill and the other Kinchela boys were enrolled in Kempsey high school. The school was very strict, and he and the other boys were often punished twice for any wrongdoings at school: first by the headmaster at Kempsey, and later by guards at Kinchela.
  • The Kinchela boys were made to wear uniforms and haircuts that distinguished them from the other students, and were warning against making outside friends by Mr Boland. (pp.46-47)
  • Bill wasn’t very engaged in high school, and found it difficult to concentrate because of the difficulties of his life at Kinchela. (p.47) His favourite subject was science, but he often got in trouble for pulling practical jokes with chemicals. (p.27)

EXPERIENCES OF EMPLOYMENT:

  • At Kinchela Boys Home tasks were assigned based on age, and the oldest boys acted as overseers. (p.24) When Bill first arrived his job was to sweep the paths around the buildings and milk the cows. (pp.25-27)
  • Once he turned fifteen, Bill became a “work boy.” (p.30) This meant that he had to do more strenuous physical jobs, such as ploughing fielding, planting crops, digging silage pits and cutting and bailing grass. (p.30)
  • In his last years in the Home, Bill did manual labour for the local police officer – clearing paddocks and picking up rocks around the Kempsey Hospital. (p.59) Bill liked this work because it gave him a break from life at Kinchela. (p.59)
  • At the age of eighteen Bill was sent away from Kinchela to live with a German family in Bankstown. (p.63) He was employed to make box trailers, and paid seven pounds a week. Most of this wage went towards his board, but Bill was left with two pounds of pocket money, which was more than he’d ever had in the past. (p.64)
  • Bill took two weeks leave from his work in Sydney to reconnect with his mother in Wellington. (p.73) He stayed for three months, and took up work with his uncles in the Chinese market gardens. (p.73) Bill’s boss was reluctant to rehire him when he returned to Sydney, because of his unexplained absence, but he decided to give him another chance. (p.73) After another eight months, Bill gave up his job in Bankstown to be near his family in Redfern. (p.74)
  • After living with his Auntie Marree for some time, Bill moved to an abandoned car in La Perouse and made a living collecting golf balls on a nearby course. (p.74) He also earned money diving for coins thrown by tourists, and stole clothing off lines at night. (p.75)
  • To fuel his alcoholism when he returned to The Block in Redfern, Bill began stealing and extorting money. A common tactic was starting fights, knocking the victim out and then taking their money. (p.75)
  • Bill moved back to Wellington to live with his family after reconnecting with his brother Murray. (p.77) He lived with his uncles and subsisted mainly on hunting birds and rabbits. (p.77) Bill then moved with his uncles to Newcastle, and lived in a humpy behind the dump. (p.77) He lived off food he found in the dump, and by collecting and selling scrap metal. (p.77)
  • After six months Bill moved to Hexham to live with his Aunty Maree, and worked in a yarn factory in Tomago with two of his uncles. (p.78)
  • When Bill married Lily they moved around together – first to Brisbane, then Sydney, then Newcastle, and finally back to Brisbane. (p.84) He worked at the “Gabba” and made a good wage. After Lily left, Bill was forced to care for the children independently. (p.84)
  • After six months Bill took Vicky and Richard to live with his mother in Newcastle. (p.85) He got a job digging trenches for the Newcastle Gas Company. (p.85) Bill was paid well, but drank most of his wage on the day he was paid, and often had to get a doctor’s certificate because he missed work the next day. (p.85) Bill believes he got away with these absences because his boss at the Gas Company knew his father and uncle. (p.85)
  • Bill liked his job at the Gas Company, and was reluctant to leave Newcastle.(p.91) He was eventually convinced to return to Sydney by his partner Susie, and found work in Gladesville as a spray painter. (p.91)
  • After Bill and Susie broke up, he returned to Newcastle and obtained another spray-painting job. At the same time, he began growing marijuana or ‘yarni’ and selling it in nightclubs. (p.93) Upon discovering that the demand in Newcastle was very high, Bill started reselling marijuana bought from suppliers. (p.93)
  • Dealing drugs provided Bill with enough money to buy nice clothing and frequent restaurants, and to quit his day job. (p.93) However, the job also required that he physically punish non-payers, who often retaliated. To avoid retribution, Bill had to leave his mother’s home and become a nomad. (p.93) His business was badly affected when a local criminal took offence to the fact that Bill was seeing his ex-wife, and put out a contract on his life. (p.94)
  • Bill also became involved with armed robberies during this time, and made and lost a lot of money gambling. (p.93)
  • After recovering from his addictions and becoming a Christian, Bill began working as a labourer, and then got a job spraying kangaroo hides. (p.109) He also volunteered at the Black Theatre Church and at the Crossroads Anglican Church. (pp.110-112)
  • Bill then returned to Newcastle for twelve months and worked at the City Council. (p.113) When he returned to Sydney, he rented a house at The Block in Redfern. Bill lived on social security and worked as a handyman. He also volunteered his time to cleaning up the streets, returning stolen property, and cared for visitors in need. (p.118) Due to the number of guests at his house, Bill’s grocery bill became so high that he had to sell his car. (p.120)
  • Moving back to Newcastle again, Bill served at the Kooma Christian Church. (p.128) He then got the accreditation necessary to do evangelical and counselling work in prisons. (p.130)
  • Bill and his wife Katherine moved to a small town of the New South Wales south coast, where he was offered a minister's job in the hope he would engage the local Koori population. (p.137) The church had offered him a car, a good wage, and a house with electricity paid; but the car continually broke down, the wages dried up and the electricity bill often went unpaid. (p.137)
  • Bill decided to return to Redfern, where he found employment as the assistant to an Anglican minister. (p.138) In 2002, he became the first Aboriginal Minister to be commissioned in the Koori Lighthouse Church. (p.138) He went on to work with the Baptists, the Anglicans, and other churches in the area. (p.150) In 2009, Bill was officially ordained in the Aboriginal Pentecostal Church. (p.153)
  • Bill also held a support group in his home once a week for people with addictions. (p.153)

