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Tonkin, Daryl (1918–2008)

PUBLICATION: Daryl Tonkin and Carolyn Landon, Jackson’s Track, Memoir of a Dreamtime Place, Penguin Books, 1999

NAME: Daryl Tonkin

BIRTH DATE: 1918

BIRTH PLACE: Essendon

FIRST LANGUAGE: English

Locations:

  • Jackson Tracks: The area in the Gippsland region of South-Eastern Victoria, where Daryl and his brother Harry bought land in 1937. Daryl’s autobiography centres on the development and decline of an Aboriginal community at Jackson Track.
  • Drouin: The closest town to Jackson Track, where the Aboriginal community members where relocated in 1961. (p.250-252)
  • Jindivick: The town near Jackson where Tonkin did his weekly shopping (p.93)
  • Essendon: Where Daryl was born, and where his parents lived (p.101)
  • Orbost: Where Harry took Euphemia, in protest against her marriage with Daryl. (p.18)
  • Toora: Where Harry convinced Daryl to move, following their sister Mavis’ advice. (p.125) Daryl enjoyed establishing a farm at Toora with Euphemia, however they both became quite lonely. (p.157)
  • Eventually, Tonkin conceded how much he wanted to return to Jackson Track, and arranged to relocate.
  • Dandenongs: Where Daryl used to sell basket and boomerangs that he and the other members of the Jackson Track community had made (p.176-178)
  • Lake Tyers Mission: The Gippsland Mission where many of the Aboriginal people at Jackson’s Track originated, and where Tonkin used to sell baskets and boomerangs to visiting tourists. (p.176-178)

EXPERIENCES OF EDUCATION:

  • Daryl Tonkin was more interested in outdoor activities than scholarly pursuits, and was glad to leave school to start work at 13.
  • Aside from literacy and numeracy, Daryl believed that formal schooling in Australia only taught children “to be greedy, to try to be better than others and to be dishonest by cheating.”(p.201) Nonetheless, he recognised that education was vital for his own children, if they were to “get along in a whitefella world later if they needed to.” (p.200)
  • Daryl was proud when his own children succeeded in school, surpassing his own efforts. (p.203)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARENTS:

  • Daryl does not give details about his mother’s name or background. He does mention that she was opposed to his relationship with Euphemia (p.101), and that she also supported Mavis’ claim to partial ownership of Jackson Track. (p.235)
  • In contrast, Daryl’s father supported his decision to move in with Euphemia.
  • However, as with his mother, Daryl’s father does not have a strong presence in his narrative.

EXPERIENCE OF RELIGION:

  • Daryl expresses strong opposition to the moralising and prejudiced approach of the Christian missionaries, who proselytised at Jackson Track. (p.121, 172)
  • Daryl was particularly opposed to practice of the local church members, support of the shire council, of moving residents of Jackson’s Track into houses in Drouin. (p.250-252) Daryl claims that these “do-gooders” convinced many of the older people that the move would improve their circumstances. (p.257) However, as the houses were not ready when the shacks at Jackson Track were pulled down and burned, the families in fact spent six months living in camps of the edge of Drouin. (p.264)
  • Daryl not only criticises the actions of Christian missionaries and church members, but also shares his scepticism about religious beliefs that motivate them.
  • Daryl outlines his own self-devised moral code, which draws influence from natural laws. (pp.106-107)
  • Daryl also expresses his respect for traditional Aboriginal religious beliefs, which prevailed at Jackson Track despite many peoples’ conversion to Christianity. (p.224)
  • Daryl states that he shares some Aboriginal belief in supernatural forces, such a ghosts. (p.225)

EXPERIENCES OF EMPLOYMENT:

  • Daryl was a “working man” from the age of thirteen, when he left school and his Uncle employed him to milk diary cows. (p.9)
  • When he was fourteen, Daryl took up a fencing and yard-making apprenticeship. (pp.9-10)
  • In 1936, the Daryl and his brother Harry worked breaking in horses at the Gilbert River in Far-North Queensland. (p.3) In 1937, the Tonkin brothers bought property at Jackson Track, which they cleared for the purpose of planting potatoes. Before their first crop, they earned money by cutting firewood. (p.12) With George Klinksbourne’s guidance, Daryl and Harry established a sawmill in 1938. (pp.13-15)
  • Daryl enjoyed the hard work at the sawmill, as well as the associated lifestyle.
  • When their sister Mavis Tonkin arrived at Jackson Track, she initiated a project of picking and selling wildflowers. (p.51)
  • When Daryl moved into the forest with Euphemia, he began cutting fence posts. (pp.115-117) When Euphemia and Daryl where later persuaded to move to a new property at Toora, he farmed and cut trees. Daryl then got a job with the Forestry Commission, clearing the top of Mount Fatigue. (pp.151-154)
  • When Daryl returned to Jackson Track he set up his own site for felling trees for fence posts and firewood. (pp.166-170)
  • When the Jackson Track community was established, Daryl and Gene subsidised their income by making boomerangs and collecting grass for Euphemia to make baskets. They sold their crafts at the Dandenongs or to tourists outside of Lake Tyers Mission. (p.176-184)
  • After Mavis had left the farm, Harry asked Daryl to work on the mill with him again. With this new role, which Daryl took to be a sign of reconciliation from his brother, his life appeared perfectly balanced. (pp. 210-211)
  • However, Harry died of a brain tumour soon after he made the offer. (pp.232-233) At the same time, assimilation policies began to affect the Jackson Track community; the timber industry went into decline, and Daryl’s supply of trees began to dwindle. (p.272)
  • Daryl was offer 25 pounds an acre for the property by a man from Melbourne, and decided to keep only the five acres around the mill. (pp.276-277)

RELATIONSHIP WITH PARTNERS:

  • Euphemia Hood (Euphie):  Euphemia was the daughter of Stewart Hood, the original member of the Aboriginal community at Jackson Track. Daryl found Euphemia and her sister Gina ‘waiting for us’ when he drove past Lake Tyers Mission Station; they were hoping to visit her parents and be near her children at Jackson Track (p.65) She had a black eye from her husband Dave Mullet (Crockett). Daryl was instantly attracted to Euphemia, however he was too consumed by his work to give much thought to relations with women. (p.67)
  • Daryl became fond of Euphemia and her children, and used to visit her regularly for a cup of tea (p.69, 84-85)
  • Eventually Daryl realised that he had strong feelings for Euphemia, and when he built his own shack he asked her to come and live with him. (p.84)
  • Euphemia accepted Daryl’s offer, and he enjoyed living with her: as she was pleasant company, and a good cook, housekeeper and mother. (p.99-100)
  • Daryl mother, sister Mavis and brother Harry were opposed to the union, because they believed the association would the family into disrepute. (pp.94-96)
  • Daryl deflected their criticism, and eventually Harry resorted to physically relocating Euphemia to Orbost. (pp.112-13) Up until that point, Daryl had been unsure about Euphemia’s true feelings for him. However, when she implored him to collect her from Orbost, he knew that the strong attachment was mutual. (p.109)
  • Daryl and Euphemia remained partners for life, and had twelve children together.

RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN:

  • Daryl had never considered himself a family man, and was surprised by the delight he took in Euphemia’s pregnancy. (p.119)
  • Daryl and Euphemia had their first child Phillip (Mac) in 1950, and had twelve children in total. Daryl took an active parenting role: helping to wash Phillip, building him a cot, and putting him to sleep. (p.122)
  • Daryl shares his philosophy of parenting, which he claims borrows from the Aboriginal tradition, which is “more about warning and experience than discipline.” (p.201)

IMPORTANT/INFLUENTIAL FIGURES:

  • Harry Tonkin: Daryl’s more extroverted elder brother, with whom he owned the property at Jackson Track. In his early life, Harry served as Daryl’s closest friend, role model and business partner.
  • Harry was friendly with the Aboriginal residents of Jackson Track. He was nonetheless opposed to Daryl’s relationship with Euphemia, on religious grounds, (p.107). Daryl speculates that their overbearing sister Mavis also influenced Harry’s attitude toward Euphemia. (p.102)
  • Later, Harry physically took Euphemia away from Daryl, and resettled her at Orbost. (pp.102-104) Daryl assumed that his brother’s actions were motivated by Mavis, but he nonetheless felt betrayed. (p.106)
  • When Daryl collected Euphemia from Orbost, he moved with his partner deeper into the property, so as to avoid Harry’s interference. (pp.112-13)
  • When he moved away from the main house, Daryl’s relationship with his brother improved somewhat. They came to mutual understanding not to discuss personal matters. (p.117)
  • Harry later encouraged Daryl to leave Jackson Track, and buy a property at Toora. Again, Daryl presumed that he had succumbed to Mavis’s pressure to try and extricate Daryl from the Aboriginal community. (p.125)
  • When Daryl returned to Jackson Track, he and Harry continued to maintain a professional relationship. (p.163) Even after Mavis left, Daryl felt more comfortable talking to Harry about business, “in the bush where we were equal and the past did not hang over us.” (p.205)
  • When Harry offered a rapprochement, asking Daryl to go into business making timber and firewood with him, and to move back into the main house, he was thrilled. (pp.206-207)
  • Unfortunately, their reconciliation was short-lived, as Harry soon died of a brain tumour at 42. (pp.232-233) Daryl was shocked by his older brother’s early death, and deeply regretted their years of estrangement.
  • George Rogers: A pensioner who lived in a shack full of native animals, on a deserted farm at Jackson Track. (pp.8-9, 25)
  • George was the only person still living there when the Tonkin brother’s first explored the area in 1937, and Daryl enjoyed his tales about the history of the area. (p.26) George informed the Tonkin brother that Eliza Peters’ 550 acre property was for sale, and showed them around their future property. (pp.8-9)
  • George Klinksbourne: A Finnish farm labourer, who was the Tonkin brothers’ first employee. (p.13) Klinksbourne convinced the Tonkin brothers to set up a sawmill, and oversaw its construction. (p.13)
  • Despite respecting him professionally, Daryl had reservations about the way in which Klinksbourne treated his Aboriginal employee Stewart Hood. (p.38)
  • Stewart Hood: A “very smart full-blooded Aborigine”, who worked for George Klinksbourne. (p.37) The Tonkin brother gladly hired Stewart when he resigned from his position with George. (p.39)
  • Stewart set up a camp near the Tonkin brother’s shack, and taught them about living off the land. Daryl was instantly drawn to Stewart’s way of living, which he felt was much more suited to his personality than the typical white lifestyle.
  • It soon became known to the Tonkins that Stewart had been exiled from Lake Tyers Mission Station, because the managers considered him as agitator.  The Tonkins travelled with Stewart to Lake Tyers, to collect his wife and five children that remained there. (p.43)
  • The Stewart family picked potatoes for the Tonkin brothers. When more work became available, Stewart’s brother also moved to Jackson Track, and gradually other Aboriginal people followed. (pp.56-58) Stewart acted as the “headman”, directing the other Aboriginal workers. (p.62)
  • Mavis Tonkin: Harry and Daryl’s sister, who came to live with her brothers and cook for them. (p.47) Daryl concedes that Mavis had a “head for business”, and sold flowers as well as found outlets for their timber. (p.67)
  • However, he objected to Mavis’ unhealthy cooking, and the fact that she forced Harry and Daryl to observe proper manners. (p.49-50)
  • Daryl claims that Mavis was the only person of the property who did not embrace an egalitarian ethos, and she used to assert her authority over the Aboriginal people at Jackson Track.(pp 69-72)
  • Mavis used to gossip with the people in Drouin about life on Jackson Track, and feed off their negative preconceptions about Aboriginal people. (pp.71-72)
  • Mavis also strongly opposed Daryl’s relationship with Euphemia. (p.95) Daryl believes she encouraged Harry to remove Euphemia, and to try and get Daryl to move to Toora. (p.126)
  • When Mavis eventually left Jackson Track in 1957, Daryl claims that a “quiet tension” lifted from the property. (p.205) After Harry died, Mavis made an unjust claim to 186 acres of cleared land at Jackson’s Track. (p.235)
  • Jimmy Bond: Daryl’s partner of the crosscut saw, who was one of the only Aboriginal people of Jackson Track to whom Mavis warmed. (p.73)
    Jimmy was my perfect partner.” (p.73)
  • Jimmy took the responsibility to lead the children at Jackson Track to and from school. (p.63, 73)
  • Jimmy moved away from Harry’s establishment to work with Daryl when he came back to Jackson Track from Toora. (pp.167-168)
  • Daryl was distraught when Jimmy was hit by a car while walking back to the community, and felt it was a great injustice that the police did not search for the culprit. (p.243)
  • Gene and Effie Mobourne: Relatives of Euphemia’s, who set up camp with Daryl and her when they returned to Jackson Track from Toora. (p.164)
  • Dave Moore: One of the members of the Jackson Track community, who stood out to Daryl because of his positive attitude, good grooming, grace and interesting stories. (pp.172-173)
  • Dave used to teach the children the skills necessary to survive of the environment. (p.199)
  • Pastor Doug Nicholls: An Aboriginal preacher who gave sermons at Jackson Track every Sunday, which Euphemia and the children used to attend. Pastor Nicholls also threw a Christmas party for the children every year (pp.221-222). Daryl believes that Pastor Nicholls’ concern for the people at Jackson Track was much more genuine than non-Aboriginal preachers.