EXPERIENCES OF RELIGION:

  • Most of Bill’s family were Christians. (p.6) While living at the Purfleet mission Bill attended Uncle Berty Marr’s Church on Sundays. He claims that this was the highlight of their otherwise dull mission week. (p.5)
  • Bill believes this religiosity helped his family resist the temptations of excessive alcohol consumption. (p.6)
  • At the Kinchela Boys Home, Bill and the other boys were required to attend church every week. They found the Church of England minister’s sermons very boring, but enjoyed those held by the Catholic priest, because he often became intoxicated on ceremonial wine. (p.60)
  • Bill lost his faith in adulthood, and so it wasn’t until after the birth of their first son that he and Lily decided to marry. (p.81)
  • Bill rediscovered Christianity during a drug-induced psychosis. (p.98)
  • This proved to be a turning point in Bill’s recovery from addiction. (p.100) Five weeks later, Bill attended the United Pentecostal Church in Mount Druitt in the hope of getting some food. (p.100)
  • Bill was overwhelmed by the singing in the church, and dropped to the altar, crying and speaking tongues. (p.101) After that day he attended Sunday services and Wednesday prayer meetings at Mount Druitt and other churches, and after a few months Bill was baptised and became a youth leader. (p.10)

IMPORTANT INSTITUTIONS:

  • Aboriginal Welfare Board: An organisation that grew out of the Aboriginal Protection board in the 1940s. (p.31) The Aboriginal Welfare Board orchestrated Bill’s removal from his family in Newcastle to live in the Kinchella Boys Home. (p.31)
  • The Board sent Aboriginal Welfare Inspectors to Kinchela once a year. Preceding the inspection the boys were given new clothes and linen, and the harsh punishment stopped. (p.56)
  • Southwest Rocks Jail: Bill spent a night in the South-West Rocks Jail as a teenager, after punching the manager of Kinchela Boys Home in the stomach. (p. 58)
  • Long Bay Jail: Bill was first sent to Long Bay for smashing a car window in Bankstown when he was eighteen. (p.67) From that time on, he spent a total of five years in Long Bay for various offenses. His longest stint was in 1979 for armed robbery. (p.68)
  • ‘Aboriginal Foundation’: A charity organisation at Central Station in Sydney, where Bill would go for a free meal on Sundays. (p.76)
  • Black Theatre Church: A church run for homeless Aboriginal people in a converted building in Redfern. The Black Theatre minister, Dick Blair, let Bill live above the church. (p.109) Bill volunteered at the church on weekends and helped move the Black Theatre into an abandoned convent, which had recently been inhabited by drug users. (p.110)