INSTITUTIONS:

  • Aboriginal Protection Board: Daryl described the assimilationist policies of the Aboriginal Protection Board as authoritarian, intolerant and misguided. He expresses sympathy for the Aboriginal people who had the Board constantly “breathing down their neck”. (p.213)
  • While Daryl never saw children being taken from their family by the Protection Board, he claims to know families who had their children removed. He also tells of the way in which Euphemia taught their children to fear authorities. (p.214)
  • According to Tonkin, the community at Jackson Track was incompletely protected from the powers of the Aboriginal Protection Board.
  • Daryl blamed the Protection Board for the “final solution for cleaning up the Jackson Track”: moving all the residents into houses in town. Daryl thought the move was unjust and ill-conceived, but felt impotent to stop it. (p. 255).

LAWS AND POLICIES:

  • In 1954, Aboriginal children were legally required to attend school. This law affected the children at Jackson Track, including Daryl’s own.
  • In 1961 the local church’s members, with the support of the shire council, introduced policies that moved residents of Jackson’s Track into houses in Drouin. (p.250-252)

THEMES/PREOCCUPTIONS:

Relationships with Aboriginal people, and education in Aboriginal ways:

  • Daryl and his brother Harry had been familiar with Aboriginals from an early age through their work on stations. Daryl claims he was drawn to Aboriginal people, as he found them to be generous hosts, and lively and entertaining company.
  • As well as good humour and generosity, Daryl attributes certain natural and supernatural powers to Aboriginal people, which he claims made them particularly well adapted to living in the Australian bush. He tells of his own respect for these distinctly Aboriginal abilities, and of his eagerness to learn from the people at Jackson’s track.
  • While Daryl learnt from Gene how to make boomerangs, (pp.175-178) he claims that more subtle bush skills where denied to him because he lacked the necessary upbringing. (p.43)
  • Daryl’s education in Aboriginal methods of hunting and gathering food was accelerated while he was living with Euphemia in the forest on Jackson Track. (pp.114-115)
  • Daryl also narrates his working relationship with the Aboriginal people who lived at Jackson Track. He speculates that the terms of employment he and his brother offered suited Aboriginal people, as they were flexible with hours and paid based on output.
  • Daryl claims that he was never inclined towards judging people based on their race or social ranking, which set him apart from his contemporaries. 
  • Daryl asserts that Aboriginal people are equally capable of holding prejudicial attitudes. (p.182) However, Daryl believes that because of his respectful and open approach to Aboriginal culture, and because he was a faithful husband to Euphemia and father to her children, he was generally exempt from this discrimination. (p.183)

The Development and Decline of the Jackson Track Community:

  • Daryl narrated the establishment of an Aboriginal community on his property at Jackson Track community. He describes it as a gradual process of immigration and development, which started when Stewart Hood resigned from his job with George Klinksbourne, and moved with his family to work for the Tonkins. (p.58-62)
  • Daryl believes that people choose to live on his property because he offered a better living environment for Aboriginal people than missions.
  • Daryl portrays Jackson Track as a place in which he peacefully coexisted with a thriving Aboriginal community. He claims that this harmony was unappreciated by judgemental outsiders, who saw only squalor.
  • Daryl relates the way in which these negative attitudes became increasingly influential, as the area became more densely populated, and Jackson Track became the main thoroughfare for travel between Jindivick and Drouin. (p.239-242)
  • Daryl describes the process, led by church group, which resulted in the relocation of the Aboriginal families from Jackson Track to neighbouring towns, followed by the immediate destruction of their shacks. (p.258-261)
  • Daryl holds the church and the Aboriginal Welfare Board responsible for the subsequent decline in the mental and physical health of the once vibrant community members. (p.266) He believes that the shift into town houses let to boredom, atomisation, alcoholism and a reliance of pension money rather than wages. (p.266)

Racial Discrimination

  • Daryl recalls the discrimination suffered by the Aboriginal people who lived at Jackson Track. He believes that these attitudes were born from white peoples’ intolerance of diversity.
  • Daryl believes that, due to their preconceived ideas about Aboriginal people, the police were perpetually suspicious of the Jackson Track community. (pp.192-196) They visited frequently, and without evidence, accused the Aboriginal community members of crimes committed in Drouin. (p.194)
  • According to Daryl, the police’s attitude feed existing biases against the Jackson Track community, who presumed it be a lawless place ruled by alcoholism and violence. Daryl claims that in fact alcohol was uncommon, and when conflict did arise at Jackson Track is was usually caused by jealousy. (p.185)
  • Daryl developed a strong sympathy for the plight of Aboriginal Australians, and came to appreciate his own relative freedom.
  • Despite this legal freedom, Daryl also suffered from discrimination by association. His relationships with Aboriginal people where condemned not only by the community at large, but also- he believes as a consequence- by his immediate family, particularly his sister Mavis. Daryl defends his own moral code, and strongly rejects the implication that his relations with Aboriginal people were inappropriate.
  • While the attitudes and action of Mavis and Harry effected Daryl significantly, he claims he and Euphemia were generally unperturbed by the prejudicial attitudes of strangers.

The natural environment and rural life:

  • Daryl extolls the beauty of the Australian flora and fauna, and details the pleasure he derives from working outdoors.
  • Daryl believes that this enjoyment of outdoor living and employment forms the basis of his bond with Aboriginal people.
  • Darly protests the obliteration of the forests on Jackson’s Track by the new owners, and regrets his decision to sell the property to a Melbourne based developed. (pp.277-278)
  • Daryl also relates the process of establishing and operating a sawmill (p.14-20), of establishing the new farm at Toora and farming life, (p.130-134, 131-136), the details of buying and working with horses (p.142-148), and the lifestyle and nature of the people who worked there (p.22-25, 30-31).

COLLABORATION:

  • Jackson’s Track, Memoir of a Dreamtime Place began as twenty-six page history that Daryl had handwritten. (p.xiii) Daryl’s daughter Pauline approached Carolyn Landon, her son’s English teacher, to help her write a general history of the settlement. However Landon was more interested in the Daryl’s personal story. (p.xv)
  • Landon offered to assist Tonkin to complete the project, however he did not want to continue writing. (p.xiv) Instead, Landon transcribed and wrote up the story of Jackson Track. (p.xiv) Initially, Tonkin was hesitant to disclose information about his life, however over the course of a few weeks he began to open up. (p.xv)
  • Landon solicited Tonkin’s comments on her manuscript, and was concerned when he offered few. (p.xvi) Landon stressed that, while she attempted to create an authentic version of Daryl story, her story is inherently mediated and dramatized. (p.xviii)

Source Project

This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Tonkin, Daryl (1918–2008)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/tonkin-daryl-17828/text29413, accessed 24 March 2017.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012