SALIENT LAWS AND POLICIES:

  • None mentioned.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH:

  • While living at the Kinchela Boys Homes, Bill developed an infected boil on his bottom, and was taken to the Kempsey Hospital. (p.52)
  • Bill was introduced to alcohol when he was an eighteen-year-old living in Bankstown. (p.65) Alcohol became a form of self-medication, but ultimately it made Bill’s problems worse. (p.65)
  • Drinking and thinking about his troubled past made Bill increasingly violent. (p.65)
  • On one occasion, Bill was taken to Long Bay Jail for smashing a car window after being ejected from a dance in Bankstown. (p.67) Bill took to beating people up, stealing, and drinking methylated spirits to fuel his expensive addiction. (p.77)
  • Bill’s first serious partner, Lily, was also a heavy drinker. Both were very jealous, and became violent when drunk. (p.80)
  • When Bill split with Lily and started seeing Susie, his anti-social behaviour eased somewhat. But when that relationship also broke down, his behaviour and mental health became worse than ever. (p.96)
  • Bill found himself drinking heavily, smoking and selling marijuana, taking LSD, involved in armed robberies and other violent activities, and being sent in and out of prison. (p.96)
  • Bill began to control his addiction after having a religious experience during a drug-induced psychosis. (p.99)
  • Bill was sober for a month following the incident, until he and his cousins stole a case of whiskey from outside a wine bar. (p.99) When the police came to their house the next day, Bill jumped out the second-floor window and badly damaged his feet. (p.100)
  • Shortly after moving to Brisbane, Bill got hit by a car while on his way to choir practice. (p.106) He was in coma for three days, lost his memory, and had extensive injuries. (p.106)
  • Bill escaped from hospital and went to live with Lilly, which was the only place he could remember. (p.108) He stayed there four months before his memory returned. (p.108)
  • Bill managed to refrain from self-destructive habits when he returned to Sydney, except for the odd lapse. (p.111)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARENTS:

  • Grace Simon: Bill’s mother was from the Biripi people who lived between Tuncurry, Taree and Gloucester. (p.3) Grace and Ike had five sons while living at the Purfleet mission - Bill, Luke, Murray, David and Lenny. (p.5) Unfortunately, Luke died of diphtheria as a baby. (p.5)
  • After Grace and Ike escaped from the Purfleet mission in 1953, Bill’s mother became a more relaxed person. (p.9) She transformed their new shack into a home, and enrolled the children in school. (p.9)
  • While living in Newcastle, the Aboriginal Welfare Department removed Grace’s four sons while Ike was away working. (p.15) Bill remembers that his mother screamed and cried when the authorities arrived, but then stood up as the car was leaving and walked back into the house. (p.15) In the decades that followed, Grace’s response to her children’s removal was a source of great anxiety for Bill. (p.15)
  • Bill didn’t reconnect with his mother until he living in Sydney, and she had moved to Wellington with her new husband and children. (pp.69-72) Initially, Grace didn’t recognise her son, but gradually they began talking about the past. (p.69) He learnt that Ike had abandoned her after the children were taken, and that she had tried to make contact with them for years. (p.71) Bill also learnt why Grace had turned her back on the day he was taken: in Biripi culture, it is typical response if a woman felt threatened. (p.71) Even with this new knowledge, Bill’s relationship with his mother was irreparably damaged. (p.71)
  • Bill later moved in with his mother in Newcastle. He came to resent the attention Grace gave the two daughters from her second marriage. (p.79)
  • Isaiah (Ike) Carter: Ike was from the Black Duck Tribe near Wallaga Lake. (p.3) He was an epileptic, but he never discussed his condition with his family. (p.13)
  • Ike resented the rules in place at the Purfleet mission, and so fled with his family to Kendall in 1953. (p.9)
  • In Kendall, Ike worked part time for the Forestry Department. (p.9) He supplemented his income by boxing in travelling shows. (p.9)
  • When the authorities caught up with Ike in Kendall, he decided to move his family onwards to Newcastle rather than return to Purfleet. (p.11) He found another job with the forestry department and continued to box at shows. (p.11) Sometimes Ike was forced to hunt or steal children to supplement his income. (p.12)
  • Bill was proud of the respect his father received from the other Aboriginal people in Newcastle. (p.12)
  • Bill and his brothers were taken away from their home in Newcastle while his father was away working. In court the authorities claimed that, because Ike was not home, his children were being neglected. (p.156)
  • Ike was so grief stricken when the children were taken away that he left Grace. (p.70). The Simon boys never saw their father again, as he died while they were living at Kinchela Boys Home. (p.59) Bill only learnt of his father’s death from his cousin while incarcerated at Long Bay Jail. (p.68)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARTNERS

  • Lily: Bill first met his wife Lily when her father was hit by a car and killed, and he was asked to identify the body. (p.78) He had never had a serious relationship before they met, but began visiting her every weekend in Taree, and eventually asked her to move in with his mother. (p.79)
  • Both Lily and Bill drank heavily, and became violent towards each other when drunk. (p.80) After falling pregnant, Lily left unannounced and went to live with her mother in Taree. (p.81)
  • Bill travelled to Taree, and convinced Lily to return. Bill was still unable to reform his behaviour, and on the night of the birth he got drunk and slept with another woman. (p.81) Bill didn’t tell Lily about the incident, and the couple married sixteen days later. (p.82) On the night of their wedding both became intoxicated, and Lily threw her wedding ring at Bill. (p.82)
  • Soon after Bill and Lily had their second child Vicky. (p.82) They were still drinking and fighting regularly, and the police were often called to their house. (p.82)
  • Bill came home one day to find Lily had fled the house again, leaving their two children behind. (p.84) He waited in Brisbane for six months, before conceding that Lily was not returning and moving back to Newcastle. (p.85)
  • After some years, Lily returned to Brisbane to collect Vicky and Richard. Bill was living with Susie at this time, but he spent a night with Lily regardless and they discussed getting back together. (p.89)
  • Lilly entered Bill’s life again five years later, when he was living in Sydney. (p.102) By this time, Bill had given up drinking and smoking, and he didn’t want Lilly to reintroduce these addictions. Nonetheless, he decided to let her stay for the sake of Richard and Vicky. (p.102)
  • Bill eventually gave into the physical desire to have sex with his ex-wife, but regret instantly followed. (p.103)
  • Susie: Bill met Susie while living in Newcastle. She was only sixteen at the time and very attractive, so Bill had a lot of competition for her affection. (p.86) Susie moved in with Bill and his mother for eight months, before they moved together into their own house. (p.86) After Lily came and collected Vicky and Richard, Susie and Bill had a child together named Shauna. (p.89)
  • Susie convinced Bill to return to Sydney, and while living there they gradually grew apart. (p.91) When the doctor diagnosed Bill with an STD, he presumed it was because Susie had been unfaithful. (p.91) When she denied infidelity, Bill lashed out and broke one of her teeth. (p.91) After this incident he was forced to leave their home. (p.92)
  • Phoebe: Bill met Phoebe in Sydney, when she climbed into the back of his car as he was leaving the pub. (p.105) They started a relationship, and Bill took her to Church with him in the hope that she would give up drinking. (p.105)
  • Bill became angry when Phoebe refused to change. (p.105) He beat her legs, which were already damaged by polio, and rendered her immobile. (p.105) After this incident, Bill waited on Phoebe hand and foot while she regained the ability to walk. (p.105)
  • Phoebe fell pregnant soon after. Even though she and Bill loved each other, they didn’t want to get married because they knew it wouldn’t work. (p.106) So, following the advice of a minister, Bill decided to leave for Brisbane. (p.106) By the time he returned to Sydney, Phoebe had a new partner who wanted to care for the child. (p.109)
  • Maddie: Bill became involved with Maddie while living at the Block. She fell pregnant, but had it terminated without telling Bill. (p.121) He was opposed to abortion, and the incident moved him deeply. (p.121)
  • Katherine: Bill met Katherine while they were doing outreach work for the church in Newcastle. Initially the relationship was platonic, but a romance gradually developed and they decided to marry. (p.127) After two years together, Bill finally felt comfortable telling Katherine about his traumatic childhood. (p.127)

RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN:

  • Bill was thrilled when he learnt that his partner Lily was pregnant. (p.80) Soon after Lily left Bill, but he convinced her to return because he wanted his child to have a father. (p.81) Their second child Vicky was born a year later. (p.82)
  • Lily fled from their home in Brisbane when Vicky and Richard were still young, leaving them in Bill’s care. (p.85) After six months of waiting for her to come home, Bill took the children to live with his mother in Newcastle. (p.88)
  • When Richard was in kindergarten, Lily returned unannounced and demanded that the children live with her. (p.88) In spite of his girlfriend and his mother’s protestations, Bill let Lily take the children to Brisbane. (p.89) He did so because the woman is the primary carer in Koori culture, and he didn’t want his children to be deprived of a mother like he was. (p.89)
  • A year later Bill had a daughter with Susie named Shauna. (p.89) He was separated from his daughter when their relationship broke down. (p.93)
  • Lily returned with Richard and Vicky five years later. After a few months living with Bill, she once again left the children in his care. (p.103) Bill was unable to care for the children at the time, so after three weeks he returned Richard and Vicky to their mother in Taree. (p.103)
  • Bill had a fourth child with his partner Phoebe. Neither wanted to get married, and Phoebe found a new partner who raised the child. (p.108)
  • Richard later came to live with Bill at The Block in Redfern. Vicky wanted to follow, but Bill didn’t think the area was safe for a young woman. (p.120)
  • Bill had his youngest child, Sienna, with his wife Katherine in 1993. (p.129) He had a much closer relationship with Sienna, because their family remained intact while she was growing up. (p.13)

IMPORTANT/INFLUENTIAL FIGURES:

  • Mr Norris: One of the authorities that removed Bill and his brother from their parents in 1957. (p.14) The Simon boys spent their first lonely night with Mr Norris, and he made no effort to console them. (p.16)
  • Mr Borland: The manager at Kinchela Boys Home. Bill describes him as a harsh man, who used to enjoy punishing the boys and patrolled the grounds at night with two Alsatians. (p.41)
  • Mr Telfour: Bill’s teacher at Kinchela Boys Home. Mr Telfour was unlike the guards at the home, because he addressed the boys by their first names and didn’t reprimand them if they made mistakes. (p.30)
  • My Pooley: One of the guards at Kinchela Boys Home. Bill remembers that Mr Pooley had a group of ‘Bully Boys’: older, more aggressive students who he used to discipline the others. (p.46)
  • Uncle Jim: Like his father, Bill’s Uncle Jim was a boxer who fought under the name ‘Coogan Brown’. (p.48) Jim was a very religious man, who took his bible to matches and hoped to save enough to buy a truck and tour the country as a missionary. (p.48)
  • While living at Kinchela, Bill ran into his uncle Jim at the Kempsey show. Uncle Jim gave Bill a photo of himself boxing as a souvenir.  (p.48)
  • When Bill returned to the Home, Mr Borland discovered the photograph and destroyed it: claiming uncle Jim was a drunk. (p.49)
  • Bill reconnected with Jim when he was living in Wellington. (p.87) Jim later lived in Grace’s garage in Newcastle. He was usually broke, because he leant his pension money to his family, and was reduced to drinking methylated spirits. (p.87) One morning, Bill discovered uncle Jim dead in his bed. (p.87)
  • Eric: an older boy at Kinchela Boys Home, who acted as a brother to Bill. (p.52)
  • Murray Simon: Bill’s younger brother by four years. At Kinchela, Bill felt it was his responsibility to look after Murray, who cried every night out of homesickness. When Bill left Kinchela at eighteen, he told Murray to look after David. (p.61)
  • After saving money in Sydney, Bill returned to visit his brothers at Kinchela, but was only allowed to speak to them briefly before the guards ushered them off the property. (p.67)
  • Murray and Bill reconnected some years later in a pub in Redfern, and moved to Wellington together. (p.76)
  • Bill had a strained relationship with Murray later in life, because his brother didn’t understand his conversion to Christianity and his dedication to community service.(p.124)
  • David Simon: Bill’s younger brother, who was also taken to Kinchela. Like Bill, David spent a considerable amount of time in prison. Following his brother’s advice, David also started attending church and became a Christian. (p.110)
  • Lenny Simon: When the Simon boys were taken to Kinchela, their youngest brother Lenny was an infant. He was brought to the Boys Home when he was five, but by this stage he didn’t remember his three older brothers. (p.51)
  • Mr Worthington: Mr Borland’s replacement as Manager of the Kinchela Boys Home. (p.58) Bill had an encounter with Mr Worthington in 1963, when he tried to defend his brother Lenny from the guards. (p.58) As punishment, Mr Worthington tried to punch Bill. He missed, and Bill responded in anger by punching the manager in the stomach. Mr Worthington charged Bill for assault, and he was taken to the South-West Rocks Jail. (p. 58) After apologising, Bill was allowed to return to Kinchela. (p.58)
  • Mr Hermann: Mr Hermann was a kind man who travelled between the Aboriginal missions, performing on the piano accordion and telling stories. (p.60) When he visited Kinchela, it reminded Bill of his childhood at Purfleet mission. (p.60)
  • Mathew: A boy of Bill’s age from Kinchela, who was sent to live and work with him in Bankstown. (p.59) Together they began drinking with a local bike gang, and engaging in violent and anti-social behaviour. (p.65) Matthew saved his wages to buy a car, and they used it to visit Bill's brother at Kinchela. (p.66)
  • When Bill began spending more time with his family in Wellington and Redfern, he and Mathew gradually grew apart. (p.74)
  • Auntie Maree: Bill lived with his mother’s sister and her husband Dan in Hexham. (p.78)
  • Margaret: Bill’s mother-in-law moved from Taree to Brisbane to live with her daughter Lily. (p.83) Margaret often witnessed their fights, and on one occasion was forced to pull Bill off Lily when he was smothering her with a pillow. (p.83)
  • When Lily fled North, Margaret was left to care for Richard and Vicky. (p. 84)
  • After Lily had been away six months, Bill decided to take the children back to Newcastle. (p.84) Margaret tried to convince them to stay, because she didn’t want to be separated from her grandchildren. (p.88)
  • Dick Blair: A minister who worked with homeless Aboriginal people in Redfern. (p.102) Bill attended the sermons Dick held in a converted building called the Black Theatre. (p.102) Dick also helped Bill to find accommodation and let him live above the Black Theatre. (p.10(0
  • Uncle Gilbert: Bill spent time living and drinking with his mother’s brother when he first visited Wellington. Later, when they were both living in Redfern, Gilbert and Bill both became involved in the church. (p.135) Uncle Gilbert was the only person willing to work with Bill in the lock-up section of the Stockton hospital, which housed criminally insane people with violent urges. (p.135)
  • Boxy: Bill and his cousin Boxy played together as children in Platto. When Boxy grew up, he became a well-respected and feared figure in Newcastle’s criminal community. Because of the reputation, Boxy was able to protect Bill when a man offered a bounty for his life. (p.156) Boxy also protected Bill in prison, where he spent a total of twenty-five years. (p.156)

PREOCCUPATIONS:

  • Mission life: Bill describes his upbringing on the Purfleet Mission, which was established near Taree in 1902. (p.2) He lived with his family in a corrugated iron hut without running water or electricity. (p.1) There was a dam behind the Simon’s hut, where Bill and his siblings spent most of their time playing. (p.6)
  • Bill was content at Purfleet, even though his family lived off rations and were unable to leave without permission, or to seek work. (p.2)
  • Bill describes how the authorities at the Purfleet mission destroyed Aboriginal social structures by stoping the traditional practices. Specifically, he believed that they undermined men’s positions as providers by banning hunting. (p.5)
  • The only time that Bill’s family were able to reclaim elements of their traditional lifestyle, and live by their own schedule, was during their summer break at Saltwater. (p.7)
  • The depressing reality of life at Purfleet mission compelled Bill’s father to escape with his family to Kendall in 1953. (p.9) After a year away, the authorities caught up with the Simons and ordered them to return to Purfleet. (p.11) The family fled again, this time to Newcastle. (p.11)
  • Child removal: The authorities often visited the Aboriginal reserves at Platts Flats, and the Simon children knew to hide in the bush if ever they saw them. (p.13) In 1957, while Ike was away at work, three men arrived at the Simons’ house at took Bill and Lenny from their mother. (p.15)
  • The next day, Bill and his brothers were taken to the Newcastle courthouse. He did not understand the proceedings at the time, but Bill learnt in retrospect that his father was accused on neglecting his children because he was absent when the authorities arrived. (p.17)
  • Grace and Ike were hysterical when the judge announced that the children would be taken into the care of the state. (p.18) Mr Norris took Bill and his brothers from the court, but they escaped from his car and caught the bus back to Platts Estate. (p. 18) They were collected by the police and returned to Mr Norris’, who took them onwards to Kinchela Boys Home. (p.20)
  • Bill recalls that he any his brothers were showered, disinfected, examined, and had their hair cut off when they arrived at Kinchela. (p.22) On their first night in the boy’s dorm the Simon boys cried themselves to sleep. (p.23)
  • David and Bill started wetting their bed at Kinchela, which they had never done at home, and were publicly punished. (p.28) This continued for two years: the time it took for Bill to settle in properly to life in the institution. (p.29) The daily routine included lining up for parade at 8am; going on the bus to school at 9am; attending a punishment parade at 4pm, and doing manual labour after school hours. (pp.30-32)
  • Bill remembers that brutal punishments were inflicted during the parades, including being caned, denied meals or sent into solitary confinement for days at a time. (p.34) The most barbaric practice was “walkin’ down the line”, when Mr Borland forced a line of boys to punch the accused, even if he was a family member. (pp.35-37) Bill recalls that the darker boys at Kinchela received the most severe punishments. (p.38)
  • Bill believes that the guards at Kinchela attempted to turn the boys against each other, encouraging them to settle disputes through violence. (p.45) He also claims that boys were sexually abused, but were too fearful to discuss it. (p.41)
  •  It took Bill and his brother many years to realise that their parents weren’t coming to collect them. (p.51) The guards told the Kinchela boys that they were unwanted and that Aboriginal people were hopeless. (p.50) Over time, many came to adopt this degrading view. (p.51)
  • Later in life, Bill came to realise that they, and many other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, had been deceived.
  • At the age of fifteen Bill decided to run away from Kinchela. (p.53) He escaped at night by jumping the fence and ran along the highway to Kempsey, but then changed his mind because he didn’t want to abandon his brothers. (p.55) Bill was released from the home and sent to work in Sydney when he was eighteen years old. (p.61)
  • Bill and fifty others ex-residents returned to Kinchela in 2002 for a reunion. (p.147) He gave a speech about his damaging experiences in the Boys Home. (p.148)
  • Social problems: Bill gives his accounts of experience with destitute people and describes the social problems that affected people living in the Aboriginal area of Redfern known as The Block. (p.140)
  • Bill claims that anti-social behaviour – such as stealing, vandalising and drug abuse – is passed through generations, and starts very young. (p.146)
  • When residents received their Social Security benefits, they are obliged to share it with everyone else within two days. (p.141)
  • Bill claims most of this money is spent on alcohol and drugs.  This means that people often go hungry, which is the source of many fights. (p.142)
  • Many people living on The Block also suffer from mental illnesses. (p.142) These people often cycle in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and received few visitors. (p.142)
  • The people have a very negative relationship with the police and other white people. (p.140) This means that they will more likely cooperate with the criminals rather than the authorities following an incident. (p.140)
  • Bill describes the riot that erupted while he was living in Redfern in 2004, after a young boy was killed after a police chase. (p.144)

MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION:

  • Copyright is held by Bill Simon, Des Montgomerie and Jo Tuscano.

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Citation details

'Simon, Bill (1951–?)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/simon-bill-17783/text29359, accessed 18 November 2017.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012